History of Science Museum: Collection Database Search


Special Exhibition Label: 'Geek is Good' (15 May - 2 November 2014)

Microscopic Worlds

Robert Hooke published the first fully illustrated text on microscopy. His Micrographia appeared in 1665 and features an extraordinary new world of tiny creatures, seeds, minerals and the parts of animals. But it begins with “artificial” creations: the folding plate here shows the tip of a needle, a printed full stop and the edge of a razor. Unlike the perfection of natural forms, “the Productions of art are such rude mis-shapen things, that when view’d with a Microscope, there is little else observable, but their deformity”.

Early microscopes themselves came in a range of types and sizes. The large compound microscope by John Marshall is a development of Hooke’s design and, with its leather-covered tubes and gold tooling, is intended as an impressive and fine artefact. The ivory set by Edmund Culpeper dates from 1700 and is an ingenious compendium containing a simple microscope and set of slides, a flea glass and even a compass – in all, a pocket-sized multipurpose gadget.

MHS Library
MHS inv. 18126 (Marshall)
MHS inv. 53609 (Culpeper)

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