Dr. Brian Bracegirdle

R. & J. Beck occupy an especially important place in the history of British microscope manufacturing, having its origins in the firm of Smith & Beck started in 1847 with the active involvement of J. J. Lister, to whom we owe the development of the achromatic-aplanatic microscope objective. R. & J. Beck itself began in 1865, and in that same year Richard Beck [1827-1866] wrote his seminal book on using his firm's products[1]. 14 of his plates and their facing captions are included on this CD, taken directly from his own copy of his book, now in my possession. These predate the first of the company's actual catalogues [published in 1866], and are of excellent delicate engraving quality, and informative in content.

The other 46 pages [with an additional five] are the firm's 1888 catalogue of microscopes and accessories, less covers. These pages were made from the Company's own working copy of the catalogue, and have some marginal notes which may show the prices of bought-in components.

The additional pages include some extra tipped-in material, and one in particular deserves special mention. This follows page 48 of the catalogue proper, and shows a very unusual instrument, made for Julian Deby on 28th July 1885. This unique instrument still exists, and is in the collection of the Science Museum in London, inventory A56778. It is fully described in the CD catalogue of that collection[2].

Users of this present CD should be aware that it is intended to complement seven other CDs in our Archive series, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, and A9. Between them these give sales and manufacturing details of instruments sold between 1839 and 1936.

Users might also consult my book on preparative techniques[3], and on modern microscope makers[4], and an article on the Beck family by the great grandson of Joseph Beck, no less[5].

  1. R. Beck - A treatise on the construction, proper use, and capabilities of Smith, Beck, and Beck's achromatic microscopes. London: van Voorst, 1865.
    Reprinted 1986 by Science Heritage, Chicago.
  2. B. Bracegirdle - A catalogue of the microscopy collections at the Science Museum, London. CD, 2005. A.1. in the Archive Series by Little Imp Publications.
  3. B. Bracegirdle - A history of microtechnique. London: Heinemann, 1978. Chicago: Science Heritage, 2ed 1986.
  4. B. Bracegirdle - Notes on modern microscope manufacturers. London: Quekett Microscopical Club, 1996.
  5. M. Shephard (2003) - The Beck microscope family, Quekett Journal of Microscopy, 39, 577-594.