1. The Butler
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    The Butler New Member

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    How did people in europe light candles...

    Discussion in 'Research' started by The Butler, Mar 4, 2016.

    ...and oil lamps and such, around the 17th and 18th centuries?

    I looked up a few things and I understand matches were invented long before that (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Match#History), but I'm also interested in knowing what other ways would people use, as well as if there were any lamps with any type of mechanism that built in to light it up (I think I saw that in a movie, but I don't trust movies).

    For my specific purpose, I need to know what would be a quick way a person would be able to light up a lamp in the middle of the night.
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinderbox

    But why would a person light a lamp in the middle of the night?

    They might rely upon the glow from a fire that was kept burning, they might have kept a night-light burning. A poor person, for whom such things would have been an extravagance, would probably have relied upon good night vision!
     
  3. The Butler
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    The Butler New Member

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    Well, a frightened person that heard weird noises and who vehemently believed in ghosts, might prefer to have a better illumination as fast as possible and for a while.
     
  4. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    1/ You hear a scary noise, and want better illumination. You're in a house filled with flammable stuff. It's pitch black. You attempt to strike a light to see what made that scary noise. You set fire to the curtains and burn the house down.

    2/ You hear a scary noise. By the glow from the banked-down fire, you can see something moving in the shadows. It's probably either rats, or simply the shadows moving because the fire doesn't burn steadily, but flares up and down a little. Tomorrow you'll tell your neighbours your house is haunted.

    3/ You hear a scary noise. You man up, and either go and investigate it by the light of the moon, or you bury your head under the pillow.
     
  5. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    Light is perhaps the hardest thing to imagine about the past for us these days and it's only becoming more and more disconnected from the past.

    With our modern mindset driven by constant, near free access to light we instinctively turn the light on in the face of unknown scary things. Nothing wrong with that. But the result is that we've mostly forgotten how good our night vision can be and particularly how good our other senses are. We may not have the best senses going but we genuinely can survive in the dark quite well, particularly outdoors. This follows on to how people in the past related to fear and the unknown. When you grow up in a world with little artificial light you don't grow up afraid of the dark. Equally, when you grow up surrounded by weird noises with no good education it's hard to still be scared of such things into adulthood.

    If you look more into it I think you'll find that the spiritualist movements weren't based off the idea of being scared of ghosts, they were coming from the wishful thinking of those who had lost relatives. Ghost stories have always existed but they've always been just stories the same as every children's story.
     
  6. The Butler
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    The Butler New Member

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    Problem is my character is in near pitch black because the fire is down to just hot coal. Night vision is irrelevant. Also, there's no curtains in this small house in the middle of the woods.

    But none of this matters anyway. I just need to know my options so that I can decide what fits and what makes sense (and what other ideas I may get from them). I know ancient technology wasn't instantaneous, and that's perfect. I'm counting on it to my advantage. Stuff like that adds tension.

    I'm a bit limited in regards to looking stuff up because this laptop I'm temporarily on is slow as a brick...

    By the way, thanks for the link Shadowfax, I hadn't thought of tinderboxes.
     
  7. furzepig
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    furzepig Member

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    If the fire is down to hot coal, could the character light a candle from the embers, or if not, could they light a kindling stick that could be used to light a candle or lamp? That, and the tinderbox are the only ways I know of to get light in this situation.

    Edit: the technical word for a stick used to light a candle is a spill. Had to look that up and make sure.
     
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  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Taper:
    b : a long waxed wick used especially for lighting candles, lamps, pipes, or fires"

    I don't know what you light it with. Maybe from the fire or maybe you use one match.
     
  9. The Butler
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    The Butler New Member

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    Thanks, all of you. This is being helpful. Learned a few words too. :)

    I have to say, I didn't go into much detail on what I'm doing because it's not just one story. I guess I could've said it from the beginning, that my stories are set in medieval/victorian settings, with lots of dark, as it's to be expected from horror stories.

    Yet, I'm interested in using lighting as both a blessing and a curse, thus why I was, and still am, more interested in actually learning about it than in detailing a specific situation and patching it with whatever fits.

    In the story I mentioned, the person wakes up in the night and needs light. In another story the person is lost in a sort of dungeon, totally dark even though his hands found torches on the walls, but how would he light one if he had a chance?

    Sorry for not having been that clear about this before. For some reason it didn't occur to me.

    Problem with looking for stuff related to this is that most of what you can find can be helpful, but most of it also leaves out how exactly to get a flame going in the first place.

    I did find this interesting blog article, though: http://the-history-girls.blogspot.pt/2012/09/making-fire-by-al-berridge.html
     
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  10. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    @The Butler, of course, there's a lot of difference (and a lot of years) between the Medieval and the Victorian periods. The latter was high-tech compared to the former.

    In 17th and 18th century Europe they wouldn't have had the kind of glass-shaded kerosene or whale oil lamps popular in the 1800s; more likely it would have been candles, as you first mentioned. Here's a cool-looking webpage that describes the kind of lamp they possibly might have had, though this goes back to the 16th century, too.

    Your situation of someone wanting to have a lighted candle by them in the middle of the night reminded me of the story "The Wicked Captain Walshawe, of Wauling," by Sheridan le Fanu, which you can read here. Nicer houses would have had fireplaces in the bedrooms, which in the country wouldn't have been subject to the curfew rule. But the fire would have died down on its own as the night wore on.

    But I've read quite a few stories by 18th or 19th century authors, and if the POV character hears a weird noise in the middle of the night and wants a light, he'd better hope there's a fire or a candle already burning somewhere nearby to light his candle from. Otherwise, he's out of luck. In fact, having the candle go out when one has brought it upstairs to guard against being in the dark in a spooky room is a popular plot device.

    The link you inbedded above is brilliant.
     
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