Lighting in the 1700s


In the 1700s, two main types of candles lit up the night: tallow (refined animal fat) and beeswax. Tallow candles were cheaper but they burned quickly, unevenly, and gave off a horrible stink. Beeswax candles cost three times as much, but they burned slowly and required less maintenance as they burned. 

Both were the result of labor-intensive manufacturing: moving from right to left in the image, the wick is pulled through melted wax, cut and dipped repeatedly, then finished to ensure an even lustre and shape. 

The ideal candle was bright white—almost blue—and translucent. The best came from the countryside, where craftsmen could "bleach" beeswax candles in the abundant sunshine of open spaces.

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