The Toad’s Collectible Tip – The Mystique of the Magic Lantern
Episcope showing both lenses

In the mid to late 1800s home entertainment consisted of parlour games and not much more. A major achievement then was the introduction of the magic lantern which was an optical toy that projected an image onto a wall. This was originally achieved with the use of lenses and a kerosene or oil burner. With the advent of electricity, a light bulb was incorporated.

The projected images were a series of hand-painted glass slides. The subjects were often stories or cartoons of the period. What I have pictured here is a toy called an Episcope. It was produced in Germany around 1925 by a company called Gerbrüder Bing. The company was founded in Nuremberg in 1863 by the Bing Brothers. By the early 20th century, Bing was the largest toy company in the world. The episcope featured here is a hybrid of a magic lantern and a postcard projector. This very ingenious design utilizes two sets of lenses.

Having had several slides over the years I decided it was time to find the magic lantern. I was touring the Aberfoyle outdoor antique market in early August when out of the corner of my eye I spied a gentleman examining a magic lantern slide. Of course, I acted quite uninterested until he set the slide back down. I immediately pounced on it! To my surprise, I found not only the slide but the complete boxed magic lantern set in amazingly good condition.

Episcope Box Cover in original condition

The box was very rough but all there! It still contained 11 of its original 12 slides and the only missing parts were two of the glass pieces for the postcard lens; this however does not affect the slide function. If I knew the strength of the lens I could get them replicated but that may prove quite challenging.

I cleaned the episcope up and now it looks quite pristine. It is just waiting for a visit from you to show off its stuff.

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The Toad’s Collectible Tip – The Mystique of the Magic Lantern