Tuesday, July 12, 2022
HomeHistorical BooksPROFESSOR PEPPER & HIS MAGICAL GLASS by Penny Dolan


Opening up the draft of my uncared for historic fantasy, I step as soon as extra into that mid-Victorian setting. At as soon as I’m confronted by a strand that entails thriller, magic and the improvement of glass. But how, at that individual cut-off date, do glass and magic join?  

Glass - Wikipedia 

Transparent and pure, glass has lengthy appeared a magical
substance. In the furnace, boring sands turned a flowing, glowing
liquid, hardening once more right into a strong substance. Glass had been used by
alchemists and scientists and, since ages previous, provided people energy
over mild, imaginative and prescient, reflection – and the artwork of phantasm.  As a fabric, glassbrought sparkle and glamour and
luxurious. It allowed mild indoors, and even, within the home windows of
cathedrals and chapels, illuminated the heavens and colored the
blessings of God.

Stained glass - Wikipedia 

Better than polished stone or metallic, glass might develop into a mirror, revealing each self and, some mentioned, soul. Superstitions grew. A shattered mirror was rumoured to convey seven years dangerous luck – the seven years the soul wanted to assemble itself collectively once more from the fragments – and when demise arrived within the chamber, each mirror should be lined in black material, lest the soul, because it left the physique, fitted into that area behind the glass quite than flying away into the life to come back. 

 British governments noticed solely the amount of the brand new paned home windows and by 1696, the primary Window Tax arrived. The strict and progressive imposition  of the tax led, by 1766, to a spate of walled-up home windows as homeowners tried to keep away from the seven-windows-or-more tax ruling.  However, by the time the tax was was eliminated in 1845, glass had already taken on a brand new, architectural position throughout the affluent cities the place elegant purchasing galleries had been being constructed from glass and ornate forged iron.

Burlington Arcade - Wikipedia, entziklopedia askea.

 The new arcades, each containing a number of little outlets, all lit from the entrance, provided the higher class of consumers safety from the climate in addition to locations to see and be seen. 

The Soho Bazaar opened in London in 1816, the Burlington Arcade in 1819 and from 1830 onwards, different cities created their very own arcades.





Glass was lastly established as a constructing materials when Paxton’s Crystal Palace, that includes 300,000 tons of plate glass, provided the largest and grandest bazaar of all of them: The Great Exhibition of 1851. As an expertise, the Exhibition influenced the design of the brand new department shops and their celebratory plate glass window shows effectively into the subsequent century. 

The Crystal Palace - Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre ... 

 Now, among the many many makes use of of glass within the Victorian period, its position in Magical Illusion has lengthy fascinated me. 

As magic moved from native feasts and present grounds into the gaslit shadows of small theatres, all types of lighting results, illusions and subterfuge abruptly turned simpler to handle. Magicians, aside from with sleight of hand, typically relied on reflections and shadows to stage their acts. Now, with the arrival of enormous sheets of glass, new acts had been doable – and so it was that in 1852, Professor John Henry Pepper, English scientist and member of the Royal Polytechnic Institute, demonstrated his well-known, theatrical “Pepper’s Ghost”. 

Bsically, the impact is created by utilizing two areas or “rooms”. The viewers can see inside the principle efficiency “room” – ie the stage – however the second – referred to as the blue room – was hidden from view on the aspect.  An huge, now-available, flat glass plate can be positioned rigorously at an angle in the principle room and at a sure level, the lighting can be altered. At this level the “invisible” display screen would replicate no matter was illuminated in blue room. At one the seen room would seem to include the particular person or object that was positioned throughout the brighter-lit blue room. Curtains, drapes and intelligent lighting results amplified this in style impact. In December 1862. utilizing this gadget, there was the primary public efficiency of a scene from Charles Dickens’ The Haunted Man and it was an enormous sensation. 

Pepper's ghost - Wikipedia 

The arrival of Pepper’s ghost led to a style for brief ghostly dramas. Refinements had been at all times being devised: invisible dark-clothed actors manipulatedg white skeletons, phantom swords floated by way of the air, and disembodied heads and transformations turned in style. 

 The other-worldly impact, mixed with the rising curiosity in human non secular and mental powers, proved an enormous theatrical success. 

However, Henri Pepper’s Ghost was a troubled creation. 


When Pepper tried to register his patent on the Patent Office – as all severe magicians do – he was refused. A Dutch magician, with the stage identify Henri Robin, claimed he had demonstrated an an identical trick in Paris in again in 1847, though the supposed trick was later replicated and proved unlikely. 

 Meanwhile, in October 1852, a Parisian artist known as Pierre Seguin had patented a small polyscope, a youngsters’s moveable peepshow toy that labored on the identical precept as Pepper’s stage model. Pepper and his associate Henri Dircks tried to patent the same youngsters’s gadget in 1863 however Seguin’s earlier declare throughout each France and Britain was upheld. 

As a associate, Dircks’ identify was on all of the contracts and paperwork, though his ardour was in remodelling theatres to point out “ghostly phenomena”.  However, after some time he seen that Professor Pepper’s was the one identify showing on all of the publicity materials. and hassle adopted. Pepper persevered, decided to retain and enhance his magical Ghost and in 1862, he added a twist to Dircks’ personal 1862 peepshow toy concept.

By altering the angle of the glass and utilizing the orchestra pit because the blue room, Pepper made his personal Ghost right into a star attraction throughout a higher vary of theatres and area and created a craze for dramatic theatrical ghosts. There was, nonetheless, a most fascinating side-effect: a nationwide scarcity of enormous panes of plate-glass. 

The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain - Wikipedia

Writing this publish gave me the prospect to re-examine Pepper’s Ghost however – but once more – I’m left with my very own thriller to resolve. Given that the Ghost could be very a lot a technological creation, is it doable to create a temper of thriller and subtlety in my writing? Can I recreate the magic? One day, I would be capable of reply. 

Penny Dolan 


Hiding the Elephant by Jim Steinmeyer | Hachette Books

ps. If you’re in any respect interested by magicians, tips and patent wars, do learn “Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians invented the Impossible” by Jim Steinmeyer.


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