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A number of modern nursery toys work in the same way, and produce quite effective images.
Although there is no particular evidence that Fontana invented the Magic Lantern, Willem Tebra argued very strongly (in .
The origin of Shadow Shows must go back to the time humans discovered fire, entertaining and terrifying each other with shadows on the walls of caves, using the fire as the source of light. They noticed that if strong daylight entered a darkened room through a tiny hole in the window shutter or curtain, a dim but clear inverted image of the outside world appeared on a white wall opposite the hole.
The Chinese and Japanese made Magic Mirrors, the earliest recorded instance occurring in 5th century AD Chinese documents.
The device was very cleverly designed to keep the picture in focus and at a constant brightness as the machine moved back and forth.
As lenses, mirrors and especially light sources improved, projectionists could provide shows to larger audiences outside the home or laboratory.
Robertson used a special lantern on wheels, which he called a Phantascope or Fantascope.
By moving the projector backwards and forwards he could rapidly alter the size of the images on the screen, much like a modern zoom lens.
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About 160 years later, Giovanni Battista della Porta published Magiae Naturalis Libri Viginti, in which he described the ancient art of projecting mirror writing.