European Variations of the Cuff Microscope

The emergence of the original Cuff microscope in about 1745 gained considerable publicity and promotion on the initiative and books of Henry Baker. Because the microscope was never patented, a process that was quite complicated in the 18th century, copies of it soon appeared both by other English makers and by European makers in countries where the microscope was widely used: France, the Netherlands and the German lands. These imitations adopted the main idea of ​​Cuff's design, adding indigenous ideas that have already taken root in these countries in the context of microscope designs. Among other things, one can see in the French and German designs the influence of the box microscope that has been prevalent there since the beginning of the 18th century. Various manufacturers contributed to the original pattern and perfected it, among other things, by giving up Cuff's unobtrusive focusing system and replacing it with a more convenient rack and pinion focus that left out the original Hevelius screw for the fine focusing, which was not necessary due to the magnification limitations of these microscopes.

The examples here present a design, likely of a German manufacturer, and a typical design of a Dutch manufacturer whose identity is almost certain. On the other hand, the well-known French manufacturer of the time, Claude-Siméon Passemant, chose to stick in most cases to Cuff's original design with less noticeable changes.

German Cuff-Type Microscope, ca. 1760

 

 

A Cuff-type microscope, possibly German, the second half of the 18th century. This microscope is of a hitherto unrecorded design, unsigned, but the overall style and several details within it strongly suggest a German origin.

When fully set, the microscope stands 37cm high, mounted on the top of the 15x21x8cm fitted mahogany case. The body tube screws into an arm at the top of the pillar; coarse and fine focussing is by a Cuff-type mechanism (sliding block with a clamp screw and long threaded screw connecting the block and the arm holding the body tube). The single-sided mirror (the glass is now reconstructed, the frame is original), is mounted in a plate at the base of the pillar. A Bonanni-type spring stage can be screwed into the stage. The inside of the drawer is covered with 18th-century printed paper that recalls German manufacture.

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So far, only another example of this microscope is known to us from a private collection in France. That microscope is the same in every detail as the one in our collection, but it also has the eyepiece cover that is missing in our example. In terms of style, details (such as the printed paper lining the inside of the drawer), the design of the optical tube and the shape of the box that serves as the basis for the microscope, it is clear that this microscope was inspired by the London-based maker John Cuff from around 1745. This design was quickly copied by many manufacturers in England and soon moved to continental European countries as well. Copies inspired by the Cuff microscope were created by Claude Simeon Passemant (1702–1769) in Paris, Dutch manufacturers such as Jacob Huisen (1739–1792) and Jacobus Lommers (1696–c1775), both of Utrecht in the Netherlands; or Georg Friedrich Brander (1713–1783) from Augsburg. One model of a box-top microscope created by Brander is remarkably similar to the microscope seen here and this affinity may indicate a similar source, but in the absence of signed examples, this hypothesis cannot be substantiated.

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© Microscope History all rights reserved

Dutch Cuff-Type Microscope, most likely by Jacob Huijsen (Huisen) of Utrecht, ca. 1760-70

This small variation on the theme of the Cuff-type microscope, undoubtedly Dutch by its style, is almost certainly an instrument of Jacob Huijsen (spelled Huisen) of Utrecht Holland (1739–1792). The attachment of the optical tube to the limb by a thread just above the objective is typical for Huisen. This microscope is nearly identical to microscopes V07325 and V07298, made by Huisen in the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave, Leiden, the Netherlands, and No. 53 in the Golub Collection

The original case base of this microscope was lost in the past, and when it was acquired, it was fitted on an old mahogany trinket box. To reconstruct it to its more or less original form, a drawer case from another case-mounted microscope was fitted. This case is a bit smaller than the original boxes of the museum specimens shown here, but it still presents very closely the original appearance of this microscope. 

 

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