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Projector - Walter Tyler, Magic Lantern, Biunial, circa 1890 Object Reg. No: HT 26821

Projector used to view lantern slides. It was manufactured by Walter Tyler. Tyler, who began as a lantern exhibitor, opened a shop in 115 Waterloo Road, London in 1885. This particular lantern dates after a move to 48 Waterloo Road in 1887. The business, Walter Tyler Ltd., became one of Britain's largest retailers of lanterns, slides and accessories. Walter Tyler died in 1909 but the company continued its operation.

It is believed that the biunial was first conceived by E.G. Wood who was partner with the London instrument makers Horne and Thornthwaite until he left in 1855, The biunial lantern is a system of projection where two lanterns are inbuilt, one on top of the other. This form of projection became possible once the more powerful limelight illuminants were used and quickly became popular. By 1888 it was recorded that over 60 models were being produced, presumable in Britain. The biunial allowed for special effects such as dissolving views to be created by adjusting the brightness of the illuminant in each system.

While the invention of the magic lantern is generally seen to be in the 17th century, its greatest popularity as an optical projector spans the late 18th century to the early decades of the 20th century. It was used both as a means of entertainment and education.

This lantern projector is part of the Francis Collection of pre-cinematic apparatus and ephemera, acquired by the Australian and Victorian Governments in 1975. David Francis was the curator of the National Film and Sound Archive of the British Film Institute as well as being a co-founder of the Museum of the Moving Image in London, which was operational between 1988 and 1999.
Biunial lantern with mahogany body and base. Japanned metal rectangular top with oval aperture for chimney. All detailing is in brass. Condensers are insitu for both top and bottom lanterns. Brass top projection tube with swivel cover for lens. Lower projection tube missing. Has removable brass plate which slides behind spring plate to cover front of lower condenser. This has a circular cutout at place of upper condenser. Horizontal brass rail handle each side of lantern body. Two square doors (upper and lower) each side of lantern body. Each door has a circular blue glass peep hole into lantern body which is framed in brass. No internal illumination components present. Brass fittings for gas illuminant fixed to top centre of outer back wall - six brass pipes with controls, three each lateral side. Single vertical pipe down each side of back wall. Each pipe has a horizontal bend and external screw thread finish at bottom.
Acquisition Information:
Loan & Subsequent Donation from Australian Film Institute (AFI)
Discipline: Technology
Dimensions: 530 mm (Height), 335 mm (Width), 620 mm (Length)

More information

Tagged with: projectors, magic lanterns, pre-cinema moving images, lantern projectors
Themes this item is part of: Francis Collection, Images & Image Making Collection, Leisure Collection
Primary Classification: COMMUNICATIONS
Secondary Classification: Audio-Visual Systems
Tertiary Classification: magic lanterns
Inscriptions: Etched into back stage plate:

On circular white paper sticker on back outer wall:

Handwritten on circular red paper sticker on top outer projection tube:
Collector: Mr David Francis, London, Middlesex, England, Great Britain, 1990
Manufacturer: Mr Walter Tyler, London, England, Great Britain, circa 1890
References: Brown, E. (ed), 'Walter Tyler Obituary' in British Journal of Photography Almanac Annual Summary of Photographic Inventions and Events in Photographic History/1910 Accessed 29 Oct 2010 at
  1. [Book], Stephen Herbert, Richard Crangle, David Robinson, Encyclopaedia of the Magic Lantern, The Magic Lantern Society, 2001, 2001, 39-40; 312 Pages

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