Pre-1800 Dated Eyeglass Cases

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A great deal of attention has been devoted to antique eyeglasses on this developing website. They are, of course, the most common vision aid, dating back to the late 13th century. But little is said and even less has been reported or published regarding eyeglass cases. Some of the earliest styles are seen in magnificent 15th and 16th century paintings. But the actual cases from that time are nearly non-existent since even the most advanced and comprehensive public and private collections have no examples at all. However, neat cases from the 17th century do occasionally appear, though they are still extremely scarce. Fortunately some of these are actually dated and it is apparent that these dates were placed at the time the cases were originally crafted by hand.

“Masterpiece Spectacles” (all from Nuremberg, Germany) will become the key topic of a future webpage (likely in 2012) because they are historically important and also incredibly rare. A pair of these spectacles would have been created by a maker (wishing to become a master) who then placed the two eyeglasses into a crude wooden case. These simple cases had some key information written on the front cover including the date.

We have been particularly fortunate to have the special cooperation of the German National Museum in Nuremberg. They house a very significant collection of optical objects and most of their holdings are still in storage. Their group of Masterpiece Spectacle cases however has been photographed by curator Dr. Ralf Schuerer and the images were made available for this international website. We appreciate the kindness of Dr. Schuerer and also Dr. Christen Vogel from that renowned museum for sharing some incredible images of many of the earliest cases included in the slideshow below. Special thanks also go to Director General Prof. Dr. G. Ulrich Grossman and Dr. Matthias Hamann who permitted this discovery process to begin in the first place. The GNM sets a fine example for other museums to follow because this is proof that there are hidden optical treasures in the storage depots of European museums. These objects are often incredibly important and therefore it is worthwhile to bring them before an interested public eye.

Another renowned museum is the Optisches Museum in Jena, Germany. Their storage areas have been known to hold a treasure trove of optical objects since that museum had Professor Karl Richard Greeff, Professor Albert von Pflugk and Professor Moritz von Rohr as their most important patrons. The three advanced early 20th century collectors had assembled some Masterpiece spectacles and cases which have now been digitized for this website. With the wonderful support of Head Manager Rolf Schmalbrock and the photographic skills of curator Karin Gjudjenow the images have been added to this key webpage of early dated cases (2011). In the future, the topic of Masterpiece Spectacles will be much more fully explored as a major Interesting Topic for this online resource.

Perhaps other institutions have a few similar dated examples from the 17th century hidden in their storage areas? This international website invites private collectors and also those museums to explore and then share digital images of their rare examples. Those photos could assume their proper position on the slideshow below, based upon the year.

Enjoy the slideshow below because you are basically viewing the earliest dated eyeglass cases in the world.


(Move your mouse over any of the pictures below to see a larger image.)

All the photos below from the German National Museum are courtesy of Dr. Ralf Schuerer. All the photos below from the Optisches Museum Jena are courtesy of Karin Gjudjenow. We greatly appreciate their time and effort.


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