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Postcard of Microscope.
© National Museums Scotland


This solar and opaque microscope (pictured here with its fitted case) was made around 1800, and retailed by W. & S. Jones, scientific instrument makers based in London. The 'Opake Solar Microscope' was first described around 1770 by the London optician Benjamin Martin. He added to the basic solar microscope a box containing an inclined mirror which could reflect light on to the front of the observed object. Opaque objects were mounted on a movable partition in the box.

The square brass plate in the centre of the instrument is fitted to a hole in the window shutters, while the rest of the room is darkened. The angled mirror outside reflects sunlight through the lenses and the slide for transparent objects, which are projected onto the opposite wall. The small brass box to the side is an alternative attachment for viewing opaque objects, such as those which can be seen within the slide drawer in the base of the fitted wooden case.

W. & S. Jones bought up Benjamin Martin's books, which allows them to advertise their wares in the back of his extremely popular textbooks. They adapted his original design, which was a forerunner of the cinema, in that (like the magic lantern) it projected an image.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-104-284-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1984.23
Date: Around 1800
c. 1800
Material: Brass / wooden case. Inscription: W & S / JONES / 30 Holborn / London
Dimensions: 505 mm x 160 mm x 140 mm / 350 mm x 210 mm x 125 mm
What: Microscope / case / slide
Subject: 22. PHYSICS, Light (Departmental Classification)
Who: W. and S. Jones (Inscribed on the microscope)
W. and S. Jones, London (Maker)
Where: England, London
England, London (30 Holborn)
Description: Solar and opaque microscope in a fitted wooden case with a drawer of slides signed by W. and S. Jones of London, c. 1800
  • For a similar, but larger, instrument by W. & S. Jones, see Turner, G. L'E., The Great Age of the Microscope. Bristol: 1989, pp 234-5 
  • For the solar microscope and the projected image, see Hawkins, Thomas L. & Silverman, Robert J., Instruments of the Imagination. Princeton, New York: 1995, chapter 3, 'The Magic Lantern and the Art of Demonstration', pp 37-71 
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