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DATE: c. 1855

MAKER: UNKNOWN (? Alfred Brooks)






This relatively complicated botanical microscope arises from a circular lead-weighted brass foot which supports a boss into which screws the rectangular pillar. The mirror is single-sided. There is rack and pinion focusing via a single double-milled knob acting on teeth cut into the pillar. There is a lens system of three button lenses which screw together. This entire lens assembly screws into the arm securely. The eye side of this is painted black. Attached to the round stage is a small articulated bullseye condenser for top illumination of opaque objects; this same mechanism was used by Davis of Derby on his famous simple microscope. The articulation of the bullseye uses two parallel plates with holes slightly smaller than the diameter of the the balls on the end of the parts which move. Attached to the underside of the stage is a rotating wheel of three aperture stops for the three different powers. This instrument did not have a case when received.


arms from brooks microscopes This microscope has several features in common with others of known British make, and in particular, a compound microscope sold by Alfred Brooks. These features include the boss as the bottom of the rectangular pillar, the details of the pinion box and knob, and the aquatic motion arm and knob securing it at the top of the pillar. The arm is of the same exact shape as many Cary-Gould instruments, and, as shown in the image to the right, is also exactly the same as a small compound instrument by Alfred Brooks in this collection. Not only are the arms identical to Brook's signed instrument, but the mirror assemblies are also identical. The size and thickness of the stage and its manner of fastening to the stand is also exactly the same on these two instruments. The lens system on the stand pictured here is reminescent of the stacked French type and could have been imported. Another identical example of this microscope, including the same lens system, exists in another private collection. Now the question is, is this a Brooks product or were they simply both made by the same independent instrument maker? This remains unsettled as the pillar, knob, and pinion casing are also the same as many Cary-Gould microscopes. One thing that seems certain, this is an English product of the 19th century.


'Botanical Pocket' microscopes were very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. They ranged from simple hand-held magnifiers to portable stands like this one. Fitting into a small case, this instrument would still qualify as a 'Pocket Microscope.'   There are several 'botanical' microscopes in this collection. This example bears some resemblance to the earlier 'Improved Botanical' or 'Universal Pocket' microscope intially by by Adams and then by W. & S. Jones, but with the more advanced rack and pinion focusing instead of a push-pull or Hevelius screw mechanism which the Jones type had. It also has a dual mirror, one side of which is white plaster, the other of glass, a feature seldom seen on any microscope, let alone a pocket microscope.

The Jones' succeeded Adams who first described his version about 1787 in his Essays on the Microscope. Dr Withering, the discoverer of digitalis, also developed a type of botanical microscope first mentioned about 1776. Three versions of the Withering Botanical Microsope are shown on this Web site. Withering was also known for a self-erecting type which became upright when the lid of its box was opened. The English also made more and more complex small botanical instruments, some of which were quite well made. Many other varied examples of these are also shown on this web site.