Optical Treasures: Abused

This is a category that I really wish did not exist at all. Unfortunately antique optical items have also been abused. I strongly believe that objects of historical significance must be respected so they can be passed down to future generations. Otherwise important relics will never be completely appreciated by our descendents. Any historical piece deserves to be saved in its original entire state, if at all possible. It’s one thing to sell the whole object to a museum for proper preservation by a conservator or curator. It is yet another thing to cut an object into pieces and desecrate it in order to sell the pieces to as many people as possible. Does anyone agree that we must embrace our responsibility to protect historic objects?

In this section it is also appropriate to comment on reproductions. Certainly they do exist but they should always be represented in an honest manner, as reproductions. They are not and never will be the real thing.
Finally this is an opportunity to comment on the wearing of antique spectacles. This does occur and, in fact, I have several pairs which I use for reading. They are round frame with double hinge and I honor and adhere to two very simple but significant rules. First of all the frame is handled gently and with respect. Secondly the original lenses, even if broken, are preserved and safely kept so they can accompany the original frame in the future. This specific topic has now become a feature addition to the website. “Wearing Antique Spectacles” by Michael Lebby is highlighted and Michael is a strong proponent for respecting all components of anyone’s optical antiques collection.

Title Description Photo Comments
The Aaron Burr Association acquired a “part of the spectacle case Alexander Hamilton had with him” at the July 11, 1804 duel in Weehawken, New Jersey. This event was probably the most famous duel in American History. Hamilton received a fatal wound and Burr’s political career was ruined forever. Displayed together (1) currently on the ABA website as a “recently acquired relic” is (2) “part of the case” and also “strands of Aaron Burr’s hair”. However after the ABA purchased the hair and spectacles another duplicate framed picture with hair and spectacles appeared for auction. This display has evidently now sold on at least four separate occasions and perhaps even more often. Each time it is auctioned a picture (3) of the entire spectacle case is shown with a section removed from it. The framed glass display which has been sold several times, Aaron Burr Association
A piece of the Hamilton case
Regarding the provenance of this eyeglass case, it was authenticated in October of 1982 by Christies, which is a prestigious auction house. But what ever happened to the even more famous spectacles and how did they become separated from this case? In addition why would someone now destroy this eyeglass case’s integrity? I personally believe it is unacceptable and an insult to history to alter historical items in order to sell the pieces. To the contrary I believe mankind is charged with the responsibility of preserving historical artifacts in their complete and unaltered state.

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