Accession No


Brief Description

microscope compendium with compound microscope, side pillar type and screw barrel type and solar microscope, attributed to Benjamin Martin, English, circa 1775


England; London [based on attributed maker]


Martin, Benjamin [attributed]



Earliest Date

Jan. 1, 1775

Latest Date

Dec. 31, 1775

Inscription Date


metal (brass, steel); glass; wood; cloth (velvet); fishskin (shagreen); ivory


case length 349mm; breadth 273mm; height 65mm; pillar microscope (min) 299mm high

Special Collection

Robert Whipple collection


Acquired by Robert Stewart Whipple through T. H. Court on 21/03/1925. Whipple hired B. Jolly to repair the case in 06/1925 and hired G. Green to perform minor repairs to the mirror in 05/1925. This object was part of the Crisp Collection, and was sold as Lot 339 at the auction of this collection held on 17/02/1925 at the Steven’s Auction Rooms.


Description Notes

Large flat case containing a solar microscope, simple microscope, compound microscope (Cuff-type).
Three-legged stand with turned pillar; socket for swinging plain mirror; shoe on pillar for stage attachment with clamp and long steel focussing screw; pillar marked 1 - 5; hinged shaft for attachment to body; clamped socket on body.
Four-part boxy - snout plain collar, field lens collar, eye lens collar with dust cover. 5 objectives marked 1 - 5. Bonnani stage; frog plate; second similar, though plainer stand with swinging plain mirror and shaft for screw barrel type microscope; clamp-on socket; condenser tube (lens missing) with steel spring bearing on a two-part brass stage; collar for eye lens with rack and pinion focus.
Solar plate with two screws for attachment to shutter; two screws for adjusting the rectangular mirror. Plain glass in the plate aperture; screw fit tube with fits onto screw barrel microscope.
Slider with 6 objectives; live 4-object slide; lieberkuhn in brass case; [lieberkuhn] painted black with plain glass; shagreen covered slipcase with seven 4-object ivory slides (four are part of the original set of 8).
Fitted wooden box covered with black shagreen, lined with red velvet with brass handle, lock, hinges and fasteners.

Condition good


Boris Jardine; 'Benjamin Martin and microscope compendia'; Explore Whipple Collections online article; Whipple Museum of the History of Science; University of Cambridge; 2006:


This type of simple microscope, employing only one lens, was first described in 1702, by James Wilson in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. The design was in fact the work of the Dutch microscopist Nicolaas Hartsoeker.

The essential feature of the design is the threaded cylinder, carrying a condensing lens, which screws in and out of the body. The microscope is hand-held, and the slide is inserted at one end — the whole instrument is then pointed towards a light source.

Large numbers of these microscopes were made, and they proved extremely popular. This was in part due to the recommendation of John Harris, in his 1704 book Lexicon Technicum, in which he wrote that “of all microscopes I have ever seen for commodiousness, various uses, portability and cheapness, I never met with anything like Mr. Wilson’s Glasses.”


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