Walking Through Windows is a work of fiction. That said, much of what I have speculated and built my fantasy around is based in the real world and in real history.


Places

Many of the places and locations mentioned in this book exist. There are a few exceptions and also several places that did exist but are no more.
I hope at least however, that anybody familiar with Florence will at least recognise their city in these pages. Atlanta in 1889 might be a bit of a stretch!!

A multitude of other credits and acknowledgments can be found at the end of my book.


Glassmaking in the 1400s

If you wanted to own a glass mirror during the 1400s you basically needed one thing: money! This was an expensive item.

The technique of making a glass mirror was developed during Roman times, although many of the techniques were lost to the Middle East after the Roman empire collapsed. During the early Renaissance period, the Italian glass manufacturers on the island of Murano developed the skills of silvering glass using tin and mercury. This is pretty much the basis for the technique that Lorenzo is using when he starts making mirrors in Florence. In reality, the glass workers of Murano pretty much had a monopoly on mirror production in Europe at the time. In the story, Simona is quite correct when she says that nobody is recorded as having been making glass on any great scale in Florence during the 1400s.

Mirrors were not large. The image here shows an Italian mirror frame of the period. The first mirrors that Lorenzo makes in this book are around 260x145mm in size. They would have just about fitted perfectly in this frame and would have been considered quite large at the time.

Some of the practices that I describe however were not truly perfected until centuries later. Even the mirrors made for the The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, nearly 200 years later were not as large as those, apparently being made by Lorenzo and Giovanni in Florence. No wonder Lorenzo seemed to live in a state of awe so much of the time!


Florence in the Quattrocento

From today's perspective it is hard to grasp the importance of what happened in Florence during the 1400s.

The fundamental shift in approach to life and society during that century changed everything about the way people lived. It was very much that shift that created the environment that enabled the great artists and architects of that period to flourish. The changes that started then continue to underpin Western Society today and if you really want to learn more, then many far more learnéd people than I have written much about the subject.

Several of the Florentine artists have brief parts in my narrative. Michelangelo, Botticelli and D'Agnolo in particular have 'walk on' parts, whilst Benedetto Buglioni has an important supporting role in the tale.

Benedetto Buglioni was a ceramicist. Successful in his day, he worked initially with his brother Francesco and later (after the periodof this book) with his son Santa. Always playing second fiddle to the Della Robbia family, he nevertheless created some beautiful work, such as the Madonna and Child on this page. And in fact more than a few pieces of work that have traditionally been credited to the Della Robbias, have in recent years been re-attributed to 'Betto'. He was a figure of some import in Florence in later life and was one of the committee of 30 artists appointed in 1504 to determine what to do with statue of 'David' when Michelangelo completed it.

Michelangelo himself makes a very brief appearance in our story. The Madonna of the Stairs pictured here and mentioned in Lorenzo's Diary is one of the first known works by Michelangelo. He was just 17 and still an apprentice when this was completed. Just where did he acquire the stone? Well, my book gives one distinctly alternate idea about that!

And Sandro Botticelli? You will find some observations about the character of this man in the pages of my novel. I must point out that that these are simply Lorenzo's personal opinions. In actual fact, we know very little about the true character or private life of this great painter. I could add more... but that would need a 'spoiler alert'! Read my book!!

Alchemy

In the early 1700s, a young Alchemist, Johann Frederick Böttger, held prisoner at the court of Augustus the Strong in Dresden, said that he could tramsmute base metal into Gold. He actually promised to deliver two tons of Gold within eight weeks. Perhaps inevitably, he failed and he found himself in danger of being condemned as a result.

Sadly, the impression many people have today of the Science of Alchemy is littered with tales of mystical wizards and apparent charlatans, such as Böttger (See more about this man below) .

This is unfortunate, for much good came from that field of study. In fact up until the mid 17oos, Alchemy was regarded as a serious and important branch of Science.

It is true that the 'Transmutation of Metals' (think turning Lead into Gold) and the 'Elixir of Life' were two of the cornerstones of Alchemy. However, many of those great men of learning who revealed the world to us as we know it today were 'Alchemists' first and 'Scientists' second. These were essentialy, curious and learnéd men who were simply trying to work out and define how our Universe functions.

Most famously perhaps, Isaac Newton (pictured here), spent more time studying and published more papers on aspects of 'Alchemy' than he did on Mathematics and Gravity. He was by no means alone in that during the late 17th century.


Böttger's story did not end with his failure to produce Gold.

King Augustus the Strong was fanatical collector of Porcelain. At the time, this precious material was only made in China and fetched fabulous prices in Europe. Nobody in Europe had worked out how to make it.

For some years a Scientist/Alchemist named Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus had been trying to work out how to make Porcelain for the King. Böttger was fortunate in that the King actually seemed to like him and sent him to work with von Tschirnhaus in the city of Meissen. He didn't much want to go, but it seemed a better option than having his head chopped off.

Von Tschirnhaus died in 1708 and Böttger was at least smart enough to pick up the pieces and carry on the work. He perfected von Tschirnhaus' techniques and brought European porcelain to the market for the first time in 1710.

It should be said here that this little tale has absolutely nothing to do with my novel. However,
the Meissen factory today still continues to produce some of the finest porcelain made anywhere in the world.