One of the characters in Veltman’s Salomea is an elderly gentleman named Platon Turutsky, who after a lifetime of bachelor living according to the good old ways has fallen in love with Salomea and decided to rebuild his house according to the modern fashion (which he despises, but realizes is indispensable if he wants to attract a young wife). Among the features he insists on is illumination by солнечные лампы [‘solar lamps’], which were apparently the latest thing. If you google the phrase, you get images of solar panels, but that is obviously not what was meant in the 1840s, so I did a little research which I will share with you in case anyone is interested in obsolete and forgotten lighting technologies.
First I used Google Books in Russian, restricting it to the 19th century, and found this description in the Zhurnal gorodskoĭ i sel’skoĭ stroitel’, mekhanik i tekhnolog for 1857, pp. 16-17:
Такъ называемая солнечная лампа. Она всѣхъ проще и состоитъ изъ циркулярной свѣтильни погружаемой прямо въ масло которое поднимается по ней волоснымъ дѣйствіемъ; въ этомъ отношеніи она близко подходитъ къ древнимъ лампамъ, но существенно разнится отъ нихъ тѣмъ, что имѣетъ теченіе воздуха: внутреннее теченіе, проходящее внутри свѣтильни, и внѣшнее теченіе — между пламенемъ и поверхностью стекла. Эти лампы хорошо освѣщаютъ, нагрѣваютъ и сожигаютъ отъ 60 до 75 граммъ масла въ часъ.
The so-called solar lamp. It is the simplest of all and consists of a circular wick immersed directly in the oil, which rises via capillary action; in this respect, it comes close to the lamps of antiquity, but is significantly different from them in having a current of air: an internal current passing inside the wick, and an external current between the flame and the surface of the glass. These lamps illuminate and heat well and burn 60 to 75 grams of oil per hour.
Of course I wondered what they were called in English; I tried “solar lamp” and that turned out to be correct. Google Books turned up “On the comparative expense of light derived from different sources, and on the use of chlorine as an indication of the illuminating power of coal gas” by Andrew Fyfe, M.D., F.R.S.E., F.R.S.S.A., in The Mechanic’s Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal and Gazette, Vol. 37 (1842), which on pp. 504-06 said:
The next trial was made with the lamp lately introduced under the name of solar lamp. In this a cylinder surrounds that containing the wick, with the upper part bent inwards, so that the aperture being contracted, the current of air that passes up between the one cylinder and the other, striking against the horizontal part of the outer one, causes a contraction and lengthening of the flame; a longer and narrower glass chimney is at the same time required. The advantages said to attend the use of this construction of burner, are, that an oil of inferior quality may be used, while at the same time the light is greatly increased.
So far, so good, but why solar? I turned to the OED, and found (s.v. solar, published 1913):
solar lamp n. (a) an argand lamp; (b) a grade of electric lamp.
1841 Mechanics’ Mag. 16 Jan. 34 The invention of the ‘Solar Lamp’ is due to Mr. Jeremiah Bynner, of Birmingham, by whom it was patented in 1837.
Which provides interesting historical information, but doesn’t explain the “solar,” so I solicit suggestions from all and sundry.