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Robert Burns

Magic Lantern Slide with Engraving Illustrating "Tam o' Shanter" (1/4)

Late 19th Century

"And at his elbow Souter Johnny", a hand coloured black and white transfer printed image of a scene from the poem.


Burns wrote the poem, "Tam o' Shanter" as a "witch story" to accompany the illustration of Alloway Kirk which was to be published by his friend, Captain Francis Grose in his "Antiquities of Scotland". It is both comic and epic, telling the story of Tam's encounter with a coven of witches on his ride home from a night's drinking at the inn.


This magic lantern slide forms part of a series illustrating the poem in some detail with the cosy and convivial scene in the inn depicted here contrasting with the gruesome images of the antics of the coven and Tam's last breath escape from its clutches.


It comes from a presentation, "A Night with Burns", and the lurid imagery, contrast of darkness and light in the slide and use of hand colouring all combine to produce a slide which when projected for a hushed audience in a darkened village hall must have made a considerable impact on its viewers.

width: 82 mm, length: 82 mm
Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
Accession number:
Lantern Slide, PEOPLE, Robert Burns / 20
Digital Number:
Creation Date:
1880 - 1920
Dumfries & Galloway Council