Aladdin magic lantern slides

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It’s not quite pantomime season yet but I rediscovered these slides in my collection recently and thought you might like to see them. I don’t have the complete set which would have been eight slides but the three shown here are lovely. They were made by York and Sons of London at the height of the magic lantern era, the late 1880’s / 1890s. York couldn’t really go wrong with Aladdin, as it was a well-known story in Victorian times. The slides would have been shown in thousands of homes, as part of the Christmas celebrations, using a cheap, tin magic lantern projected by Dad onto one of Mum’s white sheets. How times and gender roles have changed ….. and quite right too.

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Several manufacturers produced Aladdin sets but, as always in life, you got what you paid for. York and Sons were at the top end of the market and are better known for their ‘life-model’ slides using real actors on a stage set with a painted back-drop. Bamforth’s of Holmfirth are often regarded as the masters of this particular genre but, for me, York slides have the edge, as they clearly spent more money and time on their sets and props.

I’ve included a photo of the edge of the slides, so that you can see the printed captions on them. There would, of course, also have been an excessively lengthy lecturer’s script, so that Dad could demonstrate his oratorical skills as well his legendary and hilarious knack of putting slides in the lantern upside down.

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Anyway, back to Aladdin. These slides were made by printing the outline onto the glass and then hand tinting between the lines. You just have to look at the finished product to see the skill of the artists (well ‘colourists’, usually young girls) and the time it would have taken to paint each side. This style of slide was gradually replaced by photographic ones, as audiences expectations changed and they wanted to see ‘real life’ photographic depictions of the stories they knew and loved. The colouring of these slides is subtle but very rich. In my view, they are a delight. I hope you agree.

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