Thank you for your reaction. Yes, It is fascinating to think about the days that gaslight was new. Your reaction also made me curious. I never heard about Queen Victoria's Book of Spells. So I was searching for it. I found this nice weblog: suzanne-johnson/drive-by-review-and-cntest-queen
ABOUT QUEEN VICTORIA’S BOOK OF SPELLS: “Gaslamp Fantasy,” or historical fantasy set in a magical version of the nineteenth century, has long been popular with readers and writers alike. A number of wonderful fantasy novels, including Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and The Prestige by Christopher Priest, owe their inspiration to works by nineteenth-century writers ranging from Jane Austen, the Brontës, and George Meredith to Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, and William Morris. And, of course, the entire steampunk genre and subculture owes more than a little to literature inspired by this period….Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells is an anthology for everyone who loves these works of neo-Victorian fiction, and wishes to explore the wide variety of ways that modern fantasists are using nineteenth-century settings, characters, and themes. These approaches stretch from steampunk fiction to the Austen-and-Trollope inspired works that some critics call Fantasy of Manners, all of which fit under the larger umbrella of Gaslamp Fantasy. The result is eighteen stories by experts from the fantasy, horror, mainstream, and young adult fields, including both bestselling writers and exciting new talents such as Elizabeth Bear, James Blaylock, Jeffrey Ford, Ellen Kushner, Tanith Lee, Gregory Maguire, Delia Sherman, and Catherynne M. Valente, who present a bewitching vision of a nineteenth century invested (or cursed!) with magic.
|Late 19th century paraffin lamp and gas wall brackets in the entrance hall of the Linley Sambourne House, London. (Victorian Society, Linley Sambourne House, London/Bridgeman Art Library)|
Before the advent of the incandescent mantle, gas lighting relied on a simple open flame. By the mid 19th century the most common burners produced fan-shaped flames like the Batswing and Fish Tail burners. The Argand burner, which was successfully adapted for gas, was the principal exception with its circular flame.
All these gas light fittings and the early incandescent mantles had to point upwards directing the light towards the ceiling and away from where the light was needed most, and it was not until 1897 that the gas mantle was adapted to burn downwards - a useful event to remember when dating gas fittings.
The shades provided another opportunity for embellishment. Most glass shades were translucent, either frosted or coloured and were often extremely ornate, with cut glass decoration or etched patterns. The most elaborate shapes appeared at the end of the 19th century when designs reached their most opulent in the Louis XV revival. As well as ornate silk shades on lamps with chimneys, a variety of other more delicate devices were introduced at different times, such as shades of glass beads.
By 1890 main stream taste had begun to change dramatically. Although William Morris, the father of the Arts and Crafts Movement, had established Morris and Co almost 40 years earlier, it was the second generation of craftsmen who started to manufacture products on a larger scale, often adopting the industrial processes reviled by Morris. One of the greatest and most prolific designers of the new style was W A S Benson who, with the encouragement of William Morris, had set up his own workshop making light fittings and other metalwork. His fittings, like those of many of his contemporaries, were mass-produced, selling through Liberty's in London in particular.
The Arts and Crafts style swept out the clutter from the Victorian interior, leaving them lighter and brighter in every sense. Richly decorated surfaces were replaced by plain ones relying on the warmth of natural materials and simple craftsmanship for their interest. Those elements like the fireplaces and light fittings which remained as richly ornamented as ever before took on a new importance, focussing attention. Often the decoration of fittings can be described as 'Art Nouveau' for their graceful, flowing lines and lack of any clear historical influence, but revivalism remained common, and most homes at the turn of the 19th century borrowed heavily from the Tudor and Elizabethan periods in particular.