Smith Beck & Beck, Second Class or No. 3 Stand, 1865


Richard Beck’s book, "Achromatic Microscopes" describes the stand as a “Second Class or Number 3 Stand” This monocular microscope is signed in script on the body tube Smith Beck & Beck, 31 Cornhill, LONDON, 4128. The number and the address date it to 1865. The microscope comes complete with accessories in a fitted case. It has rack & pinion main and micrometer fine focus, a square stage with a manual slide guide in 2 dovetailed runners, a sub-stage socket for plug-in accessories, a plano-concave mirror on an articulated arm, all above a reversed “Y” foot. 
For the history of James Smith (1800-1873) and his company, see Smith took Richard Beck (1827-1866), a son of customer Richard Low Beck, and nephew of Joseph J. Lister, as an apprentice in 1841. The apprenticeship ended in 1847, and Smith and Beck became partners. Richard’s younger brother, Joseph Beck (1829-1891), joined the business during the summer of 1857. The new partnership was known as Smith, Beck, and Beck. Smith, Beck, and Beck moved their business to 31 Cornhill during June, 1863.

A Smith & Beck microscope of this model was used by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), better known by his pseudonym Lewis Carroll, the author of the classic children's book, 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' (1865). Carroll was one of a small number of mainly British amateur photographers who excelled during the early years of photography. He began taking photographs in 1856 and was soon producing far less stilted and artificial portraits, especially of children, than those taken by the vast numbers of professional portraitists of the time. Carroll bought the microscope in 1859 to be used to look at amoebas, other protozoa and insect larvae. In a letter to his sister Elizabeth, he wrote, "This is a most interesting sight, as the creatures are most conveniently transparent, and you see all kinds of organs jumping about like a complicated piece of machinery … Everything goes on at railway speed, so I suppose they must be some of those insects that only live a day or two, and try to make the most of it."

For Lewis Carroll's microscope and microscopical interests see:

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