This collection of hand-tinted lantern slides depicts popular tourist destinations in Norway around the turn of the 19th century. The collection consists of slides produced by at least two British photographers – professional photographer Samuel J. Beckett and amateur photographer P. Heywood Hadfield.
Hadfield, a ship surgeon, was employed by the Orient Steam Navigation Company, both servicing their Orient-Royal Mail Line to Australia and their various Orient Line pleasure cruises to Norway and other destinations.
Hadfield was an eager amateur photographer and produced several illustrated books from his travels. One such title is “With an Ocean Liner (Orient Co’s S.S. “Ophir”) through the Fjords of Norway. A Photographic Memento of a Fortnight’s Cruising”, published in several editions by the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Co. Ltd in the early 1900s. Both the book and the lantern slides would most likely have been marketed as souvenirs to the cruise passengers.
Beckett also produced a book on Norway titled “The Fjords and Folk of Norway”, first published in 1915 by Methuen & Co. Ltd. However, there’s not much information about his life.
Before modern photography, there were lantern slides, also known as magic lanterns. Dating back to the 17th century, the earliest lantern slides consisted of hand-painted images on glass, projected by showmen storytellers. Photographic slides were introduced around 1850.
Originally the pictures were hand-painted on glass slides. Initially, figures were rendered with black paint but soon transparent colors were also used. Sometimes the painting was done on oiled paper.
Usually, black paint was used as a background to block superfluous light, so the figures could be projected without distracting borders or frames.
Many slides were finished with a layer of transparent lacquer, but in a later period cover glasses were also used to protect the painted layer. Most handmade slides were mounted in wood frames with a round or square opening for the picture.
After 1820 the manufacturing of hand-colored printed slides started, often making use of decalcomania transfers. Many manufactured slides were produced on strips of glass with several pictures on them and rimmed with a strip of glued paper.
The first photographic lantern slides, called hyalotypes, were invented by the German-born brothers Ernst Wilhelm (William) and Friedrich (Frederick) Langenheim in 1848 in Philadelphia and patented in 1850.
(Photo credit: Fylkesarkivet i Sogn og Fjordane).