Books and Publications

Jean-Joseph Girouard (1794-1855), self-portrait in prison, Montreal, 1837-38, pencil drawing, courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1984-81-37R
Jean-Joseph Girouard (1794-1855), self-portrait in prison, Montreal, 1837-38, pencil drawing, courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1984-81-37R

Octagonal frame, steel turn-pin sides, pull-off case, late 18th century, Musee Alsacien, Strasbourg, France.      NOTE: This is the earliest octagonal frame seen by the observer.
Octagonal frame, steel turn-pin sides, pull-off case, late 18th century, Musee Alsacien, Strasbourg, France. NOTE: This is the earliest octagonal frame seen by the observer.
Anton Graff (1736-1813), Portrait of painter Daniel Nikolaus Chowdowiecki, 1800, Bode-Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.  He holds temple spectacles with large round circular finial endings.
Anton Graff (1736-1813), Portrait of painter Daniel Nikolaus Chowdowiecki, 1800, Bode-Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. He holds temple spectacles with large round circular finial endings.
Inuit case, 20th century, Musée de la Civilisation, bought with the help of a movable cultural property grant from the Canadian Heritage Ministry by virtue of the Law on the Export and Import of Cultural Goods, 2007-379.
Inuit case, 20th century, Musée de la Civilisation, bought with the help of a movable cultural property grant from the Canadian Heritage Ministry by virtue of the Law on the Export and Import of Cultural Goods, 2007-379.
Bayernhof Museum, by painter B. Klaus, probably late 19th century
Bayernhof Museum, by painter B. Klaus, probably late 19th century

Some (but not all) recent books and publications along with any noteworthy comments

Ulrich Zeun, Monoculars - Developments and Models Yesterday and Today, Shaker Media, Aachen, 2013

Ulrich Zeun, Monoculars - Developments and Models Yesterday and Today, Shaker Media, Aachen, 2013 ISBN 978-3-95631-073-7, 486 pages with 775 pictures, nearly all in colour. The text is in German and English.

This book is a first attempt to sketch the history of prism monoculars made over the years since I. Porro’s first model in 1850 and then up until today. The author describes also the previous developments of terrestrial and Galilean telescopes. Besides the development of small and large monoculars with different prism systems and designs, models are listed according to their usage and functions. It is a fine reference book with 775 colour pictures including models never previously illustrated.

Spectacles for a Doge, Sunglasses in 18th century Venice Exhibition Catalogue, Publisher Supernova

Spectacles for a Doge, Sunglasses in 18th century Venice Exhibition Catalogue, Publisher Supernova, ISBN 978-88-6869-033-5

This book describes original and unusual items that Venetian opticians created beginning in the late 17th century to protect the eyes from atmospheric agents and especially the sun. During walks along the lagoon or while in the gondola, or during commercial and military travel along the Mediterranean, ladies and captains, children and nobles took advantage of the available green glass lenses. These had been criticized until the end of the nineteenth century but science now confirms green (until 1830 since brown also had been was developed in England) to be the only color capable of completely cutting ultraviolet radiation. It was back in 1870 that UV Radiation was finally discovered and fully recognized to be potentially dangerous for the unprotected eye. In this book the reader will find complete profiles of nearly 40 museum pieces including Goldoni spectacles, Gondola glasses, Venetian scissor spectacles and other special lenses that could multiply the gold coins. With 196 pages including over 200 color images the single book has both Italian and also English pages. A wonderful addition to any library collection.

Treasury of Optics: The Collections of the Optisches Museum Jen

Treasury of Optics: The Collections of the Optisches Museum Jena, ISBN  978-3-9811120-5-4   

It is regarded as unique – the collection of the Optisches Museum Jena. About 1900, associates of the company of Carl Zeiss started collecting optical instruments. These were to document the persistent developmental progress and later be available for scientific purposes. In this way, a historically valuable basis was established for this contemporary unique collection. The exhibition of the museum consists of more than 13,000 specimens of outstanding scientific and historical importance. They range from the famous eye glasses by the spectacles master spectacle-makers of Nuremberg through the history of binocular instruments to graphics of art-historical value.
For the first time, this volume offers a concise description of the changeful history of the Optisches Museum Jena with its outstanding collection.  

Timothy J Bowden, Contact Lenses; The Story

Timothy J Bowden, Contact Lenses; The Story, Bower House Publications, ISBN 978-0-9558981-0-5

This traces the development of contact lenses from the early artificial eye makers up to 2009. It is based on over 200 interviews with some of the great pioneers or their families.

Simon Murray and Nicky Albrechtsen, Fashion Spectacles – Spectacular Fashion: Eyeware Styles and Shapes from Vintage to 2020

Simon Murray and Nicky Albrechtsen, Fashion Spectacles – Spectacular Fashion: Eyeware Styles and Shapes from Vintage to 2020, Thames & Hudson Ltd, ISBN 978–0–500–51635-5

Robert F Heitz, The History of Contact Lenses Volume Two. Keratoconus and the Early Use of Contact Lenses (1888-1920) Robert F Heitz, The History of Contact Lenses Volume Two. Keratoconus and the Early Use of Contact Lenses (1888-1920)   2005
George Sturrock, Eye Baths: An Illustrated Survey

George Sturrock, Eye Baths: An Illustrated Survey, ISBN:  978  0  948975  98  1

This book provides the first comprehensive survey of eye baths of all types, from the most mundane plastic examples through glass and silver to the beautiful porcelain eye baths produced by such well-known manufacturers as Meissen, Sèvres, Derby and Worcester.
Each supplier of eye baths receives an entry which includes details of the company; a description of their eye baths; drawings of the manufacturer’s marks; and colour images, where available. Different styles of eye baths also receive their own entries and there are 429 entries in total.
Quite apart from the unprecedented level of information provided, the book is visually gorgeous, full of photographs of the highest quality.
The author, a retired eye surgeon, has been collecting and studying eye baths for over 30 years and the book reflects his considerable expertise.

Ophthalmologia Optica et Visio in Nummis (Ophthalmology, Optics and Vision in Numismatics)

Jay M. Galst and Peter G. van Alfen, Ophthalmologia Optica et Visio in Nummis (Ophthalmology, Optics and Vision in Numismatics)    Hirschberg, History of Ophthalmology Supplement Series 13, 2013, ISBN-13: 978 089722 323 2

Published jointly by J.-P. Wayenborgh Verlag and the American Numismatic Society, Ophthalmologia,Optica et Visio in Nummis catalogues roughly 1,700 numismatic objects (coins, tokens or medals) in 14 chapters each of which focuses on a discrete topic, e.g., ophthalmologists, ophthalmological congresses, the blind (and their rehabilitation), optical instruments (including spectacles), and the eye as a symbol. Appearing as Volume 13 in the supplemental series to Julius Hirschberg’s History of Ophthalmology, the book also serves to situate the objects within the larger historical context of the ophthalmological and optical disciplines.

Handley, Neal, Cult Eyewear, The World’s Enduring Classics ISBN: 978-1-8589-4509-5 Handley, Neil, Cult Eyewear, The World’s Enduring Classics ISBN: 978-1-8589-4509-5

Selecting a pair of glasses can be a tricky business. With so many styles and labels available, the choice is as much about making a fashion statement as gaining perfect vision. Cult Eyewear is the first book to give an account of the world’s top eyewear brands, from Ray-Ban to J.F. Rey, Persol to Polaroid, and from the 1780s to the present day. Neil Handley, an authority on the history of eyewear, selects more than 30 famous names that have enduring appeal and command a dedicated following, and discusses the history of each brand and its most iconic spectacles or sunglasses. The book also includes a concise illustrated introduction to the evolution of eyewear; innovative designs and historically important inventions; films and key personalities associated with particular designs or brands through the years; and other fascinating aspects of this global industry.

Stories of Looks and Visions, Galleria Guglielmo Tabacchi, Allemandi & Co., 2009 Stories of Looks and Visions, Galleria Guglielmo Tabacchi, Allemandi & Co., 2009 ISBN 978-88-422-1792-3
he Long Route to the Invention of the Telescope Willach, Rolf, The Long Route to the Invention of the Telescope, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 2008, ISBN: 978-1606189856

The author has evaluated the optical properties of rock crystal lenses from Antiquity up until the High Middle Ages. He discovered that the earliest dioptrical vision aids were created by monks back in the 12th century. He then explains why these rock crystal vision aids could serve only as monoculars but not as the spectacles which first appeared at the end of the 13th century. A revolutionary new technique for making glass lenses developed at that time in and around Venice. This technique is discussed in detail using what has been learned from the analysis of the earliest surviving rivet spectacles in the world, which are dated to the mid-14th century. An extensive laboratory study of more than fifty pair of the earliest eyeglasses then revealed further insights regarding the development of man-made lenses. All this then led up to the invention of the telescope in the very early 17th century. It is a journey that helps the reader understand much better the fascinating evolution of the optical lens.

Vincent Ilardi, Renaissance Vision from Spectacles to Telescopes Vincent Ilardi, Renaissance Vision from Spectacles to Telescopes

This book treats the early development, diffusion, commerce, and artistic representation of eyeglasses from their invention ca. 1286 to the discovery of the telescope ca. 1600. It is based primarily on a great number of recently discovered documents in European depositories and on artifacts unearthed at archeological sites. Although it is focused on Italy, the home of the first spectacles and of most of the available evidence, it also examines new documentary and archeological discoveries in the rest of Europe.

Gli Occhiale nella Pittura dal XIV al XX secolo- Dal Veneto alla Sicilia l’iconografia racconta l’evoluzione dell’oggetto visivo, 2006 (Ed. Lussografica-Caltanissetta), La Mattina, Professor Rosolino,

It is a very precious art book where glasses are enhanced through works of art created by the great masters: from Crivelli to Ghirlandaio, from Bruegel to Bosh, from Caravaggio to Goya, from Carpaccio to Luca Giordano up to the very well known painters of the 19th century like Giovanni Fattori, Francesco Haiez, Pablo Picasso, and Renato Guttuso, just to mention some. Very interesting also are the chapters where the symbolic aspects of a visual aid shaped like a pitchfork on the nose has been depicted very carefully not only by very famous people from the past, but also by Saints, Prophets, Jesus and even Satan. Great importance has been given to works of arts in Sicily especially, many belonging to private collections

ISBN# 88-8243-150-9. Only 500 copies printed, available only from Typography Lussografica, Caltanisetta (Italy) www.lussografica.it.

Spectacles & Sunglasses, Pepin Press, Amsterdam, 2005 Spectacles & Sunglasses, Pepin Press, Amsterdam, 2005, ISBN 90-5496-110-7, Images from the Brilmuseum and the Pierre Marly Collection 

Spectacles and Sunglasses provides a comprehensive account of the design of spectacles in their many guises along with the historical developments that influenced them. A detailed history of spectacles is presented through a brief synopsis and more than 500 color photos. The book devotes considerable attention to 20th century designs: a period that witnessed the creation of innumerable outlandish and extravagant spectacles. Jackie Kennedy's and Audrey Hepburn's sunglasses; the frames worn by Buddy Holly, Nana Mouskouri and Yves Saint Laurent; and the famous models by Pierre Cardin, Courrèges, Ray-Ban and Christian Dior may all be found in this book. A wide range of contemporary innovative designs is also represented.

When Glass Matters, Studies in the History of Science and Art from Greco-Roman Antiquity to Early Modern Era Beretta, Marco, editor, When Glass Matters, Studies in the History of Science and Art from Greco-Roman Antiquity to Early Modern Era, Olschki, Florence, 2004 ISBN 8822253183

This volume surveys the historical relations of science and technology by privileging the interaction between the history of glass and the scientific culture of classical Antiquity and the Middle Age. Within this perspective the case of glass has offered an extremely useful example, showing how the development of theories which have often been regarded as the exclusive result of intellectual activities were in fact the result of the progress of glassmaking techniques obtained by artisans.

Paul E. Runge, The Use of Eyeglasses, Wayenborgh Publishing, 2004 Paul E. Runge, translation of Daza de Valdes, The Use of Eyeglasses, Wayenborgh Publishing, 2004

Benito Daza de Valdes, a Dominican friar and an officer of the Spanish Inquisition during the tumultuous 17th century, possessed an uncanny knowledge of the mechanics of vision. He set down much of this knowledge in a small but signal volume titled Uso de Los Anteojos – the Use of Eyeglasses. It is considered to be one of the Holy Grails of Ophthalmology. Valdes was the first person to describe the use of several different objects including various sizes of type to test visual acuity. His book is very important because it laid the groundwork for all that has followed in this area. Valdes’ “little book” contains the first published description of the art of prescribing glasses. It also documents one of the earliest uses of various objects (such as mustard seeds and different sizes of print) to assess visual acuity. His description of refractive errors and his method for assessing vision remain valid to this day. Many of the ideas that Valdes held in the 17th century are strikingly similar to our current-day beliefs. That this is so is all the more remarkable when we consider that as far as we know Valdes had no formal training in either optics or mathematics. Yet he and his colleagues would have personally been developing presbyopia. Therefore, he would have been confronted with the problem of obtaining reading glasses for himself and providing reading glasses for his colleagues and others. Valdes brought his analytical and practical intellect to bear on this problem. His logical and thorough approach is well documented in his book.

The first of its three parts deals with the nature and properties of the eye and its refractive conditions. The second discusses contemporary spectacle lenses and frames in technological and utilitarian detail. The third and major part in the style of Platonian dialogue describes a variety of clinical optometric problems and their practical solutions. The procedural similarities to today's mode of optometric analysis is remarkably evident.

Julius Hirschberg, History of Ophthalmology, Vol.XI/3a: Heitz The HISTORY OF CONTACT LENSES, Part 1 (in 3 volumes).
Wayenborgh Publishing, Ostend 2003

Before the real contact lenses as we know them, there has been a lot of quite interesting devices leading to it. The contact lenses were not invented; they are the consequence of earlier developments of other ophthalmic devices used for other purposes.

The speculations and the hypotheses of the 16th and 17th centuries (Leonardo da Vinci, Descartes, Huygens, La Hire) are in keeping with the challenge to the ancient theories of vision with the premises of a rational explanation of the phenomena of reflective and refractive optics relative to the human eye. Even if one could recognize neutralization of, or contact with, the cornea in certain texts and figures of this epoch, such would only represent the fruit of speculations, hypotheses or erroneous extrapolations. Any argument proves that their authors would have been conscious of these aspects or have envisaged their usefulness for carrying out further studies, much less for correction of refractive errors.

In the course of the 18th Century and the first half of the 19th, the works and publications of The Royal Academy of Sciences of Paris (La Hire, Méry, Pourfour du Petit), and those of The Royal Society of London (Young) allowed scientific circles to take cognizance of the fact that neutralization of the corneal dioptric power was achievable even in the living eye of a human. It therefore constituted a valuable procedure for the investigation of the ocular media and could serve, with some reservations for experiments in physiological optics.

Practical applications of these discoveries survived with Czermak’s orthoscope and adaptations from this from the second half of the 19th Century. Hasner, Arlt, Coccius and Helmholtz used them for the examination of the anterior segment of the eye and even the fundus oculi.

Julius Hirschberg, History of Ophthalmology, The Monographs Vol.10, Professor Saiichi Mishima THE HISTORY OF OPHTHALMOLOGY IN JAPAN, Wayenborgh Publishing, Ostend 2004.

The story of Asian ophthalmology has not been readily available to us in the English language. This book is filled with well-researched details presented in a fascinating narrative. Glimpses of the evolving Japanese social setting are noted at the beginning of each chapter. The progress of Japanese medicine is thoughtfully painted for you in beautiful strokes. One fascinating illustrated chapter is devoted to the history of spectacles. This book is an important medical and literary landmark for it provides a much- needed bridge from East to West that will provide a conduit for ideas in both directions.

Frederick Crestin-Billet, La folie des Lunettes, Editions Flammarion (French), Passione Collezionismo Occhiale, Fabbri Editori Publishers (Italian), Collectible Eyeglasses, Editions Flammarion (English) ISBN # 2-0803-0437-2

Eyeglasses have always been an insightful marriage of popular fashion and scientific investigation. In recent years eyeglasses have been appreciated as fashion accessories ad given historical reference as period treasures. This book is complete with over 400 full-color illustrations detailing the wide range of factors influencing the shape and function of spectacles throughout the centuries. Collectible Eyeglasses analyzes the development of a wide variety of vision aids, from opera glasses to sports goggles, tracing their development from antiquity to the present day.


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