Lignum Vitae Optical Compendium of Three Microscopes, ca. 1720-1730

Lignum Vitae Optical Compendium of Three Microscopes, ca. 1720-1730

Stock Number: FG_22037


This is an early, rare, and high-quality version of an optical compendium. It is made entirely of lignum vitae and includes a variety of microscopes that provide different magnifications and the ability to examine both transparent and opaque objects.


Height closed: 10.5 cm, max. diameter at base: 3.5 cm.



Country of manufacture

UK and Ireland

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


The dome lid at the top of the compendium hides underneath a flea glass of the type seen in the other examples shown here. Its removal reveals a magnifier that allows the inspection of objects under low magnification. Inside the magnifier’s housing is a screw-barrel microscope of a particular type that includes a live box for light-permeable items. At the bottom of the compendium are two more lenses for this microscope, allowing a choice of three different magnifications. Similar devices are known from the Science Museum in London (1993-1133A2008001938-740), the Whipple Museum, the Giordano collection (now in the Musée des Confluences in Lyon, France), and an ivory version in the Golub Collection (No. 111).

Condition: The overall condition is excellent, as seen in the photos. The only issue is that the screw barrel is halted and cannot be turned, and so is the lens in its housing. Because there is a hairline crack along part of its body, I did not attempt to use any oil or try any forced action to release it.

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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 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.

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