Bringing a 160-Year-Old 'Magic Lantern' Image Projector Back to Life

A photographer has restored a “magic lantern” given to his great-great-grandfather 160 years ago. In one of the earliest examples of photography as we know it, decades before the invention of cinema, the Lampascope existed.

Mathieu Stern is a photographer, videographer, and YouTuber known for experimenting with weird and unusual cameras and lenses. In his latest upload, he unearthed the projector-style equipment from two centuries ago.

Lampascopes such as the one restored by Stern were designed to sit atop an oil lamp, with the light helping project the images. For the practicality of his experiment, he used an LED light, the brightness of which enhanced the quality of the images. It is simply placed underneath, which means light now emits from the “lens” at the front.

The pictures Stern projects onto the wall were created by means of hand-painting onto the glass slides before being inserted. Like a camera in reverse, the slides were placed upside down. The slides feature the likes of animals and transport and were used to educate classes of children upon the Lampascope’s release back in the 1860s.

Check out the video to see a wonderful piece of history in action. You can see more of Stern’s experimental photography over at his YouTube channel.

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Deleted Account's picture

Nice to see a bit of history brought back to life again.

Deleted Account's picture

What a lovely video. Neat to see the past reanimated.

Alex Herbert's picture

Mathieu Stern does some of the least practical but most fascinating things. I'm always impressed with the videos he posts.