This week's Links List is about Medieval Lighting. It's another one of those searches on the 'net that produces a lot of junk! This week's search comprised about 5 hours of wading through advertisements for electric and wrought iron lamps in a "medieval" style. I won't tell you how many hits I found for retailers that claimed to stock medieval lamps which were, in fact, little dragon lamps which spout flame out their mouths via a wick and lamp oil. I lost count after the first hour. Not that I have anything against dragons, per se, but someone needs to get the word out that dragons were not...brace yourself...real :), at least in the Middle Ages and Renaissance! Sadly, I found no evidence that flame-shooting dragon oil lamps were the rage anywhere in history throughout our period of study.
Below you will find a number of links on the subject of lighting in the REAL Middle Ages and Renaissance, as opposed to the fairy-tale version. Feel free to pass this list along wherever it will find a ready and interested audience. This Links list is dedicated to my apprentice, Julianna de Roselaire, who was looking for an indication of size so she could reproduce a ceramic oil lamp accurately.
Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon
Medieval and Renaissance Lighting: Candlesticks, Candelabras, and
Site is comprised of a list of links that cover the subject, especially extant examples.
Let There Be Light! Or, How do You See in the Dark Ages (By: Keith R. Doms,
Garth of Wessex as posted in the Winter '99 Plague)
(Site excerpt) There are six types of lighting devices that I will discuss here. They are; candles, torches, splinters and rush lights, lamps, lanterns, and fire baskets. Candles were made most commonly with tallow and less commonly with beeswax. Torches were made from one or more pieces of resinous woods or treated lengths of rope. Splinters, narrow splits of wood, were commonly made of Boxwood, Birch, and Pine. Rushlights were stripped and treated pieces of soft rush. Lamps were made of glass, ceramic, metal, or stone. Lamps commonly burned a variety of oils but could also house candles. Sea birds such as the Great Awk and Stormy Petrel were used around the Shetlands and Hebrides, contain much fat and were used like a lamp by simply inserting a wick of dried moss down the throat of dead specimen and lit.
A set of guides by Master Bedwyr Danwyn
A great page, though not yet finished. Contains a list of links of an informative nature, such as:
Where Was Such Lighting Used?
When Were Such Lights Used?
How Were Oil Lamps Used?
How Were Candles Used?
How Were Wicks Made?
What About Candlesticks?
Working with natural oils
working with tallow
working with beeswax
See also: Working with rushlights
A History of Light and Lighting
Though this site contains a lot of information, you'll have to wade through some non-pertinent stuff as well.
Medieval Lamp (AD 1300, Prag, Czech Republic)
(Site Excerpt) Manufactured mainly in Bohemia (todays Czeck Republic) in the 14th century. This is a Replica of a oil lamp that was found in a garbage well in Prag, Czeck Republic. The medieval glasslamps was originally used as oil lamps, which was filled with oil, hanging from the ceiling.
Three examples of historic oil lamps are pictured, beginning halfway down the page.
Candle History Copyright 1997 - 2003 Bob Sherman
(Site Excerpt) Necessity is the mother of invention and early candles sometimes took rather bizarre forms to utilize available resources. The use of, and improvements to candles has paralleled mans ascent from the stone age. There is no historical record of the first candles used by man, however clay candle holders dating from the fourth century B.C. have been found in Egypt. Early Chinese and Japanese candles were made with wax derived from insects and seeds molded in paper tubes. Wax skimmed from boiling cinnamon was the basis of tapers for temple use in India.
Illuminous Times (Text copyright the National Candle Association)
(Site Excerpt) Like the early Egyptians, the Romans relied on tallow, gathered from cattle or sheep suet, as the principal ingredient of candles. It was not until the Middle Ages when beeswax, a substance secreted by honey bees to make their honeycombs, was introduced. Beeswax candles were a marked improvement over those made with tallow, for they did not produce a smoky flame, or emit an acrid odor when burned. Instead, beeswax candles burned pure and clean. However, they were expensive, and, therefore, only the wealthy could afford them.
Recommended Library for Lighting Enthusiasts
(Site Excerpt) The following books offer a good start for your lighting research. Some of the books may be out of print. However, the list includes books for many interests...General Reference, Candle, Whale Oil/Kerosene/BurningFluid ,Railroad, Miners, Miniatures, Gas, Electric, Matchsafes, Miscellaneous
The Evolution of Oil Lamps
(Site Excerpt--brief info.) The true spout is thought to have first appeared in Greece in the 5th century BC. The earliest examples have a true closed spout, but still have an open bowl-like body. By this time Greece had superseded Palestine as a major producer of oil lamps, and with the spread of Hellenistic influence, methods of lamp production rapidly changed.
Oil Lamp from the Iron Age Period
Picture and brief caption
Ancient Oil Lamps
(Site Excerpt--info mostly pre-period) The King James Version of the Bible translates the word for lamp "candlesticks," but that is not an accurate translation because in ancient world they did not use candles. Even the seven branches on the menorah within the Tabernacle and the Temple were actually lamps that held olive oil and wicks. Ancient lamps were oval shaped, and flat on top. They actually had small bowls on one end, with the other end pinched real tight which formed a groove to hold the cotton or flax wick. One end of the wick would even float in the olive oil. Some of the lamps had a lid over the bowl. They were usually made of clay, but the more expensive lamps were made of bronze and sometimes even of gold. Some of these were very beautiful and would contain very elaborate decorations, many Roman lamps had images of their gods
HISTORY OF LIGHTING TRACED BY SCIENCE Smithsonian Institute copyright July
9, 1927 By Marjorie MacDill
(Site Excerpt) "The link in the chain of lamps from the Roman period to the period of enlightened invention is the Italian lucerna , the most beautiful and graceful lamp ever designed." says Dr. Hough. "The lucerna is made of bronze, brass, or terra cotta, and consists of a reservoir with from two to four spouts and an upright stem with a base on which the perforated reservoir can be raised or lowered. When the reservoir is full there is a slight cavity head on the oil, not conclusively intentional, but which might suggest an improvement to an observing mind.
Life in a Medieval Castle
(Site Excerpt--briefly touches on the subject) Lighting was by rushlights or candles, of wax or tallow (melted animal fat), impaled on vertical spikes or an iron candlestick with a tripod base...
Books on Early Lighting
A large selection, some do not cover the Medieval/Renaissance period of study.