Victorians enjoyed rudimentary version of Netflix, new research shows

phys.org | 9/4/2018 | Staff
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Victorian families were able to enjoy their own version of Netflix by utilising an early form of 'pay-per-view' entertainment to while away winter evenings, new research has found.

Nineteenth-century households were able to have access to hundreds of images of far and exotic lands, comic scenes and classic novels, all from the comfort of their homes after magic lanterns and stereoscopes became available to hire.

Lanterns - Item

While magic lanterns existed from the early 1600s, they were an expensive item which only the most affluent could hope to own.

However, the new research, carried out by Professor John Plunkett from the University of Exeter, has discovered the then state-of-the-art equipment, and thousands of lantern slides, were available for more normal families to use after opticians, photographers and stationers ' made magic lanterns available for loan. They also loaned out 3-D photographic views after another new device, the stereoscope, became popular in the 1850s.

Practice - Newspaper - Adverts - Period - Service—which

The practice, which was discovered by analysing local newspaper adverts from the period, showed that the service—which could even include hiring a lantern operator to host the viewing—was particularly popular at Christmas and for children's birthdays.

The findings were unveiled at the British Association for Victorian Studies 2018 Annual Conference at the University of Exeter.

Professor - Plunkett - University - Exeter - English

Professor Plunkett, from the University of Exeter's English department, said: "We know Victorian families were enthralled by magic lanterns and stereoscopes, and now we know this drove a thriving commercial practice of hiring lanterns and slides. This really was the Netflix of its time.

"From the 1840s onwards, opticians, stationers and photographers supplemented their business by hiring viewing devices and content out, many of the magic lanterns were also made and operated by the opticians. Just like Netflix or the many stores that hired out videos and PC games, this was a way of getting access to much more visual media...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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