Microscope (detail), made by James Smith, sold to E. David

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made in London

Postcard of Microscope (detail), made by James Smith, sold to E. David.
© National Museums Scotland

Microscope (detail), made by James Smith, sold to E. David

This photograph shows the signature of the retailer of a monocular achromatic compound microscope, made by James Smith under the direction of Joseph Jackson Lister in 1839. The signature on one arm of the tripod base reads: 'David Liverpool'.

James Smith's records show that he sold two 'plain' microscopes to 'David, Liverpool' in 1839. Edward Davis was an optician who moved to Liverpool from Cheltenham in 1839, and was advertising achromatic microscopes for sale that year.

By 1840, three new instrument makers, exclusively manufacturing microscopes, had emerged in London, who had learned how to make successful achromatic instruments. Through J.J. Lister's optical theory and their own remarkable skill, their microscopes were the best available optically. One of these, James Smith (d. 1870), seems to have worked exclusively for the trade until 1839, when he was assisted in business by Lister, with whose nephew Richard Beck he formed a partnership in 1847.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-000-951-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  
Date: 1839
  • For Smith: see Turner, G. L'E. Hugh Powell, James Smith and Andrew Ross: Makers of Microscopes. In: J. North (ed.), Mid-Nineteenth Century Scientists (Oxford, 1969), pp 104-138. 
  • Nuttall, R.H. James Smith, and Smith and Beck; 1839-1852 Part I: The Microscopes. Microscopy 36 (1989), pp 288-300, 317. 
  • Nuttall, R.H. Microscopes from the Frank Collection 1800-1860. Jersey, 1979, p 43. 
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