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History of spectacles (glasses) - a question

SGM
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History of spectacles (glasses) - a question

Post by SGM » Sat September 4th, 2010, 9:14 am

Can anyone tell me when spectacles (glasses) were actually first used?

I know when Pepys was writing his diary he was concerned that it was affecting his eyesight and used some sort of spectacles with green lenses. In fact, it was because of this concern that he stopped writing the diary which is, unfortunately, why we do not have a first-hand report from him regarding the Glorious Revolution. (I know we have John Evelyn's account but that does not quite match up to what we might have expected from Pepys).

I am also aware that a single lenses was used at some point (ie monacle/quizzing glass) but I thought that was not until later in the 18th century.
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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Sat September 4th, 2010, 10:07 am

[quote=""SGM""]Can anyone tell me when spectacles (glasses) were actually first used?

I know when Pepys was writing his diary he was concerned that it was affecting his eyesight and used some sort of spectacles with green lenses. In fact, it was because of this concern that he stopped writing the diary which is, unfortunately, why we do not have a first-hand report from him regarding the Glorious Revolution. (I know we have John Evelyn's account but that does not quite match up to what we might have expected from Pepys).

I am also aware that a single lenses was used at some point (ie monacle/quizzing glass) but I thought that was not until later in the 18th century.[/quote]

According to "grun's timetables", Bernard of Gordon made the first medical reference to spectacles in 1303 (and was speaking about their invention in about 1290) but i can imagine this might be a mistranslation.

dont know if this helps you. i remember a reference to them in "the name of the rose" as well, set in about 1327.
Last edited by Kveto from Prague on Sat September 4th, 2010, 10:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

annis
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Post by annis » Sat September 4th, 2010, 11:20 am

There's an interesting article here about the origins of eyeglasses.
http://www.antiquespectacles.com/histor ... e_ages.htm

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boswellbaxter
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Post by boswellbaxter » Sat September 4th, 2010, 12:58 pm

An inventory of the goods of Bishop Walter Stapledon, who was murdered by a London mob in 1326, included spectacles.
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M.M. Bennetts

Post by M.M. Bennetts » Sat September 4th, 2010, 2:59 pm

Dorothy Dunnett also has a number of references to them in her Niccolo sequence which is circa 1470--the glass factories near Venice made them.

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Post by SGM » Sat September 4th, 2010, 3:37 pm

[quote=""M.M. Bennetts""]Dorothy Dunnett also has a number of references to them in her Niccolo sequence which is circa 1470--the glass factories near Venice made them.[/quote]

Dorothy Dunnett refers to someone using them (I think the Dowager) in Game of Kings which is sort of why I asked the question. Therefore, I don't quite understand why Pepys didn't appear to know about lenses for short and long sight, as it was apparently know about the effects of age on the eyesight. After all it was only about another hundred years before Ben Franklyn invented bifocals.

So I am confused but thank you all for your answers, they helped.
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M.M. Bennetts

Post by M.M. Bennetts » Sat September 4th, 2010, 6:33 pm

I don't know about why Pepys didn't know about them...maybe he was too busy doing other, ah, things. I can ask someone who knows more about him than I do if you like.

The Niccolo book in which they appear is number three, I'm guessing, and they go out to the island and see the glassworks and everything.

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Post by annis » Sat September 4th, 2010, 7:54 pm

Funnily enough, spectacles made an appearance in book I read recently; A Dead Man in Deptford, Anthony Burgess' novel about Kit Marlowe.

Walsingham's secretary and master codebreaker Thomas Phelipps is cursing the clumsiness of a henchman who accidentally tromped on his spectacles, leaving him virtually blind. Kit has no liking for Phelipps after seeing him at work forging Mary, Queen of Scots' guilt into a document.

Kit went to the room where the pocked and bespectacled one wove his villainies, nay he must not say or think that. But when he found him mole-blind and trying to grow eyes on his finger-ends he could not resist saying:
-- A holiday then from forgery?
-- Eh, eh? Who are you? They are broke.They fell and this fool or that fool, both deny it, planted a heavy hoof and they shattered. A grinding of new takes long.


Walsingham of course spent some time in Europe and various Italian courts, so he would have been familiar with the Murano glassmakers. I wonder if the Italians picked up the concept of spectacles from the East as they did so many ideas.

--" the principle of the convex (converging) lens, was described by Alhazen (965-1038), "Father of modern optics", Arabian mathematician, optician and astronomer at Cairo, and even earlier by the Greeks."
Last edited by annis on Sat September 4th, 2010, 8:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.

M.M. Bennetts

Post by M.M. Bennetts » Sat September 4th, 2010, 9:32 pm

That would make sense. Because so much of the ancient Greek information had been 'kept' within the Byzantine Empire and it was only with the sacking of Byzantium, and subsequent sackings and then the fall to the Ottoman Turks, that the scholars high-tailed it with as many of their books as they could carry to Venice and other Byzantine trading partners--thus making all that information again available to the West.

It was a gradual process, certainly, and much of it seeped in through Venice and Genoa's close trading relationship with Byzantium...
Fascinating.

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Post by annis » Sun September 5th, 2010, 9:10 am

And not just the scholars. The Venetian glassmaking industry was heavily influenced by the Byzantine artisans who who fled to Venice when Constantinople was overrun in 1204 and again in the middle of the fifteenth century when Constantinople was besieged by the Ottomans.

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