Collection of Glass Lantern Slides used as Teaching Aids, Moray House School of Education, Edinburgh

Scope and Content

The glass slides (black and white) are approx. 82mm x 82mm in size, some made by Newton and Co., Fleet Street, London, and some by Lizars, Edinburgh, and are on various subjects and themes including: slides that can be used for French language instruction; Magna Carta; English sovereigns/rulers; classical Rome; classical Greece; archaeological sites such as Stonehenge; Middle Eastern locations; abbeys; Tudor period; Elizabethans; and the Reformation.

Administrative / Biographical History

In the 17th century, glass slides were already being projected using a 'magic lantern' - or early form of the projector. However, in 1850, in Philadelphia, USA, the transparent positive image of a photograph in the form of a glass slide was invented by William and Frederick Langenheim - two Daguerreotypists. Their 'hyalotype' (from Greek 'hyalo' for glass) or black and white photographic glass slide could be projected onto a wall or screen using a 'magic lantern' lit by oil lamps.

By 1870, limelight - a dazzling white light produced by directing a very hot flame onto the surface of a pellet of lime - offered a better, although more dangerous, form of illumination. The earliest and simplest form of limelight was the oxy-calcium lamp. The flame of a spirit lamp was placed near the pellet of lime and a jet of oxygen was used to raise the temperature of the flame and force it against the surface of the lime to produce its brilliant white light. An even brighter limelight could be produced using an oxygen and hydrogen jet. In the 1890s, the invention of the carbon arc lamp, followed by electric light, provided a safe method for displaying the lantern slide image.

By 1873, Bruno Meyer, a German art historian at the Polytechnic Institute in Karlsruhe, was using projected lantern slides in art history lectures, and actually started to manufacture what he called 'glasphotogramme' which he sold at two marks a piece. When the new electric 'magic lantern' projectors were introduced in 1892, the technology was enthusiastically adopted by Hermann Grimm, a professor of art history at the University of Berlin. In an article published in 1897, he reported how lantern slides permitted the projection of works full-size, or allowed small works or fragments to be enlarged to colossal scale. Grimm's successor at Berlin was Heinrich Wölfflin who also embraced the new technology

In 1916, a process for producing colour lantern slides had been invented by the German company Agfa, but because of the war it did not become available outside Germany until the 1920s. Use of lantern slides lasted until the 1950s when their popularity began to decline with the introduction of smaller transparencies and then, finally, in 1936, the discovery of the Kodachrome three-color process made the 35mm format slides less expensive to produce than lantern slides. Beginning in 1938, the transparencies were presented in the now familiar card mounts.

Although the production of lantern slides ended in the 1950s, many academic slide collections still house and use glass slides. In some cases, the views that they represent are either drastically changed or no longer exist and thus they are invaluable images of the world during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Access Information

Open to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance of visit.

We strongly encourage you to contact us before your visit as special access conditions and restrictions apply to some collections. Please see our information on requesting material

Acquisition Information

Acquired from Moray House School of Education (Multimedia/AV) March 2006. Accession no: E2007.08.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) [online] Lantern Slides: History and Manufacture [Accessed 6 February 2007]. (2) [online] Art History and Technology [Accessed 6 February 2007].

Other Finding Aids

None prepared for this collection.

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections.