top of page

European Variations of the Cuff Microscope

The emergence of the original Cuff microscope in about 1745 gained considerable publicity and promotion on the initiative and books of Henry Baker. Because the microscope was never patented, a process that was quite complicated in the 18th century, copies of it soon appeared both by other English makers and by European makers in countries where the microscope was widely used: France, the Netherlands and the German lands. These imitations adopted the main idea of ​​Cuff's design, adding indigenous ideas that have already taken root in these countries in the context of microscope designs. Among other things, one can see in the French and German designs the influence of the box microscope that has been prevalent there since the beginning of the 18th century. Various manufacturers contributed to the original pattern and perfected it, among other things, by giving up Cuff's unobtrusive focusing system and replacing it with a more convenient rack and pinion focus that left out the original Hevelius screw for the fine focusing, which was not necessary due to the magnification limitations of these microscopes.

The examples here present a design, likely of a German manufacturer, and a typical design of a Dutch manufacturer whose identity is almost certain. On the other hand, the well-known French manufacturer of the time, Claude-Siméon Passemant, chose to stick in most cases to Cuff's original design with less noticeable changes.

German Cuff-Type Microscope, ca. 1760



A Cuff-type microscope, possibly German, the second half of the 18th century. This microscope is of a hitherto unrecorded design, unsigned, but the overall style and several details within it strongly suggest a German origin.

When fully set, the microscope stands 37cm high, mounted on the top of the 15x21x8cm fitted mahogany case. The body tube screws into an arm at the top of the pillar; coarse and fine focussing is by a Cuff-type mechanism (sliding block with a clamp screw and long threaded screw connecting the block and the arm holding the body tube). The single-sided mirror (the glass is now reconstructed, the frame is original), is mounted in a plate at the base of the pillar. A Bonanni-type spring stage can be screwed into the stage. The inside of the drawer is covered with 18th-century printed paper that recalls German manufacture.


So far, only another example of this microscope is known to us from a private collection in France. That microscope is the same in every detail as the one in our collection, but it also has the eyepiece cover that is missing in our example. In terms of style, details (such as the printed paper lining the inside of the drawer), the design of the optical tube and the shape of the box that serves as the basis for the microscope, it is clear that this microscope was inspired by the London-based maker John Cuff from around 1745. This design was quickly copied by many manufacturers in England and soon moved to continental European countries as well. Copies inspired by the Cuff microscope were created by Claude Simeon Passemant (1702–1769) in Paris, Dutch manufacturers such as Jacob Huisen (1739–1792) and Jacobus Lommers (1696–c1775), both of Utrecht in the Netherlands; or Georg Friedrich Brander (1713–1783) from Augsburg. One model of a box-top microscope created by Brander is remarkably similar to the microscope seen here and this affinity may indicate a similar source, but in the absence of signed examples, this hypothesis cannot be substantiated.

Brander box microscope.jpg

© Microscope History all rights reserved

© Microscope History all rights reserved

Cuff-Styled Microscope by a Dutch maker, ca. 1760

This Cuff-styled case-mounted microscope is known in only a small number of examples. It appears as No. 53 in the Golub Collection, No. V07289 and V07298 in the Museum Boerhaave. The overall design indicates a Dutch design by a leading master such as Jacobus Lommers or Jacob Huysen (or Huijsen) of Utrecht. However, there is great variability within the design of the signed instruments of each of these two makers, and the attribution of unsigned items to one of them is difficult.


© Microscope History all rights reserved


© Microscope History all rights reserved

Dutch microscopes that were inspired by Cuff's design had a unique attribute of having a box that was used to store not only the accessories such as objectives and stage aids but also the entire instrument. At the Museum Boerhaave, there are three Lommers (7289, 7204, 10133) and one Huysen compound microscope, all of which are mounted on a storage box.

bottom of page