An early version of the French tiny microscope à niche (AKA “Bertrand”),  ca. 1850

An early version of the French tiny microscope à niche (AKA “Bertrand”), ca. 1850

Stock Number: FG_22030


The authors of The Billings Microscope Collection of the Medical Museum at Walter Reed Hospital (Billings) attribute the manufacture of what is referred to as a "mineral or furnace style microscope" to a certain François Bertrand, a French optician, dating it to about 1840. It is unclear to the present author who was this Bertrand, and the writers of the Billings collection catalogs do not present any further data. A rare version of this category is offered here, also appearing in the Billings collection, in excellent condition.


Box is 2-1/2 x 3-7/8 x 1-5/8 inches



Country of manufacture


Categories: Scientific, Microscopy, Mineralogy & Gemmology, Natural history, Magic Lanterns & Optical Toys


This microscope is merely 7.5 cm tall. The top of the box is shaped like a dovetail to receive, by stalling, the microscope’s base. The small instrument is enhanced and stabilized, which facilitates its use. The maker and date of manufacture of this instrument are uncertain. The authors of The Billings Microscope Collection of the medical museum at Walter Reed Hospital (Washington, 1974 edition) attribute the manufacture of what is referred to as a “mineral or furnace style microscope” to a French optician BERTRAND, dating it to about 1840. Who is this BERTRAND? If this is Emile, born in 1844, the date of construction of the small microscope is later. Emile BERTRAND is known for his work in mineralogy. He is the designer of a polarizing microscope to determine the position of the optical axes of a crystal, as well as a refractometer, including a small model that can be seen here. Still, we find no evidence suggesting that he is also the builder of this niche microscope. It bears the word Déposé, roughly translated as ‘Registered.’

The mahogany storage box is an integral part of the microscope and is designed to serve as a base that anchors the barrel-shaped instrument. Comprised of individual detachable units, the brass monocular microscope is surprisingly compact — the storage box measures only 2-1/2 x 3-7/8 x 1-5/8 inches. Fine focus is achieved by sliding the body tube closer or farther away from the specimen. The mechanism for fine adjustment is composed of a steel spring clamp positioned above the cylinder assembly and is manipulated by turning a milled-head screw. Focusing is further enhanced by using three interchangeable objectives of varying magnification. The compound monocular microscope’s specimen stage comprises a single fixed plate. Although fitted with a 7/16-inch adjustable mirror, uniform illumination can only be minimally achieved because the instrument lacks a substage condenser.

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IL Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh was the mythological hero of the cultures of ancient West Asia, who set out on a journey in which he sought youth and eternal life.
Fleaglass Gilgamesh is located in Israel. As an archaeologist researching the material culture of the distant past and using the microscope as a major research tool, for more than two decades I have collected microscopes from the first 300 years of existence of this amazing tool and researched the cultural context of their use. Passion has become an obsession and I cultivate the full and almost unique West Asian collection of historical microscopes. Respectively, I put up for sale surplus or interesting items from the collection. I would be happy to advise any interested collector free of charge. Needless to say, I would love to send photos, information and bibliographic references, and discuss the sale details of the items offered here for sale.

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