Magic Lantern Slide


The magic lantern is an early version of the image projector and was invented in the 17th century. The original versions of the 35mm photo slide were painted glass or oiled paper. For these early lanterns, the light source was either sunlight, candles or oil lamps.

19th century magic lantern

Magic lanterns were used as entertainment, combining images with special effects to amaze and sometimes scare the audience. They were also used by educational institutions to present lectures.

Photographic slides were developed in the mid 19th century along with affordable and transportable lanterns. Mass production of hardware and improvements in projection quality made lanterns suitable for use in classrooms and homes.

The Magic Lantern Society are an amazing source of information if you’re interested in reading more.

This photo of Castell Coch is part of a set from South Wales. The manufacture date of the slide is unknown but it’s believed to be 1895 at the latest. We know the castle construction was completed in 1879.

Magic Lantern Slide photo of Castell Coch
Mervyn Heard Collection – reproduced by permission. Digital image copyright © 2018 Lucerna Magic Lantern Web Resource CIC.

This is one of the best colour images of the castle from this period and it’s a shame there aren’t any others. I’m on the lookout for more so if you have any information or tips for locating them, please get in touch.

Image credits – Lucerna Magic Lantern Web Resource,, item 5077289. Accessed 26 February 2021. | Andrei!

Profile photo of Jack


Jack is the editor of and