Treasures of pre-cinema history
The magic lantern
Slides for export
John Scott sold magic lanterns from Fürth (Bavaria) in his London toy shop founded in 1790. In 1806 the Napoleonic Blockade interrupted the trade. After the end of the blockade in 1814, deliveries from Fürth with magic lanterns and slides to English dealers and scientific instrument makers were resumed. Scott had created a demand for philosophical toys including the magic lantern, which, although he closed his shop in 1806, was taken up by other traders.
In particular well known London scientific instrument makers provided the magic lantern slides with their own company stamp on the mahogany-wood frame. Examples are known from Robert Banks, William Cary, Thomas Rubbergall, Andrew Pritchard, Knight and Sons, Watkins & Hill or William Harris.
By comparing the magic lantern slides sold by John Scott's with slides from Fürth workshops in this gallery, similarities are obvious. Whether it is the painting style of the motifs or the colours used, a similarity is unmistakable. In the first years of the trade the workshops in Fürth (Bavaria) dominated the market. Probably with the end of the Napoleonic Blockade in 1814, Nuremberg workshops joined into the profitable trade. From this moment on it becomes difficult to distinguish slides between Fürth or Nuremberg workshops. The mahogany wood used for the slide frames by the Bavarian workshops differs from English slides by its noticeably lighter weight. The heavy mahogany woods from the English colonies were preferably sold on the English market, while the lighter quality, also known as "Baywood", was traded on the mainland of Europe.
The Bavarian workshops supplied the English market with two design of magic lanterns. The tinplate lantern "Weißblechlaterne" served as a pattern for the export models. The decorations made for the domestic market on the housing were omitted and the now unadorned lantern was painted black before being sent on its journey across the Channel. Another model was the Bull's Eye lantern, which was manufactured in the Bavarian workshops. This model was used to project large lantern slides up to half a metre wide and ten centimetres high. Both lantern designs, as well as the slides, were never offered in the German market. You can find in the gallery an outstanding selection of magic lantern slides from the workshops in Fürth (Bavaria) and Nuremberg for the export to England.
Retailer Robert Banks, London
Active from 1795 to 1830 (from 1825 as Bancks and Son). Robert Banks operated a workshop for scientific instruments in London. From 1795 till 1805 at 440 Strand, later till 1830 at 441 Strand, London. Very likely Banks sold not only the slides, but also magic lanterns from workshops in Bavaria.
Retailer William Cary, London
Active from 1790 to 1825
Retailer Thomas Rubergall, London
Active from 1802 to 1854 (1826 to 1854 at 24 Coventry Street, London)
Retailer William Harris, London
William Harris (1781-1841). Manufacturer of Optical, Mathematical and Philosophical instruments. Active from 1805 to 1855