240 GBP ($300 USD) postage included

An all brass, simple botanical microscope attributed to Benjamin Martin c.1780


8 x 4 cm.




B. Martin

Country of manufacture

UK and Ireland

Categories: Natural history, Engineering antiques, Office Antiques, Microscopy


A decade after the original model was made by George Adams Sr., this simplified version was probably made for two reasons: cost and simplicity.

Once the oval eccentricity of the lathe was invented, these little naturalist field microscopes could have been constructed for pennies (the case, now absent would have cost more than the instrument). Standing a mere 8 cm. tall, it has a square pillar, friction fit focussing, two interchangeable lenses (later models had three) and a round stage with glass insert. No forceps or mirror to fiddle with (or lose), these microscopes were ideal for transparent and opaque plant/insect observation. 

Later versions had lenses that overlapped and swung out of the way (again, preventing loss in the field), a mirror either in the pillar or in the base, a base made out of ebony wood and a stage hole for forceps. They were popularised (and mass produced) by the Jones brothers c.1800. They would have been considered their “bread and butter” as they were so simple to make and introduced a Georgian populace to the marvels of the microscopic world (increasing client base at the same time).

Chronologically, George Adams Sr. is considered to be the original designer. After his passing, Benjamin Martin developed this and other versions and then of course W& S. Jones exploded on to the scene after purchasing inventory and patents from Martin. So, what many people have in their collections are the later Jones-type simple botanical microscope (with all of the bells and whistles). This microscope NEVER had a mirror or stage forceps. It is in very fine condition and the knurling (machining) of the brass around the interchangable lenses is spectacular. Optics/lenses are excellent and without fault. The stage slides up and down the square pillar easily but securely (no slippage). Base is 4 x 3 cm. (elliptical) and bears remnants of streaky golden lacquer. Screw at top and bottom of pillar for attachment (not bruised-see photos). Found a B/W bone disc for the stage insert as well.

N.B see Brian Stevenson’s excellent article for confirmation of chronology in deveoping these simple microscopes.

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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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