top of page

© Microscope History all rights reserved

Double Column Microscope, ca. 1720


This microscope is a unique and mysterious device that can be traced back to the early 18th century. The microscope has a single magnification and is made using materials such as pasteboard, shagreen, ivory, wood and brass, which were commonly used during the first half of the century. It also includes the illumination of transmitted light through a mirror, an invention attributed to Edmund Culpeper in the early 1700s. 

The microscope uses a Hevelius screw for focusing. The stage and its mount are in a fixed position, and turning the screw thread slides the optical tube up or down relative to the object. Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687) modified the Hooke microscope by adding a fine-pitch thumbscrew for fine focus. In this microscope, focusing is done using a milled ring that is connected to the tube and wrapped around a long screw with a relatively coarse thread. This enables a relatively fast movement of the optical tube, which includes three optical elements (eye, body and object lenses), providing approximately 100x magnification. 

Although this system suffers from typical distortions of the period, such as chromatic and spherical aberration, the optical quality is not bad considering the time when it was presumably created.

It is difficult to suggest an origin for this unique microscope. The common joke among archaeologists, that because an archaeologist dreams of finding a unique find and when they succeed in doing so they complain that it has no parallels, works in this case as well. A British origin can be ruled out, but it is very possible that the origin of this microscope is in continental Europe: Holland, France or the Italian or German lands. Another possibility, which also has some parallels of microscopes incorporating a typical two-legged base as in the case before us, are rare copies of European microscopes from the Edo period in Japan. A good example of such a microscope can be seen here.It is difficult to determine the origin of this unique microscope. Archaeologists often joke that when they finally find a rare artifact, they complain that it has no parallels. This seems to be the case with this microscope. We can rule out a British origin, but it is possible that the microscope comes from continental Europe, including countries such as Holland, France, Italy, or Germany. Another possibility is that it is a rare copy of European microscopes from the Edo period in Japan, which also incorporated a two-legged base like the one in this microscope. A good example of such a microscope can be seen here and in the period's picture. About Edo period microscopes in Japan, see here.

bottom of page