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YEAR: c. 1888


ORIGIN: English probably by Beck


Codington microscope

codington  microscope

Codington microscope


The instrument is about 2 1/4 inches (57 mm) long. It is made of 'German Silver' also known as Nickel-silver. The optical element measures about 1/2 inch (12.5 mm) in diameter, but the optical opening is only about 3/8 inches (9 mm)in diameter. The handle has a small ring at the end so it can be worn on a chain or lanyard around the neck; this is not trivial as this instrument would be easily broken or bent in an unprotected pocket. The lens is covered by a pair of covers which automatically twist into position as the small disk is moved from the end of the handle towards the lens. This is accomplished by both a twisting motion and also a movement which moves the lens covers closer to the lenses as the disk is moved.

This tiny instrument was shown in the Beck catalogs from 1888 to the early 20th century. It was offered in brass, German silver, solid silver, and even Gold.


Until and even after the invention of the achromatic aplanatic microscope, small pocket-sized magnifiers were in great demand. A simple uncorrected lens worked well enough for very low powers, but once magnification exceeded just a few X, distortions became apparent. These include spherical aberration, chromatic aberration, and curvature of the field of view. Several different methods were used to minimize these distortions, the most major one being spherical aberration. The simplest and easiest, was simply to 'stop-down' the aperture with a diaphragm. This was common in compound microscopes until the widespread use of achromatic aplanatic objectives. In 1812 William Hyde Wollaston introduced a much improved version of the earliest magnifiers employing two hemispheres of glass mounted together with a small stop between them. Sir David Brewster improved the design by using a single piece of glass and cutting deep groove in it. In 1829, Henry Coddington popularized the Wollaston-Brewster lens, and further refined the design by modifying the shape of the groove, though Coddington never claimed to be its inventor. It was much less expensive than creating a complex lens from different elements and then cementing them together. The Coddington lens was sold in various sizes and types from its inception, right into the 21st century; it is still available today and is an inexpensive alternative to more complex magnifiers. It allows a magnification of up to 20 diameters, whereas an ordinary magnifier is limited to less than 5. Its major drawback is the reduced size of the field of view. Despite the latter drawback it is far superior to the simpler Stanhope type of magnifier. Improvements above this design generally are multi-element magnifiers which increase the field of view and flatten the image across that field. Such improved magnifiers are often Steinheil or Hastings triplets. These magnifiers produce a higher quality image than the Coddingtons, but are also much more expensive to make.