Before cinema and television, the technology of projecting images was no mystery, thanks to the widespread availability of magic lanterns designed for use in the parlor or nursery.
Perhaps the most famous description of a child enjoying a magic lantern show appears in the novel Swann's Way (1913) by Marcel Proust (1877-1921). The narrator Marcel recalls being transfixed by the way the brightly colored yet insubstantial projections transformed his bedroom walls with "an implacable iridescence, supernatural phenomena of many colors, in which legends were depicted, as on a shifting and transitory window."
We hope you will be intrigued by these illustrations from children's books which reveal fascinating connections between art, science, religion, showmanship, and commerce. This virtual exhibition was based on an installation in the Cotsen gallery that coincided with a performance by the American Magic Lantern Theater February 7-8, 2003.