Isobel Armstrong's startlingly original and beautifully illustrated book tells the stories that spring from the mass-production of glass in nineteenth-century England. Moving across technology, industry, local history, architecture, literature, print culture, the visual arts, optics, and philosophy, it will transform our understanding of the Victorian period.
The mass production of glass in the nineteenth century transformed an ancient material into a modern one, at the same time transforming the environment and the nineteenth-century imagination. It created a new glass culture hitherto inconceivable. Glass culture constituted Victorian modernity. It was made from infinite variations of the prefabricated glass panel, and the lens. The mirror and the window became its formative elements, both the texts and constituents of glass culture. The glassworlds of the century are heterogeneous. They manifest themselves in the technologies of the factory furnace, in the myths of Cinderella and her glass slipper circulated in print media, in the ideologies of the conservatory as building type, in the fantasia of the shopfront, in the production of chandeliers, in the Crystal Palace, and the lens-made images of the magic lantern and microscope. But they were nevertheless governed by two inescapable conditions.