Thursday, June 26, 2014

Guest Post: A Book Box for a Microscope

I'd like to thank book collector, Ronald K. Smeltzer, for kindly sending this first guest post about Ayscough's Universal Microsope:

Known only from the two-page description and this engraved illustration in The Universal Magazine for April 1753 is Ayscough’s Universal Microscope, designed to fit with its accessories into a wooden box made to look like a book. Illustrated as a single lens magnifier, the instrument could be converted to a complete microscope—hence the name “universal”—by mounting the body tube, shown at the foot of the box, in place of the single lens. The text with the engraving describes the parts and explains how they are used. 

James Ayscough was active ca. 1748–1759 as a maker and seller of scientific instruments near St. Paul’s, London. After his death, the business was continued by his wife Martha until 1767. Examples of his trade cards are known. Instruments signed by Aysough are uncommon, and no examples of his Universal Microscope are known.

Ronald K. Smeltzer

In 2013, Ronald K. Smeltzer was one of three curators (also Paulette Rose and Robert J. Ruben) to present an exhibition at the Grolier Club on Extraordinary Women in Science and Medicine. If you would like to read more about the exhibition you can find a press release on the Grolier Club website and also order the exhibition catalogue. 


  1. i'm sure you know about the book charka, the mini version of gandhi's cotton wheel. i love the surprise when i pull that wooden book out...and make a spinning device!

    1. Yes, I see them each Fall when I go to the NY Sheep and Wool Festival (which is amazing -- in Rhinebeck in October). Sometimes I wish they would decorate them more like books, I've only seen plain ones in the general form of a book. I've never used one. When I do a post on needlework related blooks, I'll remember to put one in.