Christianity themed magic lantern slides are relatively common. Tens of thousands still exist even though they were produced over one hundred years ago. Several Christian denominations had their own ‘magic lantern’ departments, producing huge quantities of slides illustrating bible stories, moral lessons and hymns. They were used in Church services and Sunday Schools and sometimes were projected onto huge screens for very large audiences. There’s nothing new about audio visual presentations and Victorians understood that pictures are a powerful medium for delivering a message.
Missionaries used the magic lantern to persuade ‘heathens’ to accept the Christian message. David Livingston took a magic lantern and slides with him to Africa and you can imagine the impact that large, brightly coloured pictures of scenes from the bible, projected onto a screen, would have had on African tribesmen and women who had had no previous contact with western culture.
The three slides shown here are hymn slides, projected during a service so that the congregation could join in without needing a hymn book. Most hymn slides are literally just the words printed on the glass slide and are of little interest to modern collectors. However, even in Victorian times, you got what you paid for and this set of five slides of ‘Abide With me’, made in the 1890s, are fine quality and beautifully hand tinted. Tinting varied in quality from ‘daubing’ to fine artistry and it doesn’t get better than this.
I’m not a collector of religious slides but I’ve kept these in my archive because they are just glorious. To understand their impact one hundred and twenty years ago, imagine them projected in a darkened Church onto a large screen, with a choir and the congregation singing the hymn. It’s giving me goose bumps just thinking about it.
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