1500 GBP ($1900 USD) + postage

An important early polarizing monocular microscope by J.B. Dancer c.1845


16 x 9 x 8 inches




J.B. Dancer

Country of manufacture

UK and Ireland

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




It is my opinion that this is one of the earliest twin trunnion , polarising, monocular microscopes made by J.B. Dancer (exclusively) on the market. Unsigned and unnumbered, it bears the trade label of Dancer inside the door with an address of 43 Cross Street, Manchester. Earlier signed examples bear the address of 13 Cross Street (when he was in partnership with Abraham) and when he had access to an engraver. 

Standing 15 inches ( 38 cm.) tall-19 inches fully racked, it is of typical construction of the period (as made popular by Ross, Smith and Beck, etc.) with internal rack and pinion coarse focusing and lever/screw fine focusing on the nose, however it employs many of the \”simple, highest quality and affordable\” ideas that only Dancer could have made possible to facilitate clean transitions from one purpose to another.

The rectangular, mechanical stage is a marvel in itself. Having a simple bronze insert with  a friction sliding, removable slider guide, the real story is on the underside. Fusee (chain driven) horizontal and vertical motion runs perpendicular (not parallel or angular), as seen in later models. The knobs are mounted perpendicularly as well ( a little awkward but NEVER confusing as to what direction you want the stage to move-as with other makers of the day). Substage accessories can be swapped out cleanly due to a bayonet-style, simple double slot (as seen with the light reducing, simple polarising  and THREE part dark ground polarising options). The dove-tailed and threaded substage accessories of other notable makers made Dancer cringe, as to their complexity. 

The plano/concave, double-sided mirror rides on a friction fitted stem and moves cleanly in every direction possible (without pins, screws or articulating joints) and fits firmly between the earliest double trunnion design on the market (with stem stop for the mirror). The entire microscope terminates in a Y-shaped, claw foot base popular at the time.

The accessories are found in the top drawer only ( the others reserved for slides (3), slide making equipment and additional accessories as needed/wanted). They included 3 pre-RMS objectives in canisters ( 1/8\”, 1/2-1/4\” and 3/4- 1 1/4\” divided with a light reducing, slotted cap for the larger 1 1/4\” lens). A live box, a substage light reducing cone (NO wheel of stops or iris-type complexities for Dancer), adapter ring, a pair of wooden handled pin probes, a substage analyser, a pair of hand forceps and an additional top hat eyepiece. In addition, there is a hole for the stage forceps (two holes on the stage-now included) and there could have been a Lieberkuhn for the divided objective-sadly robbed out. 

The entire microscope is housed in a polished mahogany case (16 x 9 x 8 inches) with multiple (8) drawers having ebony knobs. There is shrinkage crack both to the front and rear of the box but they are stable and old. There is a functional lock and key and the original folding brass handle on top. The near perfect trade label can be seen inside the door. There is space at the rear of the case for a bullseye bench condenser-now present.

The microscope has NO faults optically or mechanically as everything works as it should (fusee, rack, etc. perfect). Cosmetically, this microscope has been used but NOT abused as there are areas of loss and spotting of the original golden lacquer (75% overall, losses primarily on the stage, body tube and base). 

Although some would argue, I feel this microscope has many features only seen in Dancer’s microscopes (once he was on his own at the workshop of his former partner/employer-1841-45). Adapting quickly to the ever changing market, he started with a popular design (Ross/S&B) and then simplified the options and design. Firstly, the double trunnion design made popular and patented by others. The clean and simple stage (later he saw the advantage of a worm and screw mechanical stage vs. fusee chain drives), the quick change bayonet-style substage accessories and the stacking, divided objectives. Although the address is 43 (rather than 13) Cross Street, Manchester I believe this microscope had to be 1845-46 (no later than 1848) as it is unsigned and unnumbered. Probably struggling and busy with other photographic/microphotographic endeavours/inventions, he obviously did not employ an engraver or the original owner thought it was improper to give him free advertising (as was their choice). By the time of the great exhibition/exposition, Dancer’s microscopes were ALL signed and serialised and much more complex (including binocular models).

John Benjamin Dancer (1812-1887) came from a long line of instrument makers but made a name for himself in the new art of photography/microphotography/magic lanterns, by combining his skills as a machinist/engineer/musician/chemist/inventor and optician. Always on the cutting edge, he made instruments that were simplistic by comparison to those of Smith and Beck but “affordable and of the highest quality”. This microscope is one of his first as a sole proprietor of the business and of the new double trunnion design (for which he is given credit). Additional photos upon request.

P.S.  In possession of suitable missing pre-RMS objective, bullseye bench condenser and stage forceps. Now complete !!!

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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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