A Magic Lantern Show

A few weeks ago our friends Isabella Palowitch and her daughter Alessia Arregui came to visit for a special demonstration. Isabella is the graphic designer behind Artisa LLC here in Princeton and she has done beautiful designs for Cotsen events and our virtual exhibits. Alessia is a senior at Rhode Island School of Design working on sculpture with glass materials.

The pair expressed interest in seeing optical material for some out-of-the-box inspiration. Since Cotsen has a large collection of magic lanterns and accompanying slides, we gathered some of this material for a little show and tell.

Magic lanterns are precursors to modern projectors. Invented as early as the 17th Century (and popular into the early 20th Century), magic lanterns magnify and project hand painted images on glass slides. With a light source behind the slide and a lens in front, the slides are loading in upside down and backwards, since the lens flips the image.


Cotsen 19169

Iron and brass magic lantern (London : WB & Sons, [circa 1880’s]) (Cotsen 19169).


Retrofitted for a modern light bulb, we were able to plug in this projector for a demonstration.


Cotsen 32949, serie 91, no.5. (Germany : Projection für Alle, before 1900)

The above slide was able to fit into the magic lantern’s duel loading wooden frame (this kind of slide frame allows for simple animation by quickly moving between 2 slides). From a collection of German fairy tale slides called Im Reiche der Märchen  (In the Realm of Fairy tales), this particular slide is a scene from the end of Rotkäppchen (Little Red Riding Hood) with the defeated wolf in the foreground. The caption at the bottom reads: “Die Grossmutter stärckt sich mit Kuchen und Wein” (The grandmother is strengthened with cake and wine).


Though it’s not the clearest projection, considering that the equipment is nearly 150 years old I think it comes out pretty well.

Closer and clearer shot of the projected image

A closer (and a little clearer) shot of the projected image.

Thanks again to Isabella and Alessia for stopping by. I think we all enjoyed the rare chance of projecting a little piece of the past.

If you want to know more about magic lanterns (including related material and book illustrations) check out our virtual exhibition on the main Cotsen website: Magic Lantern.

BIG Changes in the Gallery Entryway!


Can you guess what’s inside this 9′ X 4′ crate?

This behemoth box arrived just before the holidays and we were very excited to unpack what was inside (it almost felt like an early Christmas).

2standingup 3puttinginposition

After some very careful maneuvers and masterful positioning (where we just managed to fit the object past the wooden ceiling panel above the gallery entryway) our new installation was ready for unveiling. . .


Still can’t guess what it is?

This 104″ x 38″ polished maple and Plexiglas structure was designed and fabricated by Judson Beaumont and his company Straight Line Designs. Jud is a great friend of ours who also happens to have designed much of Bookscape (the current incarnation of the Cotsen Gallery).

But you’re probably still wondering what it is!

Well, it’s a display case of course! And what goes inside is just as unique and impressive as the case it is housed in. . .


what were you expecting?

A Maurice Sendak clock!

The clock is a 94″ x 30″ painted board, canvas, and wood stage prop from the Frank Corsaro production of Maurice Ravel’s “L’Heure espagnol” at the 1987 Glyndebourne Opera Festival in England. Maurice Sendak designed and supervised the creation of this prop (and one other similar clock), costumes, and stage set for this performance. Our clock includes a removable back panel so that an actor can slip into the clock itself. One can open not only the clock-face but the face on the clock as well (the one with the nose that is).

Slightly hidden in our conference room since the end of August, it was finally time for the clock to be united with its new permanent home in the front of the Cotsen gallery.

6installingclock 7final touches

After some more careful maneuvers and masterful positioning the clock and its case were set in place.



With the new installation ready we went about setting up the rest of the gallery entryway.

Since our display table no longer fits in its old place, we brought out another Beaumont original to serve as our new “table”:

The accompanying books are made of wood, with a few displaying comical spine titles.

The accompanying books are made of wood, with a few displaying comical spine titles, just like the “library” in the gallery.

Complementing our new Sendak clock are 2 massive graphics being displayed on our exhibition cases. With images from Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), these graphics softly announce our next exhibition coming this summer.


With the new and wonderful installation of the Sendak clock and case, along with the other accompanying objects, the entryway has never looked so good! Sendak and Beaumont are a perfect fit!


A special thanks to Jud and his daughter Shelby for visiting from Vancouver in order to oversee the installation our newest gallery item.