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Bar Limb Microscope

Maker: Robert Field & Son

Model: 'Society of Arts Prize' Microscope

c. 1855

Serial number: 404


DESCRIPTION: This microscope, unfortunately no longer in my collection, features Bar Limb construction. It has a rack and pinion coarse focus, and a long lever fine focus within the arm. A slide rest moves up and down the stage, which can accomodate the stage forceps. The foot and uprights are made of black-painted iron. The rest of the microscope is lacquered brass. The stage is signed 'Society of Arts Prize' and the foot is signed: '404, FIELD & SON, BIRMINGHAM.' There is a substage wheel of apertures on some examples. These microscopes were usually supplied with two or three objectives, a single eyepiece, bench bullseye condenser, livebox and stage forceps.


About 1855, The Royal Society of Arts requested entries in a contest for inexpensive yet practical microscopes, both compound and simple. Robert Field & Son won both contests. The prize came with a stipulation however, that the maker continue to supply the instrument for the original price and to continue to do so for years. This meant that although other makers could copy or closely mimic the design, as their costs increased they could raise the price. Because inflation was a problem even in the 1800's, Field underwent significant financial pressure. Much of their business was eventually sold. Meanwhile others were free to sell a similar microscope and call it the 'Society of Arts Prize' Model, something that detracted from Field's sales. Please see Dr Brian Stevenson's article on his website for more about Field & Son. Field also made other microscopes of course, both basic and more sophisticated. An example of the very interesting Marshall dissecting microscope made by Field & Son is on this site.