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Antique Cary Travelling Mcroscope Circa 1830


Offered for sale is an antique CARY, England TRAVELLING MICROSCOPE in a fitted and lined wood case (measuring 3 3/4" x 3"), which we believe was made circa 1830.

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Provenance: Sotheby's Auction, September 1995

Literature: The Whipple Museum of the History of Science, Catalogue 7, Microscopes, ISBN 0 906271 01 by Olivia Brown: #167..."In the 1820's William Cary developed a pocket microscope which he had designed particularly for the Naturalist, Mineralogist and Petrologist. It was a portable instrument which screwed to the lid of its box and when packed away fitted the pocket easily. After William's death in 1825 the business was continued by his nephews and the small microscopes achieved immense popularity with the growing number of Victorian naturalists. they were sold not only by Cary, but by many opticians both in London and the provinces for many years. the first published description of them is in Gould (1827). All the heights given include the box with the instrument screwed to it".

William Cary (1759-1825) was a prominent scientific instrument maker during the early part of the 19th century. After his death, the firm was continued by his relatives while retaining the Cary name. A workman (apprentice) in the firm, Charles Gould,ch he first described in 1827 in a booklet entitled The Companion to the Microscope and a Description of C. Gould's Improved Pocket Compound Microscope. An example of this microscope is shown on this page (another unsigned example is also part of this collection). This style of microscope became quite popular and was produced, sometimes with modifications, by many other opticians during the first half of the 19th century. There is an interesting article describing the history of the Cary-Gould type microscope. A description of the microscope and its use is outlined below:

The extreme portability and great magnifying power of this microscope will recommend it strongly to the naturalist, mineralogist, and botanist, as it has sufficient powers to discover minute animalcules and seed-vessels. It combines the uses of the single, compound, opaque, and aquatic microscopes; and has been found, upon comparison, by several scientific gentlemen, superior in power to, and more distilarger and more expensive instruments of the kind. It shuts up in a case, three inches by three and a half, and may be carried in the pocket without the slightest inconvenience.

This and other illustrated essays on the history of microscopy can be found at and on Facebook at

The names of Cary, Gould and Porter are intertwined in microscopy, a succession of apprentices and/or relatives who maintained a London microscope-making business for well over 100 years. For the historian, the two centuries that have elapsed between the beginnings of the Cary company have brought many inaccuracies into the record, both in print and on the internet. For example, many sources report that William Cary died in 1835, rather than 1825.Those may have been attempts to reconcile William’s lifespan with the famous microscopes that bore his name, which became popular in the mid-1820s

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This product would make a wonderful addition to any scientific instrument or microscope collection when displayed in a prominent place, being a grand collectible item that would adorn any serious collector's prized scientific instrument and microscope accumulations, while showing a discriminating dedication for fine microscopes and other scientific instrument items as well as a devotion to acquiring fine collectibles.

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  • Model: Antique Cary Microscope

This product was added to our catalog on Friday 11 July, 2014.

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