Incomplete mahogany and brass biunial magic lantern manufactured by the London firm of Perken, Son and Rayment. The company professed establishment in 1852 under the name of Lejeune & Perken, becoming Perken, Son & Rayment in 1887. Arthur Rayment left the firm in 1899 and from 1900 the firm operated under the name of Perken, Son & Co. The Optimus trade name was initially registered in 1885 by Lejeune & Perken and was continued under Perken, Son & Rayment. The Optimus name was used to sell a vast range of photographic material, as well as lanterns such as this.

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.

Physical Description

Rectangular mahogany body with brass detailing. Slide apertures x1 for each of the two visual systems, top and bottom. Brass outer lens sleeve for top visual system. Lens system missing for lower visual system. Each lateral side has x2 side-hinged doors into illumination chamber. Each door has brass lined, blue glass circular peep holes and single brass door knob. Each lateral side has metal rod carry handles. Interior of each illumination chamber is metal lined. Back wall of lantern body has a cutout, upside-down T aperture into each illumination chamber. Fixed to back wall of lantern is illumination gas piping and controls. Pipes x3 each side. Top and lower pipe on right side have red rubber tubing and twine still insitu. Swivel control for gas x1 each side. Condenser insitu for top visual system, missing for lower. Roof and chimney missing.

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