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People Worried About Books In Victorian Era The Same Way We Worry About Smart Phones Today

Examination by ophthalmoscope in JF Phillips’ Ophthalmic Surgery and Treatment, 1869, Wellcome Library

With so much time spent in front of a screen these days, it is important to maintain proper eye health. Yeah, that’s a thing. There are often reports about the ill effects of spending too much time in front of screens that emit harsh blue light causing dryness and digital strain.

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In the Victorian era, there was just as much concern when it came to eye health and what might damage your sight. In the 1800s, people mistakenly blamed the eye problems people were having on the widespread use of mass print.

Victorians predicted that proper eye care was needed lest the people of Britain become blind.

One article in an 1884 edition of The Morning Post read:
“The culture of the eyes and efforts to improve the faculty of seeing must become matters of attentive consideration and practice unless the deterioration is to continue and future generations are to gripe about the world purblind.”

As time progressed, so too did the way that eye problems were treated. It was this increase in treatment that caused great alarm, and people believed there was a need to stop eye-related health problems from growing any further.

One 1898 featured article published in The Scottish Review theorized that the cause of bad eyesight was “exclusively the consequence of the present conditions of civilized life.” While I cannot see that being a thing in the Victorian era, that statement might hold true today.

People in Victorian-era Britain had also come to believe that education was also part of the problem. Defective eyesight in students was blamed on things like reading materials, desk space, and lighting conditions.

Despite all the things that Victorians blamed bad eyesight for, they continued to make use of each and every one.

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Some of the things the Victorians spoke of can be seen today, but were they right about everything?

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