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G. & S. Merz in München, medium microscope No. 4, 1877


This is the middle-sized microscope made by G. & S. Merz, formerly Utzschneider & Fraunhofer, in Munich. It is a rather simple instrument for its time but it is historically important and rare.

George Merz (1793-1867) grew up in the village of Bichl, and in 1808, at the age of fifteen, came to the glassworks as an apprentice. Utzschneider had built in his secularized monastery for the manufacture of optical glasses. To improve the scientific knowledge of the young workers, he had set up an evening school there. In 1807, the ingenious optician Joseph Fraunhofer came to Benediktbeuern, a municipality in the district of Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen in Bavaria. This happy coincidence was beneficial for Merz as he continued to educate himself and got acquainted with his talented colleague. The company, which made Fraunhofer a partner, produced telescopes and other state-of-the-art optical instruments, turning to become a world leader in the field. Merz became the assistant of Fraunhofer and learned to calculate lenses and optical systems as well as to manufacture and assemble large astronomical instruments.

After Fraunhofer's early death in 1826 and the death of his successor Pauli that followed, Utzschneider and Merz joined forces with the mechanic Franz Joseph Mahler to run the enterprise. The company consolidated its international reputation and delivered in 1835 to the Munich observatory the world's largest diameter lens. In 1839 Utzschneider sold the business to Merz and Mahler. The company "G. Merz & Mahler" as it was called now developed well and supplied telescopes almost to all major observatories. Merz preserved the legacy of Fraunhofer with great energy and was able to maintain the leading international position in astronomical telescopes. He introduced some new designs, such as an improved reticle illumination, was able to continuously increase the lens diameter of the large telescopes and also expand the production of microscopes.

After Merz's death, his son Sigmund, who had already become a partner in 1845 together with his half-brother Ludwig, took over the sole management of the company. He continued the fabrication program (astronomical instruments, especially large refractors for major observatories around the world, microscopes and other smaller devices) with careful consideration of the Fraunhofer design, manufacturing, and adjustment principles, achieved significant worldwide success and made an important contribution to the international standing of the German optical and fine mechanical industry. In 1883 he handed over the company to his nephews Jakob and Matthias.

The microscope seen here is made of the japanned iron base together with black and brown stained brass. A plan and concave mirror are used for illumination and a pinhole revolving disc is mounted under the stage for aperture control. The coarse adjustment is made by a sliding sleeve, the fine focus is operated by means of a knurled knob at the rear under the triangular prismatic limb. On the tube is the decorative signature:

G. & S. Merz
in München


The rather rough-looking softwood box is to be closed by archaic brass clasp and eyelets and a small padlock. The original leather belt which comes with it as a carrying strap is also preserved in our instrument. This setting turns it into a portable microscope, which can be used in expeditions and by doctors working in remote regions. The instrument is equipped with the lenses 1/3 " and 1/12" as well as the eyepieces 1 and 2 for magnifications of 60- and 120-, 240- and 480-times. 

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