A stunning assortment of vintage magic lantern slides is casting a new glow on scenes from some of history’s most iconic stories, transporting viewers back to the enchanting world of 1906. These beautifully coloured glass slides showcase moments from timeless tales such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Aladdin.
Displayed with delicate finesse at Leeds Central Library, each slide was meticulously crafted for use in a magic lantern – a portable device projecting images onto a wall or screen, captivating audiences of the early 20th century. The vividly coloured lithographic sets, originally packaged in boxes of eight, were accompanied by a script for a narrated experience during the projected show.
Part of an exhibition at Leeds Central Library exploring the fantasy genre’s influence on centuries of folklore, fiction, and entertainment, the collection captures the essence of classic fairy tales. Rhian Isaac, the library’s special collections librarian, notes, “These beautiful slides really do capture the vibrancy and colour that we associate with the classic fairy tales we’ve all come to know so well.”
The exhibition, titled “Fantasy: Realms of Imagination,” not only features the enchanting magic lantern slides but also showcases copies of Grimms Fairy Tales, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Gulliver’s Travels, and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. These literary treasures come complete with stunning illustrations by the renowned Arthur Rackham.
Adding to the allure are ancient Greek coins, dating back more than 2,000 years, on loan from Leeds Museums and Galleries. Among the mythical figures depicted are the fearsome Gorgon and the legendary winged horse Pegasus.
Television enthusiasts will delight in the inclusion of popular fantasy TV shows such as Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The exhibition, set to close later this month, also features a mythical dragon installation by fantasy artist Anne Stokes, guarding its eggs within the library’s walls.
Inspired by a concurrent exhibition at the British Library, “Fantasy: Realms of Imagination” has been a captivating journey, complemented by a series of events and activities.
Councillor Mary Harland, Leeds City Council’s executive member for communities, said: “Leeds Central Library’s remarkable exhibition has been a wonderful exploration of the fantasy genre and the influence it has had on so many aspects of our culture.
“Many of the objects and stories on display will have brought back fond memories for some visitors while hopefully inspiring a new generation to explore these incredible stories for themselves.”
The captivating showcase, open until January 17, 2024, will subsequently travel across the city, with displays at Chapel Allerton Library from Jan 22, Beeston Library and Community Hub from Feb 5, and Holt Park Library and Community Hub from Feb 19. For additional details or a comprehensive events program, please visit the Fantasy: Realms of Imagination page on the Leeds City Council website.