The Claude Mirror aka The 18th Century Instagram

20120423-113147.jpg

They might not have had 4G or even electricity in the olden days, but that didn't stop them trying to invent Instagram

You might not know this, but back in the 1700s there was no iPhone, and therefore — shockingly– no Instagram. It may also surprise you to know that the English were once forward looking, inventive and curious as a nation, and so they came up with their own way to grungify the views they saw on vacation, and (probably) their breakfasts.

The gadget was called the [The Claude Glass](http://www.gardendesign.com/ideas/art-botany-the-claude-glass “Art + Botany: The Claude Glass | Garden Design”), and was actually invented by a Frenchman, [Claude Lorrain][www.claudelorrain.org], around a hundred years earlier. The Claude Glass was an oval-shaped convex mirror with a blackened reflective surface, and used to view the scene behind you over our shoulder. There was just one “filter,” which gave a pleasing, low-contrast rendering of the scene, and the convex glass drew in more of the scene, rendering it with something like a fisheye effect.

Like Instagram on the iPhone, the Claude Glass could only be viewed by a couple of people at a time. Sharing was also clearly an issue. Due to the inexplicable lack of Twitter back in the 19th century, you’d have to hire a painter to spend hours or days rendering the image, and then there would only be one copy. This is starting to make the iPad 1 look fast.

But what this really shows is that humans have been fascinated by manipulated images since forever. Also: rumors that Facebook is interested in a $1 billion acquisition of the Claude Glass are unfounded.

Tintern Abbey in the UK has a webcam pointed at its own Claude Glass 24/7, and you can see it in action [here][web2.uwindsor.ca]. I can’t tell you how much I love this marriage of 400-years-apart technology.

[Via [Kottke][kottke.org]]

[kottke.org]: http://kottke.org/12/04/the-18th-century-version-of-instagram
[web2.uwindsor.ca]: http://web2.uwindsor.ca/hrg/amckay/Claudemirror.com/Claudemirror.com/Live_Tintern_Claude_Mirror_Webcam.html
[www.claudelorrain.org]: http://www.claudelorrain.org/ “Claude Lorrain – The complete works”
[www.gardendesign.com]: http://www.gardendesign.com/sites/all/files/AnnaLaurent/Derwentwater-England.jpg “claude glass”
[www.gardendesign.com 1]: http://www.gardendesign.com/ideas/art-botany-the-claude-glass “Art + Botany: The Claude Glass | Garden Design”

  • Tallest_Skil

    “1700s”, “19th century”… get it straight, guys.

  • jim123321

    WTF!! “It may also surprise you to know that the English were once forward looking, inventive and curious as a nation” WE STILL ARE! Don’t say crap about my country when you don’t even live here and whats worse is your in a country that is on the brink of collapse! Honestly your a rubbish writer!

  • Tallest_Skil

    …whats worse is your in a country that is on the brink of collapse! Honestly your a rubbish writer!

    Oh my stars, you’re actually talking about the US, aren’t you? You think we’re actually going to collapse! That’s freaking hilarious. I’m actually crying.

    Go learn more about the world around you.

  • mr_bee

    “It may also surprise you to know that the English were once forward looking, inventive and curious as a nation …”

    This is a really, really insulting thing to say. This is almost as bad as using a racial epithet.

    Perhaps Charlie thinks he has English ancestry and can thus get away with denigrating an entire nation cause it’s fun or funny, but this isn’t funny at all. If it was sarcasm, try again. Try to remember also that real journalists don’t use it and it takes a real good writer to use it without offending everyone.

    If I said something similar to a client at my work I’d be fired on the spot.

  • sonofsci

    Seems a bit like making the facts fit the story you want to tell rather than creating a realistic article.

About the author

Charlie Sorrel Charlie Sorrel is the Reviews Editor here on Cult of Mac. Follow Charlie  on Twitter at @mistercharlie.

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