Technology, Novelty, and Luxury


The meaning of luxury is complex, elusive and continuously evolving. Among the innumerable facets of luxury, technology is one of the most important but also rather overlooked. The main argument of this edited volume is that technology provides a fundamental background for luxury. The authors analyse technology-related aspects of luxury by focusing on four categories of objects from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: musical instruments, educational toys, pocket watches and furniture. These case-studies illustrate how various stakeholders manipulated technology to generate new types of luxury, competing with older ones, and to introduce innovative consumption patterns and fashion trends. This tense and creative process led to the broadening and reinterpretation of the concept of luxury.

In particular, the implementation of new materials and technologies brought to existence accessible forms of luxury that challenged established perceptions and led to novel user practices and experiences. As the authors show, the interplay of technology with the values and beliefs of given societies contributed to the shifting meanings of luxury, a fascinating concept that keeps evolving. Technology, Novelty, and Luxury is a cross-disciplinary volume that aims to enrich research and debate in many domains, including the history of technology and design, cultural history and the history of mentalities.

Deutsches Museum Studies volume 12

Title: Technology, Novelty, and Luxury

Editor: Artemis Yagou



Artemis Yagou

Aspects of Technology in Populuxe Musical Instruments of the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries

Panagiotis Poulopoulos

Instructive Toys: Populuxe and Semi-Luxury Goods in Britain, Germany and France (1760–1818)

Joseph Wachelder

Mechanical and Precious: An Ottoman-era Watch from the Deutsches Museum Collection

Artemis Yagou

The Luxury Furniture Industry in Nineteenth-Century Paris: Between Resistance and Compromise

Camille Mestdagh


Extracts of the review that Peter McNeil wrote in Technology and Culture (Volume 65, 2024), the top academic journal for the history of technology:

‘This is an exemplary and refereed academic publication, useful for all those interested in object-based research’.

‘Richly illustrated in tonal and revealing color and printed on high-quality paper, the study looks and feels like a little luxury object in and of itself, representing the best type of museum-collection, academic-inflected writing.’