$1295 USD (999 GBP) + postage included

A good Swift-Stephenson brass, binocular dissecting microscope with angular head c.1900


12-17 inches tall




J. Swift and Son

Country of manufacture

UK and Ireland

Categories: Microscopy, Mineralogy & Gemmology, Natural history, Engineering antiques, Office Antiques


Standing 12 inches tall (17 inches fully racked), this instrument has been well used but not abused. The 4 1/2 x 3 3/4 inch rectangular stage has wear from stage clips (intact), live box and brass/glass trough, but that is the extent of prolonged use. The 6 1/2 inch long, body tubes have 95 % original bright yellow lacquer with a pair of Ramsden type eyepieces (10X) terminating at the triangular and removable head (with rectangular mirror and light splitting prism to two holes). The nosepiece can be used with individual objectives ( 4 , 2,  and combination 3 and 1 1/2 inch-SWIFT) delivering magnifications of 25-150 X. There is also a later nickel plated triple rotating objective holder (unmarked). 

The stage terminates in curved brass “wings” to accommodate the forearms of the user (black enamelled-some had leather coverings). Below the stage is a round 1 1/2 inch insert for a wheel of stops, fixed 1/8 inch, dark field stop and a parabolic condenser-Watson. Light is collected by a 2 inch doubled sided, (plano and concave) gimballed mirror on a 4 1/2″ long nickel plated stem which can be removed for use with an external light source. 

This instrument is heavily constructed. The wings and stage are 1/4 inch thick, tapering to an 1/8″. The stand is composed of two turned brass forelegs and a curved, black enamelled, cast iron tail stock with serial number. The 45 degree body tubes are fixed, and focusing is strictly by rack and pinion (perfect and smooth). Although well accessorised, the instrument comes without it’s box (as is so often the case, nobody has taken the time to match the instrument with the case at time of disposition-a loss to history).  One sold at Bonham’s in 2020 with it’s case and massive handle (no accessories however and fetched 900 GBP).

Hogg (1898) first described this model with leather covered, wooden wings (impractical for weight bearing) in “The Microscope” and there are similar examples in the RMS (London) and Golub (UCLA) collections. It is signed “J. SWIFT & SON, LONDON” on the prism head. It delivers superb optics given that the body tubes have no accommodation for interpupillary distance or fine focusing. A practical, rare and heavily constructed laboratory instrument. Some of the additions can be dated to c.1910. No stage forceps (will check among my spares-LOCATED).

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CA ScientificaOpticae

Scientifica Opticae

Mark Hacking (Scientifica Opticae Inc.) has been an avid collector/dealer for over 30 years. A former Science teacher, he has an innate love for anything natural or mechanical. Specializing in optical (microscopes, telescopes), surveying, medical, weighing and drawing instruments, he is an active participant of the Scientific Instrument Fair in London. Living in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, with his wife and two children; Mark looks forward to meeting as many fellow collectors as possible, and has a worldwide following on eBay (Sciopti).

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