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Graphic Arts and Rare Books

Rare Book Division
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Curator of Rare Books

Lantern slides are glass slides with the image painted or transferred onto the glass. The Magic Lantern is the forerunner of the modern slide projector, and they were popularly used in the 18th to 19th centuries. Sets of slides could be purchased, often a visual travelogue or a short story, and some elaborate projectors could create the illusion of movement or dissolves.

The following sets of magic lantern slides are available at the Library:

The Wheeler collection of lantern slides [(Thx) TC123]

This collection was formerly held by the Brander Matthews Dramatic Museum. It came to Princeton from Columbia University in 1971, when the Brander Matthews Dramatic Museum (Low Library) was dispersed. Many sets are productions of Shakespeare on stage. Detailed listings by box and by Wheeler slide listing are available in the catalogue record.

Alexander Black. Lantern Slides Collection [(Thx) TC109]

Alexander Black (1859-1940) is best known as an originator of the "picture play," according to Beaumont Newhall in his History of Photography (1964), p. 113-114. He states: "In 1893 [Black] had the idea of telling a story in photographs. He wrote a short comedy, Miss Jerry, about the adventures of a young lady reporter, which actors performed before his camera. The resulting 250 lantern slides he projected to audiences on a screen while he read the dialog. These picture plays of Black's were forerunners in spirit, if not technique, of the moving picture ..."

The collection consists of 144 glass slides (3.5 x 4 inches/10 x 8.5 cm.) made by and/or collected by Alexander Black (1859-1940). It includes slides for the stereopticon picture plays "A Capital Courtship," "Girl and the Guardsman," "Miss America," Miss Jerry," and "Modern Daughters." Also includes a typescript (photocopy) of "Miss Jerry: a picture play," used by Black while presenting his picture play. The identified slides constitute a third of the collection. Of the remaining slides, some are clearly related to the plays, perhaps taken but not used. Others seem completely unrelated to the plays and were perhaps purchased from commercial stock. The slides are stored in Black's original boxes. Some of the slides are hand-tinted.

The Library also owns copies of all the related works, which Black turned into novels and published with illustrations from the lantern slides.