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Its three lenses enabled a skilled lanternist to produce dissolving views – day seamlessly becoming night, silent volcanoes suddenly erupting – and moving picture effects. The height of this type of entertainment was reached in the 1880s when cast members were employed behind the scenes to providing sound effects for daily shows.

Triunials were manufactured by a number of firms. The example offered by Brightwells in Leominster on July 27 was titled The Docwra Triple – the invention of the English lanternist and showman Colin Dockwra. His triple lantern gained a gold medal at the Crystal Palace photographic exhibition in 1888, and was offered for sale the following year by the London optician and lantern maker William Charles Hughes (1844-1908).

Hughes, whose name and Mortimer Road address appears to the nameplate, is remembered as a pioneer of the British film industry: he was responsible for two films of Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee procession.

Rare survivors

Triunial magic lanterns are rare survivors but do make occasional saleroom appearances: Special Auction Services in Newbury sold one – The Noakes Triple – in July last year for £10,000.

The vendor of Brightwells’ rare survivor was the widow of a Worcestershire camera and lantern enthusiast whose core collection had been sold by the Leominster firm a number of years ago. The lantern was kept as the jewel of the collection.

On display in the saleroom since March, it generated interest from multiple bidders at its £6000-8000 estimate, and was finally knocked down to one of two phone bidders at £26,000 (plus 17.5% buyer’s premium). The purchaser from the UK, who knew the vendor, said it would be used regularly.