Childhood Illustrated by Jean-Henri Marlet in Le Bon Genie (1824-1829)

The rather prim illustrated masthead for the French children’s periodical, Le bon genie, gives little indication that nearly every number contained a luminous lithographic plate by Jean-Henri Marlet (1774-1847) during its run between 1824 and 1829.  In 1824, Marlet demonstrated the artistic potential of lithography in an ambitious suite of seventy-two hand-colored plates about all aspects of life in Paris.  He likewise documented French childhood high and low of the late 1820s as the house artist for Le bon genie.

Harlequin, Polichinel, a prince out of the Arabian Nights and more frolic at a fancy dress ball for little ladies and gentlemen. Plate for volume 1, number 39 (January 30 1825). Cotsen 11897

Papa shows his family a magic lantern slide illustrating a fable of La Fontaine. Plate for volume 1, number 30 (November 21, 1824). Cotsen 11897.

The fencing lesson. Plate for volume 5, number 39 (January 23, 1829). Cotsen 11897.

Hunting for butterflies. The boy in the lower left is pinning specimens on a board. Plate for volume two, number 5 (May 29, 1825) Cotsen 11897.

A familiy of Savoyards entertain passersby. Plate for volume 2, no. 14 (July 31, 1825) Cotsen 11897.

The dancing master beats time for his graceful pupils. Plate for volume 5, number 26 (October 26, 1828) Cotsen 11897.

A troop of elegant dancing dogs. Plate for volume 5, number 45 (March 8, 1829) Cotsen 11897.

Dance of the marionettes. Plate for volume 2, number 52 (April 23, 1825) Cotsen 11897.

Watch A Magic Lantern Show Here!

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.