DALLAS - The unprecedented sale of 32 antique microscopes is set to star in Heritage Auctions’ Jan. 19 Gentleman Collector Auction. The instruments come from a prominent West Coast collection and are offered at no reserve. The consignor has assembled a collection over the years that rivals those in many museums. All are offered with period cases and have been meticulously maintained.
A rare cased 1858 Smith and Beck Binocular Microscope is one of the collection’s finest pieces. Over three dozen pristine accessories accompany the instrument. The microscope was the personal instrument of Thomas Glazebrook Rylands, widely regarded as one of 19th-century Britain’s brightest minds. A collection of his hand-drawn charts, calibrations and botanical specimens are included in the lot.
Microscopes have long been a fascination with gentleman collectors. Microsopists generally attribute the modern microscope to the invention of the compound microscope in the Low Countries in the early 17th century. Since then, the instrument has been a staple of scientists’ desks and laboratories across the globe. The most notable collector was King George III, whose collection filled the halls of Kew Palace.
Of the 32 instruments on offer, five date before the 20th century, including a cased J. Swift & Son Folding Traveling Monocular Microscope. The microscopes display no more than light wear from use. Some maintain full optics - a testament to the collection’s quality.
Additional auction items relating to early microscopy and 20th century science include several rare slides, such as a microscopic picture slide of a basket of flowers, and autographs of Jonas Salk, Linus Pauling, and Albert Sabin.
Heritage Auctions is the largest auction house founded in the United States and the world’s third largest, with annual sales of more than $800 million, and over one million online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and receive access to a complete record of prices realized, with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.
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