I stumbled upon a Tumblr post by Peter Morwood on non-electric light sources in period and/or fantasy writing and screen adaptations, and found out about a brilliant (no pun intended!) historical lighting aid. It’s simply a spherical water bottle or a glass globe arranged in front of a candle to concentrate the light.
It’s surprisingly effective as a magnifier: placing a candle behind the bottle does diffuse much more light around than placing a candle beside it. Morwood tried it in his kitchen with good results.
The principle works with electric light bulbs, too, as the photo below with a woodcarver shows.
Similar to for instance burning glasses or reading stones, these light magnifiers are apparently often called lacemaker’s lamps, (glass) focusing lamps, or magnifying globes or condensers. If interested, you can read more e.g. at LaceNews blog post Collecting: Lighting for the Lacemaker.
Morwood even refers to one in Peter Jackson’s movie Fellowship of the Rings:
Well, what do you know! From the extensive making-of documentaries I already knew how carefully the Weta teams worked on the Lord of the Rings props. This just proves it again. Great job!
Found and images via Peter Morwood on Tumblr.
History for Writers looks at how history can be a fiction writer’s most useful tool from worldbuilding to dialogue.