Spike-Stand "flea glass" simple microscopes, ca. 1680-1750


These are early forms of the single microscope made of bone, horn, or fruitwood. They have a single, biconvex lens mounted on the top of a stand facing a spike on a movable rod or a brass sprung pin, to which a flower or an insect could be speared for inspection (thus the term "flea glass", an English translation of the Latin name vitrum pulicarium). Focusing was achieved by moving the spike backward or towards the lens. 

A similar microscope appears in Johannes Zahn's (1702) book, below. The instruments seen here, all seem to date between the late 17th to the mid-18th century. 


Spike-stand microscope, after Zahn, Johan. 1702. Oculus artificialis teledioptricus sive telescopium. Nuremberg.

Flea, after Johann Franz Griendel. 1687. Micrographia nova sive Nova et curiosa variorum minutorum corporum... Nuremberg.

Bone Spike-Stand, ca. late 17th century to ~1700

Inv. YG-21-002

This is an early form of a spike-stand microscope, made of lathe-turned bone (presumably bovine). This early and a rather rare form of the Spike-Stand microscope is more or less similar to Zahn's depiction, the latter was probably turned of wood. 

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Horn Spike-Stand, ca. 1700

Inv. YG-21-003

This is another early form of the spike-stand microscope, made of lathe-turned horn (presumably bovine). Similar examples are known from several collections. They seem to be contemporaneous or slightly later to the less common bone examples. 

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s-l1600 (3).jpg

Wood Spike-Stand, ca. 1700-1750

Inv. YG-20-002

This is a more common form of the Spike-Stand microscope, of a type that was probably related with an early stage of the manufacture of optical instruments by the wooden toy craftsmen of Bavaria (mostly Nuremberg), and the "Black Forest" areas of the German lands. This example is an earlier version within this category, which should be dated roughly to the 18th century. Later versions of this class were probably produced as late as the end of the 18th century. The earlier forms of this style of instruments (such as the one seen here), sometimes come with cylindrical cardboard boxes coated with decorated roulette-pattern papers, which unfortunately was not preserved with this specimen. However, absolute dating of these instruments is problematic and the seriation offered here is merely speculative.