Antique Trader, June 23, 2004

The World's Greatest Invention?

Antique Trader, June 23, 2004
Antique Trader, June 23, 2004-Cover

The world’s greatest invention?

Do you take your sight for granted? Some people may, but one retired ophthalmologist doesn’t. Not only does he want people to realize the importance of sight, but also the impact of the invention of spectacles on the world. We take a fascinating and eye-opening look at the many forms of these antique eyewear on page 35.

Antique Trader, June 23, 2004-Article

Eye spy
New Web site focuses on antique spectacles


“As one of the most important inventions of all time, they have had an incalculable effect on our lives ever since they were invented over 700 years ago”
— Dr. David Fleishman. retired ophthalmologist

Can you imagine what life would be like without clarity of vision?

Many people take eyesight for granted, A but not Dr. David Fleishman of Sharon, Mass. The retired ophthalmologist and eyeglasses collector has focused his vision, of late, on a new Web site devoted to antique spectacles.

“I was an ophthalmologist for 28 years,” said Fleishman, adding that he has collected spectacles for the past 25 years. In conjunction with about 65 world wide experts, Fleishman has established The Web site is dedicated to 22 individuals from 11 countries who were pioneers in the hobby and industry.“

We expect to raise public awareness because spectacles have been taken for granted in spite of their extreme beauty and remarkable developmental history. As one of the most important inventions of all time, they have had an incalculable effect on our lives ever since they were invented over 700 years ago,” Fleishman said.

The Web site grew out of a paper Fleishman wrote on the history of spectacles. With so much information, Fleishman decided to publish his paper online. Now, the site, which went live only recently, includes history, links, a virtual museum, photos, a timeline (dating from the 13th century to the early 20th century) and identification guide.

According to Fleishman, glasses first appeared in Pisa, Italy, around 1286. The glasses were formed from two primitive convex-shaped crystal stones surrounded by a frame and given a handle.

Certainly many developments followed, as detailed on the Web site. But most people are familiar with one of the most significant inventions in the spectacle world — Benjamin Franklin’s bifocals, introduced in the mid-to late 1700s.

Fleishman cited Franklin as stating, “As I wear my own glasses constantly, I have only to move my eyes up


Antique Trader, June 23, 2004-Page 3


or down, as I want to see distinctly far or near, the proper glasses being always ready.”

For collectors, the Web site presents a timeframe and pictures with which to date and identify spectacles, but no values are given.

Collectors have contributed to the site, however, according to Fleishman. The virtual museum on the site includes images of spectacles from collectors and museums around the world. Among the rarest spectacles pictured, Fleishman said, are those dating prior to the 17th century.

Fleishman hopes the Web site will “nurture a greater appreciation for antique spectacles.

“They sit at the crossroads of science, fashion and medicine,” he added.

All photos courtesy of Dr. David Fleishman.

More eye-openers

Want to learn more about antique eyeglasses and spectacles? Here are some insightful resources.

Web sites

Antique Spectacles, 
Ocular Heritage Society, 
Ophthalmic Antiques International Collectors’ Club, 


Collectible Eyeglasses by Frederique Crestin-Billet, (Flammarion, 2004)
Spectacles and Other Vision Aids: A History and Guide to Collecting by J. William Rosenthal, (Norman, 1994)

Article copyright © 2004, Antique Trader. all rights reserved.

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