New Publications

Jeremy Brooker, Richard Crangle and Martin Gilbert (eds), The Magic Lantern Dancer: The Choreutoscope and its Place in the History of the Moving Image (Magic Lantern Society, 2023)

This book sheds light on the choreutoscope (pronounced cory-ute-o-scope, the name is based on ancient Greek, meaning dancer viewer), which was a complex mechanical device used in a magic lantern to change quickly between images, giving a projected illusion of basic movement and often used to portray dancing characters or skeletons. Devised in Britain in the late 1860s, it was used in several different forms throughout Europe and the United States for the rest of the 19th century, creating illustion of instanteneous change and implied movement.

The first part of the book, by Jeremy Brooker, discloses the history and importance of the device, focusing in particular on its invention and inventor(s), its uses in institutions like the Royal Polytechnic, the different variants of its design and its relationships to the origins of cinematography. The second part, by Martin Gilbert and Richard Crangle, illustrates as many examples of the choreutoscope as possible with a fascinating survival material, categorised roughly into seven groups according to their physical construction, manufacturer and other criteria.

The ingenious mechanical principles of the device give it an important position in “the archaeology of the cinema”, but it was much more than a mere staging post in a journey towards the “goal” of cinematography. With a wealth of illustrations of the now rare mechanisms and image sequences, this is the first book to reveal the choreutoscope’s development and its place in the history of visual culture.


Part 1: A Short History of the Choreutoscope, by Jeremy Brooker

Chapter 1: Beale’s Dancing Skeleton
Chapter 2: The Choreutoscope Goes Public
Chapter 3: The Choreutoscope and the ‘Dream of Cinema’
Conclusion: The Choreutoscope in Context

Part 2: The Choreutoscope Galleries, by Martin Gilbert and Richard Crangle

1- The Beale/Baker Linear Choreutoscope
2- The Hughes Celeroscope
3- The Hughes Giant Choreutoscope
4- The Phantascope
5- The Steward Six-Image Choreutoscope
6- The Hughes Eight-Image Choreutoscope
7- The Briggs/Molteni Circular Choreutoscope
8- Miscellanea and Mysteries

Illustrations credits

Publisher website