Benjamin Martin’s pocket microscope, early form, ca. 1760

Benjamin Martin’s pocket microscope, early form, ca. 1760

Stock Number: FG_21028


A very rare early form pocket microscope by Benjamin Martin, ca. 1760. A small functioning example, in lignum vitae, pasteboard, shagreen, and brass.


Height closed: 16.5 cm / 6



Country of manufacture

UK and Ireland

Categories: Scientific, Microscopy, Mineralogy & Gemmology, Natural history


This is a very rare, very small early example of Benjamin Martin’s “pocket microscope” (later dubbed “drum microscope”). Like other microscopes of this form, there may have been Martin’s signature on the green vellum coating the tube but apart from blurry remains, it is unreadable now. However, there is no doubt that this is an early microscope of his make. Turner (Collecting Microscopes, 1981: 44-45) suggests a tentative date of about 1760 to the early form (lignum vitae, pasteboard, ray skin, and brass) and about 1780 to the all-brass microscope from a compendium. However, this estimate seems to be too indiscriminating. Turner asserts that all these types but the first pocket microscope, which was first published in 1738 and the following years during his residence in Chichester. Martin started his London career in 1756 and maintained it till his death in February 1782. Therefore, the entire time frame of Martin’s production of pocket microscopes lasted for 26 years. We do not know if their product was maintained along this entire sequence, and if their different models emerged along a unilineal evolutionary line, or whether there were several models that were introduced simultaneously. The microscope offered here is in relatively good shape for the age, please refer to the photos for details. It provides pretty good imaging and the magnification is estimated at ~70-100X. These microscopes are extremely rare today and only a few have survived, most of which are in museums, and only very few are in private collections. I will be happy to answer any questions and provide more photos. In case I didn’t answer within 24 hours due to system errors, please use my direct email: [email protected]

Ask the Dealer

Item enquiry

To enquire about this item, complete the form bellow to send a message to the Dealer

Enter Email
Confirm Email

Dealer information

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 powerful research tool, I have collected microscopes for over two decades from this fantastic tool's first 300 years of existence and researched the cultural context of their use. Passion has become an obsession, and I cultivate the complete and almost unique West Asian collection of historical microscopes. Respectively, I put up surplus or exciting items from the collection for sale. I would be happy to advise any interested collector free of charge. I would love to send photos, information and bibliographic references and discuss the sale details of the items offered here for sale.

Shipping information
Payment methods