Laterna Magica - Magic Lantern

Vol. 1

Magic lantern for circular slides,
17th century

Bilangual edtion: German/English




Whether as a scientific instrument or as a machine for instilling fear and raising ghosts, the magic lantern from its first appearance in the 17th century immediately hovered between the realms of science and trickery, between instruction and illusion. Both scientists and charlatans knew its importance for their very different purposes.




Domenico Selva's magic lantern,
18th century

This first volume covers the 17th and 18th centuries, plus the travelling lanternists - often Savoyards - who brought projected entertainment across Europe through the turn of the Nineteenth century. "Laterna Magica / Magic Lantern" is an attempt to bring together into a single narrative parts of lantern history that have previously been treated separately. It follows the central theme of the projected image in depth while simultaneously recognising the diverse and multifaceted offshoots produced by magic lantern culture.







"Savoiardi colla Lanterna Magica"
Francesco Magiotto, ca. 1770




We often think of the magic lantern today as the “precursor” of the movies and modern digital media; this it undoubtedly was. But at the same time, the magic lantern in its day was not a precursor of anything, but was a sophisticated instrument through which news, entertainment, and visual delight was projected for families, informal groups, and, ultimately, public audiences at fixed shows who enjoyed the elaborate and extraordinary visual rhetoric produced by highly skilled showmen.



With the help of many previously unknown pictures and texts, this first bilangual (English/German) volume by the author Deac Rossell describes the history of the magic lantern up to the end of the 18th century.


Book reviews

Different porcelain figurines of magic lanternists,
18/19th century