Spectacles of Well Known People in History (Part One)

We are very fortunate that the personal vision aids of many important individuals have been preserved at institutions and in private collections. Much insight into the development of eyewear during specific time periods can be gained by reviewing examples which have known dates of use. Provenance information associated with the numerous examples presented here is assumed to be mostly correct. It has been difficult to establish in several cases and for some of the others listed, it has not been 100% proven. We have basically tried to confirm that each object and its provenance is believable based at least in part on the known date of death of each person. Hopefully any related information also seems correct. We do know that the more famous the person, the more objects which seem to appear over time following his/her death. We have chosen to believe everything that appears below. Kindly write in if you have questions, concerns, or other knowledge which might be useful in the regard. The advantage of a website is that it is “alive” and can always be updated and corrected. For comparison you are invited to visit “Treasures - Mistaken” where the dates or descriptions unfortunately appear to be false.

Many of the descriptions specifically under the heading “Contributions” have been taken directly from Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. This is an excellent resource and is very highly recommended for others to use. Included below also are known examples of spectacles used by several American Presidents. The eyewear of these famous individuals will likely appear again on this same website but under a different key heading.

Certainly there must be other examples (out there) of noted leaders or famous people whose lives and accomplishments have impacted mankind during the past five hundred years of history. If you are aware of any examples which might belong on this page, kindly email the website and we will actively pursue any available information as well as the appropriate image. The Vatican Museum does not have any rivet spectacles. But we hope that their curators will eventually appreciate our international educational efforts here. Any discoveries in this realm would be considered world-class treasures and if objects of this nature are ever displayed on their Vatican Museum website we will link to these images in order to present this to our visitors also.

Early descriptions of eyeglasses are present when one reviews the literature but the objects listed below have apparently never surfaced. The earliest ones on this list (likely Rivet Spectacles) include the following:

1316 Arnaldo, Dominican Bishop of Bologna, bought a pair of eyeglasses and case
1320 mentioned in the will of Margarita de Arras
1322 A Florentine bishop, eyeglasses framed in gilded silver.
1326 Walter de Stapeldon, Bishop of Exeter, rivet spectacles
John Lydgate (?1370-1440) was among the first English poets to wear spectacles
1372 mentioned in the will of the Queen of France
1379 Charles V bequeathed two pair in a silver carrying case
1416 William Hugham, spectacles
1423 Henry Bowet, Archbishop of York, silver gilt spectacles
1446 Archbishop Antonius of Florence, eyeglasses
1450 Vitko Zuimovic, a silver spectacle case and spectacles
1454 Queen of France, a reading glass encased in silver
1463 John Baret of Bury, eyeglasses
1482 Stanula, widow of Rikard Bozidarevic, auctioning 38 pairs of spectacles
1524 Margaret of Austria, Berille

Finally one additional point must be stated here. In the course of gathering the images and information for this important webpage, a group of 20th century vision aids have also appeared. Although they are NOT antiques in the strict sense of the word, they are still quite interesting to observe and these are presented at the bottom of this listing. A few have quite fascinating stories as you will notice.

NAME DATES CONTRIBUTIONS PHOTO LOCATION FEATURES COMMENTS
Yoshimasa Ashikaga 1436-1490 Eighth Shogun Ashikaga, ivory spectacles and case, Daisenin Temple

The Daisenin Temple (Kyoto) These are very decorative and beautiful  Rivet Spectacles in an original special case. Both are made of hand-carved white ivory.

Unless something earlier exists at the Vatican Museum this pair, supposedly used by Shogun Ashikaga in the 15th century and then handed down to the twelfth Shogun Yoshiharu Ashikaga (1511-1550), quite possibly is the oldest vision aid in the world with known provenance.
Willibald Pirckheimer 1470-1530 Nuremberg councilor and humanist. He was a friend of Albrecht Durer and also of Martin Luther Willibald Pirckheimer: Leather-framed, Wartburg Castle
 
Wartburg Castle, Eisenach, Germany Leather-framed Circa 1520 In 1867 these six leather spectacles located in Pirckheimer’s library were discovered behind the bookshelves.
Saint Philip Neri 1515-1595 A true apostle of Rome, the comforter of the sick and of the dying, mendicant for the poor, humble teacher of the child, simple and persuasive predicate, spiritual director of consciences, who was loved and appreciated by the aristocratic and the plebeian, by the rich and the poor, by the child and the old man. St. Philip Neri metal spectacles, Capitular Church Chiesa
St. Philip Neri spectacles probably made of leather, much damage, leather case St. Philip Neri leather spectacles, Capitular Church Chiesa

Memory Rooms of Capitular Church Chiesa of Santa Maria in Vallicella, in Rome Three pair of spectacle (one leather, one metal, and another possibly of leather) and also a leather case for two pair with embossed religious stages

Optical objects used by early religious leaders MAY exist at the Vatican Museum but information and images are not yet available

Archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol

1529-1595 Founder of the famous Kunst-und- Wunderkammer of Schloss Ambras near Innsbruck in Tyrol.

Archduke Ferdinand of Tyroll, gold and enamel, back, Kunsthistorisches MuseumArchduke Ferdinand of Tyroll, gold and enamel, front, Kunsthistorisches Museum Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

Very fancy French-made gold and enamel highly decorative case, last quarter 16th century

In the inventory of his possessions made in 1596 four pairs were identified: roughly translated - "an ordinary pair of glasses for the eyes" "a pair of glasses for the eyes with gold frame in a black velvet case" also "two pairs of glasses for the eyes, one in gold and one in silver" 

Sung El Kim 1538-1593 He was a famous person who held public office of his own in the government system of the Chosun Dynasty. He was a diplomat who frequently visited China and Japan. He was deeply related with big Korean-Japan war of the 1580’s (Im-Jin-Wae-Ran) because he” refused a Korean armory preparement against Japanese big power of that times, they say”. Sung El Kim: Korean, folding bridge (suspect)
Sung El Kim: Korean, folding bridge (suspect)
Held in the family in Korea, by the 14th generation son (Mr. See Woo Kim) Body material: Shell of tortoise Nose hinge (attached at the opposite of front side) material: Brass Front decoration and nail material: copper Case material:linden (lime tree, basswood) wood Cover decoration: naval figure made of brass Cover painting: lacquer Inside painting: none missing the lenses At a private Confucianism museum at An-Dong Province, Korea. The ChoSun Dynasty lasted from 1392-1910
Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu 1543 –1616 Founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan   Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu nose spectacles and case, from Photo Book of Japanese Spectacles by Kiyokawa  Shoichi. as seen in the Photo Book of Japanese Spectacles by Kiyokawa  Shoichi.  “given by the family” Nose spectacles in tortoiseshell a few have now been seen in tortoiseshell – nearly all the others are horn. Also it was not expected that this style even existed in the early 17th century  
Saint Giuseppe Calasanzio 1557-1648 Priest, teacher, patron saint of Roman Catholic schools, and founder of the Ordo Clericorum Regularium Pauperum Matris Dei Scholarum Piarum (Order of Poor Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools), popularly called Piarists. St. Calasanzio, original lenses in modern frame for preservation, remnants of the original frame shown above. San Pantaleo, Rome Remnants of 2 whalebone spectacles He was the creator and Inventor of the first popular elementary school for the poor children in the world in 1597.
Takuan Soho 1573-1645

A celebrated Zen Buddhist monk from Japan who was the son of an impoverished retired samurai. A representative of the Rinzai sect, he was appointed in 1610 abbot of the main temple Daitokuji. Takuan was known for his brute honesty and meticulously perceptive personality, which was sought after by monks, swordsmen, and politicians alike.

Spectacles and case of Buddist monk Takuan Soho, at the Tokaiji Temple, Tokyo. From Nagaoka’s The History of Eyeglasses in Japan, Tohoshobo, Tokyo 1967 located at the Tokaiji Temple, Tokyo single copper wire, most likely handmade from the Dr. Hiroo Nagaoka, The History of Eyeglasses in Japan, written in 1967
Adolf Gustav 1594-1632 King of Sweden 1611-1632 Folding metal frame, Uppsala Art Cabinet, photo: Bo Gyllander
Early leather frame, polyhedral lenses, Uppsala Art Cabinet, photo: Bo Gyllander
Uppsala University, Museum Gustavianum, The Augsburg Art Cabinet Leather framed tinted polyhedral multiplying lenses A folding silver-gold pair with minus lenses Made in Augsburg. The polyhedral pair in the leather frame was made by James Weisel. These two objects were placed in the Art Cabinet but there is no actual proof that he wore them himself.
Duke Friedrich III of Holstein Gottorp 1597-1654 He had the title "Erbe zu Norwegen".

On the case the coat of arms of Holstein, placed on a cross with a crown at each end.  In between each arm of the cross is the Norwegian Lion.

Duke Friedrich III of Holstein Gottorp, gold case and spectacles, Rosenborg Castle This has been at Rosenborg Castle from before 1696. A pair of engraved gold nose spectacles with original lenses and hinged bridge which folds into a gold banjo case, c. 1650.

The glasses could be political satire by the Danish King Frederik III (1609-70) of the bad political relations to Gottorp after the independency of the duchy in 1658?
Fredrick III, King of Denmark 1609-1670 King of Denmark and Norway from 1648 until his death. He stands as the ruler who introduced absolute monarchy in Denmark. He founded the Royal Library in Copenhagen. Friederich III: from Wikipedia
Friederich III: Rifle with a single lens magnifier as a viewing scope, circa 1618, Rosenborg Slot
Castle Rosenborg, Copenhagen, Denmark Wheel-lock rifle with a viewing scope fixed on the stalk of the gun (single gold-rimmed lens magnifier) Circa 1618 Gold mounting, plano- Convex rock crystal, +.75 also 30 mm diameter Mounting has a ball in Socket joint and can be Rotated in various positions
George Fox 1624-1691 An English dissenter and the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as the Quakers. George Fox magnifier with horn rim and leather case, Historical Society of PennsylvaniaGeorge Fox, facsimile of portrait drawn on stone by Thomas Fairland, Wikipedia, from the Library of Congress Atwater Kent Museum, Historical Society of Pennsylvania  Nearly 6 ½ “ diameter with a horn frame and handle Quite possibly this is the earliest magnifier in the world with known provenance
King James II 1633-1701 King of England, King of Scots, and King of Ireland 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdom of England, Kingdom of Scotland, or Kingdom of Ireland. His subjects distrusted his religious policies and alleged despotism, leading a group of them to depose him in the “Glorious Revolution”. He died in exile King James II case and spectacles (likely NOT his), Victoria & Albert MuseumKing James II Victoria & Albert Museum Beautifully painted Mother of Pearl case with gilded tortoiseshell and silver trimmings. Probably made in France, it is of the “very highest quality – certainly fit for a king’s use.” The spectacles are folding English nose spectacles of silver and tortoiseshell, probably first quarter 18th century

This case is wonderful handcrafted artwork. The spectacles most likely do not belong with the case and were not worn by King James II during his lifetime.
Johann Kupetsky, the Elder 1667-1740 Hungarian Painter Johann Kupetsky baleen spectacles and leather case, Optisches Museum, JenaJohann Kupetsky the elder, self-portrait, circa 1730, Mass Historical Society Optisches Museum, Jena

Large leather English baleen spring spectacles, circa 1730  
Saint Crispino da Viterbo 1668-1750 Spent most of his life in the Capuchin monastery of Orvieto. He was also the spiritual advisor of important prelates of his times, including the Pope Clemente XI. St. Crispinus, Nuremburg style Private collection Nuremberg single copper wire spectacles This reliquary was made for the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor Capuchins
August the Strong 1670-1733 Prince Friedrich August I reigned as King of Poland and Duke to Saxonia. He acquired military fame on the battlegrounds against the Turks before Vienna. His name was appropriate because of his large body strength. His son Friedrich August II. (1699-1763) was King of Poland from 1734-63. Under their rule Saxonia became the third German great power beside Brandenburg Prussia and Habsburgi Austria. August the Strong: porcelain case, observe both sides private collection Etuis made of porcelain from Meissen  
Lord George Murray 1694-1760 Scottish Jacobite (rebel) general who was the fifth son of John Murray, 1st Duke of Atholl. He was also the brother of the 2nd Duke. George participated in the 1715 rising, was exiled, pardoned and then took command during the 1745 rising, after which he fled to Holland. Lord George Murray nose spectacles, Blair castle Blair Castle These are Nuremberg single wire spectacles,  first half, 18th century  
Daniel Bernoulli 1700-1782 Dutch-born mathematician who spent much of his life in Basel, Switzerland. He worked with Leonhard Euler on the equations bearing their names. Bernoulli's principle is of critical use in aerodynamics.

 
Daniel Bernoulli X bridge spectacles, pull-off case, Ramstein Collection, Basel Daniel Bernoulli from the University of St. Andrew\'s website, Scotland The highly respected Ramstein Collection - Basel Silver X bridge - double hinge, in a pull-off case. The X bridge is felt to be a very early 19th century development – so the provenance of this example remains a bit questionable
John Wesley

1703-1791 An Anglican cleric and Christian theologian who was the founder of the (Evangelical) Armenian Methodist movement.

 

Reverend John Wesley eyeglasses
John Wesley tortoiseshell case
John Wesley
  Round frame Silver specs, double hinge sides

In a tortoiseshell case with a silver name plate

Dr. Samuel Johnson 1709-1784 One of England's greatest literary figures: a poet, essayist, biographer, lexicographer, and often esteemed the finest literary critic in English Possibly Samuel Johnson spectacles, BOA Museum Samuel Johnson spectacles with unique sidearms, in their case, BOA Museum British Optical Association Museum Round frame tortoiseshell Very unusual sidearms, notice the unique 90 degree angle
Abraham Redwood 1709-1788 One of the founders of the Redwood Library. He was a ship owner, merchant, plantation and slave owner, state assemblyman, botanist, and philanthropist. He became one of the richest men in Newport. Abraham Redwood Martin's Margins on Italian book-keeping, Reduced into an Art by Stephens, 1720, Redwood LibraryAbraham Redwood by Samuel King, Redwood Library and Athenaeum, Newport, RI
Abraham Redwood: Steel frame, tortoise shell inserts, double hinge
Redwood Library & Athenaeum

Martin’s Margins with double hinge and spatula endings  
Benjamin Franklin 1709-1790 “As a printer, moralist, essayist, inventor, diplomat, and philosopher, Benjamin Franklin was a model for the national character,” is quoted in the Academic American Encyclopedia. He served his nation as a statesman, scientist, and public leader”. The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) notes that he is, “one of the most extraordinary human beings the world has ever known.” Franklin stands in the front rank of men who built the United States. He was the only man who signed all four of these key documents in American History: The Declaration of Independence (1776), The Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), The Treaty of Peace with Great Britain (1783), and The Constitution of the United States (1787). Very possibly Benjamin Franklin magnifier, Atwater Kent - Historical Society of PA Atwater Kent Museum - Historical Society of Pennsylvania Magnifier with a leather frame and handle Donated by Callender Price in 1846
King Louis XV 1710-1774 Known as the “Well-Beloved”, King of France from 1715 to 1774. Miraculously surviving the death of his entire family, he was loved by the French at the beginning of his reign. However, in time, his inability to reform the French monarchy and his policy of appeasement on the European stage lost him the support of his people, and he died as one of the most unpopular kings of France. King Louis XV, gold temple spectacles, c. 1770, Musee de la lunette, also Brillen by Rossi In a private collection Solid gold Martin’s Margins in a shagreen case with solid gold trim, around 1770. This is a fabulous object and the only know solid gold Martin’s Margin in existence.
Ocontastota 1710-1783 Cherokee Chief, the Warrior of Chota and the First Beloved Man of the Cherokee from 1775 to 1781 Remnants of the Martin’s Margins of Ocontastota Cherokee Chief, Photo credit Frank H. McClung Museum, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Painting which is possibly believed to be of Ocontastota, photo by Cinnamonntoast4, as seen on Bing images.
Oconastota's grave at the Chota Memorial, in Monroe County, Tennessee. Image by Brian Stansberry, as seen on Wikipedia
Frank H. McClung Museum, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville   His remains were identified during the archeological digs at the Chota site by a pair of reading glasses which he owned and that were buried with him

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