'glass' in King James's version is not as clear as in some of the later renderings. The passage in the First Epistle to the Corinthians if read: "As yet we see things dimly, reflected as in a mirror, but then face to face," makes the sense plain. As looking-glasses, to use this term by anticipation, were generally made of steel or some other metal, they readily became tarnished, even when of the best quality; hence the man who beheld his face 'in a glass' rarely got a distinct image, and thus would readily forget the lineaments of his countenance. That window glass, such as is now in common use, was slow to gain currency is shown by the little panes in many old buildings in Europe. They are usually round or nearly so, and so small that one of them can easily be held between the tips of the ringers and the thumb. That this form of window glass first came into vogue in Germany is evident from the name disk (Scheibe) by which a pane of glass is still designated, no matter what its shape.
That ancient customs are still practised by primitive tribes is interestingly shown by the two following incidents. In the Iliad we are told that when Asklepias 'saw the wound where the bitter arrow had lighted he sucked out the blood,' and so forth. In his recent work on the Australian aborigines, John Mathew informs the reader that the doctor or sacred man made a practise of sucking the part affected. He then proceeds: "There seems to be some efficacy in the sucking, for a friend of mine who was suffering severely from an inveterate, inflamed eye allowed a black 'doctor' to mouth the eyeball, and the result of the treatment was immediate relief and speedy cure." A further parallelism between the rise and practise of the healing art and the priestly class, although in Greece the connection was less close than elsewhere and did not long continue, is shown by this extract.
The reading habit is essentially modern and may be said to date from the rise of periodicals, comparatively few of which are more than half a century old. The invention of spectacles and that of printing were very nearly coeval. Until that date literary instruction was largely a matter of dictation, repetition and memorizing, as is still the case in many parts of the world. Among the ancient Greeks and Romans the memory was trained to a far greater extent than with us. In the literature of the former there is constantly evident a sort of distrust of the written page. It could not reflect the vivifying power of the living voice. It seems to have been a common thing for Greek youths to learn Homer by heart, huge as the task would be to us. Knowledge was to be elicited by discussion, by the dialectic method, by question and answer. Intellectual training was almost exclusively rhetorical. Taking into consideration, therefore, the fact that eyes were not needed for the manufacture and use of instruments of precision and that the printed page did not exist, we can easily understand that spectacles were not greatly missed.