William Harris & Co., Pocket Microscope', 1815-1840


William Harris (1781-1841) was the son of an optician, Richard Harris. After an apprenticeship with a clockmaker called Joseph Robinson, William opened his business at 47 High Holborn in London in 1805. In 1798, he had married Isabella Hastings and they had a number of children, several of whom predeceased them. In 1813, the business became known as “William Harris & Company” when the eldest son, also William (1799-1839), joined the company, and in 1815, it moved to 50 High Holborn. The company business card advertised that they were Manufacturers of Optical, Mathematical and Philosophical instruments “by His Majesty’s Royal Letters Patent”.

In 1823, William Harris & Company was advertised as manufacturers of optical instruments. In 1841, it became known as William Harris & Son. At this time, William and Isabella’s youngest son, Adolphus Oliver Harris (1818-1892), was living with them at 50 High Holborn. The company then started advertising itself as makers of mathematical instruments. They exhibited at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London when their stand, according to the catalogue, featured barometers, thermometers and telescopes for use on land, at sea or for astronomy. The company seems to have ceased trading by 1855 as on 26 January 1855 another company of opticians, Keyzor & Co, was then at 50 High Holborn.

The microscope offered here is signed by a trade card glued into the case, a very common feature of this maker. It has three stacking objectives (probably imported from France as many makers did in the early years of achromats). The optical quality is rather impressive for the period. The structure apparently mimics the "Most Improved" and Carpenter style of early 19th century microscopes, but in a nicely miniaturized manner.

Condition is very good, both optically and cosmetically. The case has the key but the lock is halt.


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