Sources of Wonder: the Homer and Betty Peabody Magic Lantern Collection



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Home >> Special Collections & University Archives >> Exhibits and Events >> Exhibits in the Library >> Sources of Wonder: the Homer and Betty Peabody Magic Lantern Collection

January 18, 2012 to June 29, 2012

Sources of Wonder Exhibit PosterDonor Hall, Library and Information Access, San Diego State University

In Spring 2012, Special Collections will be mounting a spectular exhibit called "Sources of Wonder: The Homer and Betty Peabody Magic Lantern Collection" in the Love Library Donor Hall. This exhibit will showcase our fantastic magic lantern collection. In addition to numerous examples of actual lanterns and over 150 carefully selected slides, this colorful exhibit will feature cases on lantern mechanics, slide formats, and slide themes such as entertainment, education, advertising, and propaganda. A timeline of optical and imaging history, as well as a Valentine's Day magic lantern show, are both tentatively planned. Look for this eye-popping exhibit beginning January 18th, but in the meantime, peruse our fantastic online exhibit.

Generously donated by Homer and Betty Peabody, the collection documents the development of magic lantern technology and glass slides as well as its diverse usage. At over 80 linear feet, this collection contains forty-two magic lanterns and approximately five thousand glass slides!

The collection’s varied assortment of lanterns ranges from whimsical toy lanterns to large industrial professional lanterns. The Glass Slides series consists of seventeen sub-series, each representing the varied lantern uses and slide themes. This series includes stunning photographic vistas from the geography and travel slides, fanciful hand-painted and chromolithographic caricature and comic slides, graphic medical slides, entertaining and delightful narrative slides, as well as informative educational slides and much, much more. The collection also represents the wide variety of slide types, including mechanical slides, such as single and double slipping slides, rackwork slides, and lever slides; hand-painted slides, photographic slides, vivid chromolithographic slides and many others are also included. The Personal Papers series documents the Peabody’s fascinating collecting interests and activities, and also includes rare original lectures and readings that accompanied lantern shows. Also search the catalog for many of the collection’s related published materials, including a manual for operating sciopticons, and Kircher’s Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae (1671), which contains the first known printed image of a magic lantern!

Sources of Wonder, entrance view

Toy Lantern Box Label

British Sciopticon

Bausch & Lomb Balopticon



Sources of Wonder, case detail

Optical System

Oil Illuminants

Electricity, Limelight, and Acetylene

Toy Lanterns

Large, Hand-painted Panorama Slides

Geography and Travel Slides

Educational Slides

Narrative Slides


Temperance Slides

Magic Lantern in Pop Culture

Contact Us

Special Collections & University Archives Contact

Location: SDSU Library & Information Access, Love Library Room 150
Phone: 619.594.6791

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