Cuff type microscope by John Baddeley, London, 1760


The Cuff microscope is named after John Cuff (1708?-1772?), a microscope maker, who worked closely with the natural philosopher Henry Baker (1698-1774).  After expressing his dissatisfaction with the Culpeper microscope, Baker convinced Cuff in 1744 to design a new pattern, affording improved accessibility for hand manipulation of the specimen by the microscopist. "Mr. Cuff's new-constructed Double Microscope" quickly became the most popular model of the main part of the 18th century, being copied by many makers in England and across Europe in Italy, Holland, and France. However, one main drawback of its design was the inability to incline the stand for convenient observation.

The Cuff microscope seen here was signed by Peter Dollond (1730-1820) most likely within the 1750-1760 time frame. As Turner (1982: 52-7) suggests, in most respects, it conforms very closely to the original Cuff design hence some Cuff type microscopes signed by Dollond were actually made by John Cuff but sold by Dollond after Cuff was declared bankrupt in 1750.

For detailed description of an identical microscope see Wissner

This Cuff-type microscope is bearing a very unusual signature engraved on the stage : “Jn. Baddely Wolverhampton”.  John Baddeley is a famous English Clockmaker, established in Albrighton. In the eighteenth century, John Baddeley rose to become a member of the Royal Society, he was reputedly a clock maker to George III (who collected more than two thousand timepieces) and, turning his attention to barometers and optics, invented a new type of refracting telescope. On the variations of the Baddeley/Baddely name and the name of the cities in the Baddeley signatures, see Clifton/Turner, Directory of British scientific instrument makers, 1550-1851. However, it appears that very few microscopes signed by him are preserved.

The present Cuff-type microscope is particularly interesting for its very unusual four-lens eyepiece combining a plano-convex, bi-convex, bi-convex and a plano-convex lens. Up until now, we know only continental makers as Tiedemann or Dellebarre who built multiple-lens (more than 2 + the field lens) eyepieces in order to make their microscopes achromatic. This development/improvement by John Baddeley seems to be a true original invention in the 18th century UK production : in our knowledge, no other maker made in UK Cuff-type with four-lens eyepiece. Finally, the microscope is in superb condition with its six original objectives, its stage condenser, its stage tweezers, its fishplate, several ivory slides, different other accessories including an interesting special Bonnani stage with a condenser lens.

Henry Baker with the Cuff microscope

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788)

Engraving by Jacques de Sève showing Buffon using a Cuff microscope during experiments in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Paris in 1748.

The Cuff microscope was tested not long after its introduction by a distinguished group of naturalists headed by Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788), in an event described by the German naturalist Martin Frobenius Ledermüller (1719 - 1769). Together with Jacques de Sève (fl. 1742 - 1788),  John Turberville Needham  (1713-1781), Louis-Jean-Marie Daubenton (1716-1800), Philippe Guéneau de Montbeillard (1720-1785) and Thomas-François Dalibard (1709-1799), Buffon headed experiments in the between March and May 1748, during which they tested the qualities of a "double microscope" for studies in the Royal Botanical Gardens (Jardin des Plantes) in Paris. In an engraving made by de Sève and presented in Ledermüller's book, Buffon is seen using a Cuff microscope. These experiments gave rise to the criticisms of Ledermüller, also voiced by Needham and Buffon, about the unclear views seen under the microscope. Undoubtedly, these compound microscopes suffered from severe chromatic and spherical aberrations and their magnifications were inferior as compared with the single microscope, also made by Cuff for the Swiss naturalist Abraham Trembley (1710-1784), that  Needham and others used for routine work.

ReferencesBaker, H. 1785. Employment for the Microscope. London: 422; Wissner; Bonanie, Skinner 2011; SML: A62993, 1925-144, A601261, A159502; Bonhams 2013, 2015; Sotheby's 2004; MHS: 47114; Molecular Expressions; Bononiae

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