Italian ‘simple’ microscope and accessories, c.1715, $6000 (£4850) at Gray’s.

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Titled The Art of Discovery, Part 1, proceeds from the sale benefited the Dittrick Museum of Medical History at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland where many of the pieces had been on display.

Davidson, who worked with the tyre maker BF Goodrich and later at CWRU, had a great passion for historical instruments and machines. Among the numerous clubs and societies to which he belonged were those for the Stanley Steamer Motor Company, magic lanterns and the Northeastern Ohio Live Steamers.

His collection of 18th and 19th century microscopes numbered more than 40 different models.

The earliest in the sale was an Italian ‘simple’ microscope of brass screw barrel design dated c.1715. Contained in a fitted book-form box, bound in leather and titled Physique Nouvelle, the accessories include eight objectives (apparently moulded and not ground), two eye pieces and a mounting ring to use as a magnifier.

With no other identical example of this instrument known, it was guided at $8000-10,000 but sold a little short at $6000 (£4850).

On the Cuff


Compound microscope by John Cuff of London, c.1745, $3200 (£2600) at Gray’s.

Made c.1745 was a compound microscope signed for John Cuff (c. 1708-72).

An important London instrument maker, he traded as a ‘Spectacle and Microscope Maker’ at ‘the sign of the Reflecting Microscope and Spectacles opposite Sergeant’s Inn’ on Fleet Street from 1737-57 and then from ‘the sign of the Double Microscope, three Pairs of Golden Spectacles & Hadley’s Quadrant’ opposite Salisbury Court in the Strand.

Famously, after supplying several microscopes to the court for George III, he was painted in his workshop by the Anglo-Swiss painter Johann Zoffany in 1772.

Cuff’s instrument, employing ‘new’ features such as a Lieberkuhn reflector to enhance the amount of focused light, was guided at $3000- 5000 and took $3200 (£2600).

Culpeper productions


Culpeper-type compound monocular microscope, c.1725, $5000 (£4050) at Gray’s.

There were several examples of the compound monocular microscope named after the famous instrument by Edmund Culpeper (c.1670-1738).

The earliest of these at c.1725 with a turned wood ocular support and a leather and ray skin draw tube was a third-type model from Culpepper himself. With turned wood ocular support and a leather and ray skin draw tube, it was contained in an oak pyramidal box retaining Culpeper’s trade label. It required restoration but jumped a $1000-1500 estimate to sell at $5000 (£4050).

Many later Culpeper-type instruments were intended for the pleasure of the leisured classes and amateur biologists. Although unsigned, one of these was close to those signed by the mid-18th century London maker Matthew Loft. With accessories and four objectives, it took the mid estimate of $4000 (£3250).


James Smith compound monocular first-class microscope, c.1840, $3000 (£2400) at Gray’s.

From the Victorian ‘brass and glass’ era of instrument production was a James Smith compound monocular first-class microscope c.1840 sold at $3000 (£2400).

Signed J. Smith London, the serial number 12 makes this one of the earliest British achromatic compound microscopes known. The earliest microscope by Smith owned by the Royal Microscopical Society has the serial number 43.