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MODEL: 'Nelson No. 2'

c. 1899 (1898-1907)




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Nelson No 2 with engraving of 1899


This is a wonderful and impressive, very fine example of the famous Nelson No 2 microscope made under the supervision of Charles Curties and sold by his company, Charles Baker. No collection of antique microscopes would be complete without an example of this microscope.

This large microscope arises from an English tripod base. It is five and one half inches from the level of the feet to the middle of the inclination joint. The microscope is about 16 inches tall from the table to the top of the eyepiece with the draw tubes slightly extended and the microscope inclined about 45 degrees. It is 18 inches when fully extended and at 45 degrees. The splay of the front legs is seven inches (outside edge to outside edge). The front feet have slots to allow the microscope to be secured to a surface, a feature most useful for photography. There is a cap at the top of the limb casing that can be removed for a third anchor point when the microscope is in the fully inclined horizontal position for photography.   Some of the earlier models of this stand, did not have the slots.   In addition, all three toes are held in place by screws from the bottom and can be removed to allow the entire stand to be anchored from below by screws coming up from a base. The microscope can incline to any angle from vertical to horizontal and be held at the desired angle by tightening the large lever on the right side. The substage carries its condenser in a centerable mount and focuses by diagonal rack and pinion on the left side of the microscope, though most if not all engravings show it on the right side. An unusual feature of the substage is the provision of three positions for the condenser carrier to allow different types and lengths of substage apparatus; only some examples of this model had this option, a provision also found on some Grand Van Heurck models made by Watson. There is no substage fine adjustment on this example, and this provision became optional in 1895. The main optical tube coarse focus is by diagonal rack and pinion, fine is by 'Campbell' differential screw controlled from the underside of the arm. The fine focus control is calibrated, and has a groove for allowing its control by a cord and pulley system during photography. The gimbaled mirror is plano-concave and on a swinging arm which is in turn, attached to a sleeve which can run up or down the fixed tailpiece, which is separate from the substage tailpiece. The mechanical stage, a variation on the Mayall stage of 1885, has separate controls for the X and Y direction, and beautifyl bright nickel scales for each. It was the standard stage for the Nelson No 2 microscope. It differs from the true Mayall version, (which was indeed an option for the Nelson microscopes)*. On the Nelson No 2 on this web page, the entire stage rotates manually, but there are no scales for the rotational movement and no provision for centering the stage. There is a triple nosepiece objective changer. The outer draw-tube has rack and pinion adjustment with the knob on the left side; examples exist with this adjustment on the other side as well. There is an additional inner drawtube, the same kind of arrangement as Watson's Van Heurk and Royal models. The drawtubes are both calibrated. The original case is present, though the top handle is a modern replacement. Lock and key are intact. There are five oculars, three of which are the later standard diameter of 22 mm, and they make use of an adapter; the other two are the older type of 'top-hat' design. There are also five objectives. Two of these are by Bausch & Lomb, one by Zeiss and two by Swift. This is not unusual, as Baker often supplied objectives made by others, especially Zeiss.

*The true Mayall stage has no plates to move the slide in either direction, rather the slide is pushed around the top of the stage in all directions by concentric controls activating the slide holder which grasps the slide from its sides.


This microscope is the final version of the Nelson No. 2 stand, dating to about 1899 and is identical to the one shown in the engraving in the Baker catalog of 1899. For more about its history please see the page dedicated to the History of Microscopes associated with the input of E.M. Nelson, now on a separate web page. An earlier version of this microscope, circa 1895, is also available on this web site. That earlier version has some options that made it much more expensive.

This fine, large, and heavy microscope is in very fine condition especially considering its c. 120 year old age. As can be seen in the images, it has an attractive mixture of oxidized and lacquered brass finishes. Most of the finish is excellent with minimal scattered losses. The most notable loss of lacquer is on parts of the limb and this is relatively minor, at least to my taste. The nickel inclination-tightening handle has some minor scuffing and its lacquered brass knob has some lacquer losses. The optical tube is really in very good condition a little lacquer loss on the right side just above the nose near the back of the tube. The drawtubes have some scuffs as expected. The mechanical stage has lacquer loss to the top of its moving frame, which now has a pleasant patina; the nickel scales, and arrow pointers are in excellent condition and the lacquer is mostly intact on the slide-holding bars. The silvering of the fine focus knob is quite nice with minor losses. The mirror is excellent on both sides. All mechanical parts of this microscope function normally. All the optical parts appear to be intact. It has a wonderful condenser with removable top element, iris, and swing out filter holder. Other than the replaced handle on the top, the case is original and intact. This microscope will be shipped outside its case so neither is damaged. Shipping will be expensive due to the weight of the instrument and the large size of its shipping container.