Lamps and Lighting


Here are some of the various and ingenious ways of creating light in the days before electricity.



This Edo period stand lamp is about 112 cm. (45 inches) high, of which about 26 cm. (10.5 inches) is the actual lamp part. The lamp consists of a candle sheltered from the wind by rice paper. At the front is a little door that opens to trim the wick or change the candle.


Lanterns like this (called "chouchin") were common up until the Meiji period, as the inset below, taken from a 1994 issue of Comopolitan shows.


This lantern, when open, is about 27 cm (11.8 inches) in length. As the inset shows, it would have hung from a pole that actually ran through the inside of the lantern.



The picture on the right shows the two holes the pole would have passed through. The lantern concertinas shut as shown above.


Judging by the frequency with which gadgets like the above turn up in antique markets. etc., these must have been in pretty frequent use during the 19th century, but I have yet to meet anyone who can tell me exactly how they used! This one is fairly small; the box measures about 13 cm. (5.4 inches) by 7.5 cm. (3 inches) by 3 cm. (1.4 inches). The picture below shows all the bits and pieces. The bit that looks like a tiny teacup was (I think) for holding and pouring wax. The other little pot-shaped object has a lid which opens up to reveal a spike for holding a candle. There is also a pair of tweezers, for (I assume) trimming the wick. It would make sense that the base was filled with warm water, to keep the wax liquid, and the pot that the candle sits on top of could have contained spare wicks, etc.





During the Meiji period, when there was very little street lighting, everyone was obliged by law to carry a personal lantern at night. This lamp, which probably dates from about the 1930s, represents the tail end of this tradition. Rather than the customary candle, it runs on paraffin (or kerosene) and, as the picture on the right shows, it has an attachment at the back so that it can be fitted to a belt. It measures 15 cm. (6 inches) by 10 cm. (4 inches) by 6.5 cm. (2.6 inches).



This is a pair of Edo period wick-timmers, with copper tongs and containers to put the trimmed wicks in. The tongs measure about 13 cm. (5.2 inches) and the containers are about 9 cm. (3.6 inches) high.




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