Notes for a History of Glass in Building (excerpts)
By Lorenzo Matteoli
(Work in progress 1989-99)
From early history to the Roman Empire
Glass had no place in warfare, at least as long as war was a matter of physical, hand-to-hand combat. War was better served by heavy stones, bronze spears or iron daggers, which is why history recorded stone, bronze and iron ages while glass never qualified for a specific ‘age’.
Glass, on the other hand, was used to craft jewels, brooches, small ampoules to contain precious perfumes, rare and magic essences, powerful balms, or deadly poisons. Gentle items, sweet womanly accoutrements and accessories of vanity, or else mean tools of secret perfidy. All of these were inconsistent with the resounding glory of the kind of events generally assumed to ‘make history’, such as wars, massacres, battles, conquests, dazzling victories and gruesome defeats. Thus it is difficult to know exactly where and when the melting of silica sand, mixed with the right parts of soda and lime, was mastered for the first time in order to yield a translucent paste which could be shaped into desired forms and designed objects.