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Maker: Probably Francis (or Henry ?) West

Serial number: None


tiny stanhope magnifier



This tiny magnifier is made of silver-colored metal that does not interact with a magnet, most likely 'German Silver' otherwise known as nickel-silver. It is unsigned and bears no hallmark. It has three marks on the handle, the first and last being single and the center one double. There is no case. It is 37 mm in greatest dimension, and the lens casing is 6.5 mm in outside diameter. It does give good images.


This is a tiny Stanhope microscope, probably of 'German silver,' in the style of those made and sold by Francis (and possibly his son Henry) West. It seems almost identical to examples in signed cases, such as number 1/7 in Bracegirdle's catalog of microscopes of the Science Museum, London, except this example is unsigned and has no hallmark. The handle has three lines, the middle one is double, just as in the Science museum example. Francis West died at a very early age in 1852, but his son Henry was also an 'optician' and produced a large variety of microphotographs. It is unknown if Henry made this type of magnifier; Henry West died in 1899.

The Stanhope lens is a simple one-piece microscope lens of cylindrical shape, with curved ends, often with one end more convex than the other. The focal length is such that the less convex side must be placed in contact with, or nearly in contact with the object being studied. It is said they were invented by the scientist Charles, the third Earl of Stanhope(1753-1816).

Rene´ Dagron modified these magnifiers in 1857 and used them to display microphotographs, these little amusement devices being commonly referred to as 'Stanhopes'. They were a considerable advance for the purpose, as prior to this microphotographs required a bulky microscope for viewing. Some of these Stanhopes were of ivory and in the shape of little 'telescopes' and others incorporated into various kinds of jewelry. This was a highly successful business in the 19th century and at one time Dagron's factory was said to be producing more than ten thousand units a day! His business was continued by his successors using Dagron's methods clear into 1972! It is ironic that Henry West, Francis' son, produced microphotographs, though apparently only on slides.