JF Ptak Science Books Post 1228
[This is a part of our History of Blank, Empty and Missing Things series.]
Mirrors don’t necessarily have to reflect something to show reflection–they merely need to offer you a picture of something that can show the difference of something real versus a false image of that same thing. “Through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12) isn’t necessarily a reflecting surface though it is a reflective one; neither is the painting in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Harry Potter’s Erised mirror does act like a mirrorish mirror, and Narcissus does come to a bad and wasted end in front of his pondside reflection (the “perilous mirror”of the Romance of the Rose). The queen’s mirror in the tale of Sleeping Beauty doesn’t reflect but does give advice, and Alice’s Adventures... in 1871 begin with wondering what was on the other side of a mirror (“looking-glass”) above her mantel–in a similar vein Kurt Vonnegut introduces a mirror as a “leak” into another dimension rather than a reflection. Sometimes you get a hand-held thing with glass, and sometimes you just get a piece of paper.
This graphic from The Illustrated London News (5 August 1933, and available for purchase here) is an interesting case in point for a paper mirror. It is interesting in how it presents a reported state of affairs and its actual condition. In this case, the artwork shows the supposed/reported strength of the navies of the five major seafaring powers (France, British Empire, Japan, United States and Italy) and what those navies wpuld look like if the outmoded and obsollete ships were removed. The modern and servicable ships are shown in black silhouette; the numbers of obsolete vessels were shown in white. The dipiction of blank or empty of missing ships was a very convincing tool depicting the actual state of the major powers' navies compared to a more romantic means of reporting naval strength. It must have been an excellent wake-up to thopse with the capacity to see the truth, presented on one piece of paper, a mirror by any other name.