Over the past few years I have been able to study, in detail, several of Dancer's microscopes. All of them have been signed on the foot with the now famous signature J.B.Dancer Optician Manchester, or engraved with a more elaborate form in it's various forms but the basic instrument (and its case and accessories) has developed through several stages to the comprehensive binocular or set which any collector would be proud to have.
The earliest Dancer made (?) microscope I have owned is this one signed by both Abrahams and Dancer when in partnership at 13 Cross St., Manchester (1841 – 1845). This microscope which stands about 13 ½ inches high, is typical of the earlier microscopes made prior to the popularity of the bar-limb designs and was made to be broken down to fit into the flat case popular from the middle of the 18th century. The finishes are yellow brass lacquer and the bronze finish typifying Dancer’s accessories over the years to come. As with many sets made during the early part of the 19th century, this set includes a “Bonanni” type stage which has a bayonet fitting into the top of the microscope stage, wheel of stops condenser which screws onto the underside of the stage, single sided convex mirror, a circular live box & stage mounted bullseye condenser. Course focussing is by thumbwheel rack & pinion moving the stage up and down the main pillar and fine focus by thumbwheel screw at the top of the pillar moving the limb which holds the body tube. The pillar is screwed into the foot and also has a compass joint at the base, for inclining the microscope. Objectives are early “button” types mounted on pre-RMS bases to screw into the body tube which has an external thread to screw into the limb mounted on the main pillar. The objectives are screwed into the cap of the brass can in which they are stored. 2 different power objectives are present along with 2 different power oculars, one stored in the corresponding socket in the case and the other in the body tube. The flat “Y” shaped foot is engraved “Abraham & Dancer, Manchester”. The trade label on the underside of the case lid, whilst being very similar to Abraham’s label, is typical Dancer with the exception that it also has Abrahams name as well as Dancer’s. There are 2 lidded compartments in the main case. One is a multiple accessory compartment and the other is a complicated little case for holding samples. The main case which measures 10 x 8 ¼ x 3 inches is made from fine polished mahogany with brass hinges and escutcheon for the lock key, but the lock & key are missing. There is also a space in the top of the case lid where a brass name plaque once resided.
Early Large Best Microscope
This large “best” microscope is from a similar date to the one above but has all the looks of a top of the range research instrument. The twin handled polished mahogany cabinet holds all the accessories in 2 polished mahogany fitted drawers with ebony button knobs. These include a watchmakers eyeglass, polariser/analyser, one top hat style wide lens eyepiece, camera lucida, fishplate, large overstage, small overstage, 1/8, ½ & 2 inch objectives in matching lacquered brass cans, live box, compressor stage, wheel of stops, forceps, stage forceps, dark well, illuminator, micrometer & spanner. A further 7 drawers are provided for slides and storage of other small items. The rectangular section limb has a swivel joint to allow the optical tube to be set outside the area of the stage. Main focus is by rack & pinion using twin wheels, fine focus is nose-mounted lever type and the draw tube is engraved to facilitate setting the tube length for each objective. The instrument has accessories for both over and under the mechanical stage. Concentric shafts drive the “Y – Y” movement of the stage by rotating thumbwheels, the fore/aft drive by both left and right hand knobs. The bayonet mounted mechanical sub-stage has an achromatic ”illuminator”. All the objectives are pre-RMS and the 1/2 inch has a built-on lieberkuhn. The plano-concave mirror assembly clamps onto the sub-stage tube with a knurled thumbscrew. The polariser is bayonet fitted below the stage and the analyser screws into the bottom of the draw tube. The fine camera lucida is a tiny speculum mirror on an arm mounted from the eyepiece and fitted into it’s own lacquered brass can for storage. The microscope is signed on the foot Dancer Manchester. The trade label on the inside of the case door has the address as being 13 Cross St., which I would date to 1846.
The first Dancer microscope I owned was of a good size in a mahogany case with a drawer full of accessories. Whilst the instrument was similar in size to later instruments and had the signed "Y" shaped foot and twin pillar support, the main focus employed the (earlier) Martin or Drum type microscope rack & pinion focussing internal to the main body of the instrument. This used only one control knob on the side of the microscope and when the internal rack had become a little stiff to move, damage to the rack was inevitable. The case was of the usual high quality polished mahogany with substantial lacquered brass handle and held the microscope and free-standing bullseye condenser in the manner Dancer seemed to favour for the majority of his microscopes. The accessory case, however, I have only seen in his early (1840's & 1850's) microscopes. This is a single large drawer with lid mounted on it's side in the main case, similar the style used by Powel & Leyland and Smith & Beck on their most expensive microscopes. In this single accessory case was fitted a stage bullseye condenser, ivory or bone handled spike & scalpel, tweezers, a live box, stage forceps, 4 objectives (one with Lieberkuhn) all of the pre-RMS thread sizes, a quantity of slides and a polariser & analyser set. This accessory set seems to have employed a particularly neat yet simple storage method using an external thread on the end of the analyser tube to fix it to a matching internal thread in the polariser. This saves the necessity for 2 end caps to keep the dust out of the Nicol prisms, The analyser screws into the top of an objective before attaching to the microscope. The poleriser slots under the stage on a dovetailed carrier. The trade label on the inside of the case door has the address as being 13 Cross St., which I would date between 1841 & 1846. However, I understand Dancer was in partnership with Abrahams form 1841 to 1845, so perhaps this was one of the very first microscopes Dancer made after the partnership broke up, dating it to 1846. This is how 13 Cross St. looks this century.
Into the 1850's this next instrument is similar to the one above but the accessory case is fitted out for different applications. The microscope itself is similar in size and has the signed "Y" shaped foot and twin pillar support, the main focus by internal rack & pinion to the main body of the instrument. A lack of sub-stage accessories and the extra lieberkhun would suggest that this microscope was mostly used for viewing solids or over-stage illumination. The case is of the usual high quality polished mahogany with substantial lacquered brass handle and holds the microscope and separate accessory case. This single accessory case is fitted with an ivory or bone handled scalpel, brass tweezers, a live box, stage forceps, a dark ground insert, a locking key and 5 pre-RMS objectives (two with Lieberkuhns). There are a 1/8 and a ¼ button type objectives in brass cans, a 2in. Lieberkhun, a 1in. Lieberkhun in it's brass can and a dividing 1 ½ to ¾ objective in a brass can. The trade label on the inside of the case door has the address as being 43 Cross St., which I would date to the early 1850's.
The next development I had was a similar style of microscope but housed in the multi-drawer case. This seemed to be the next phase in case development as small blind holes had been let into the back of the case door to accommodate the drawer (ebony?) knobs in a very snug fit (or was it just a mistake on the cabinet maker's behalf?). The trade label, now at 43 Cross Street, also had to be moved to the inside left panel of the case to accommodate these holes. Later cases had relatively shorter drawers obviating the need for the holes in the door. This is how 43 Cross St. looks this century, however, I wonder which (if either) of these buildings was Dancer’s premises? As new buildings were going up in Manchester, the numbering of buildings were changed to accommodate more individual addresses in the street. The objectives still had pre-RMS size threads and all the accessories found in the single drawer on previous models were available and fitted in the larger drawers of this case. The other, smaller drawers were mostly fitted out to hold slides on end. It is also interesting to note the workmanship, which must have been invested in Dancer's free-standing bullseye condenser which came with this set. It was a substantial piece. The three-dimensional adjustment was clamped with thumbscrews and the size was in good proportion to the microscope it was to be used with. Another, similar microscope of about the same era came in an identical case except for the absence of the blind holes to accommodate drawer knobs. The drawers on this model were short enough not to interfere with case door. This case had also seen better days. The microscope was similar to the previously described two with the notable exception of the lack of mechanical stage.
This next instrument is similar to the ones above but fitted out for polarising applications. The microscope itself is similar in size and has the signed "Y" shaped foot and twin pillar support, the main focus by internal rack & pinion to the main body of the instrument. The case is of the usual high quality polished mahogany with substantial lacquered brass handle and holds the microscope and drawers for accessories and slides. The main accessory drawer holds brass tweezers, a compressor / live box, a 1/50 ths stage micrometer in brass can, a dark ground insert, a RMS to Dancer objective converter, a Dancer to RMS converter, a pair of polariser and analysers and 3 pre-RMS objectives. These are a 1/8 and a ¼ button type objectives in brass cans, and a 1in. Lieberkhun in it's brass can. The smaller accessory drawer has a sub-stage stop and a cover-correction objective in a brass can. Cover-correction objectives were introduced to be adjustable for the varying thickness of microscope slide cover slips, by different preparers. These were complex and more expensive to make than the standard fixed focus objective, so were not usually supplied in microscope sets, so I deduce this one was an “after market” accessory not fitted into the original case. An un-furnished top accessory drawer contains a couple of later additions for microscopy. The trade label on the inside of the case door has the address as being 43 Cross St., which I would date to the mid. 1850's.
The development of binocular or stereo vision through a microscope was tackled in various ways. The most famous of these being the Wenham prism, almost universally adopted for half a century. Other attempts were made, including a three part prism assembly by Dancer. Compare this with the Wenham prism here. Whereas the Wenham method used a beam splitting prism to allow binocular vision through a second eye tube “grafted” onto the side of a monocular microscope body tube, the Dancer method utilised two body tubes in a true “V” format. Each eyepiece receives the same amount of light from the objective. The Dancer binocular prism method was registered No 4380 June 27th 1861. This particular microscope came to me without case or accessories. It is a large stand at about 18 inches high in use, with the Dancer signature on the heel of the foot. The main focus is rack & pinion and fine focus by thumb-wheel operated nosepiece lever. Inter-ocular separation is by rack & pinion driven by a thumb-wheel either side of the body tubes. The mechanical stage has a rack & pinion with thumb-wheel both sides for fore & aft movement and a single side worm driven lateral control. There is a female bayonet fitting for sub-stage accessories but no accessories present. The classical twin pillars support the assembly above the Dancer tri-form base. Unusually the base has an arc of heavy brass connecting the front two “toes”. Perhaps this stand began life as a monocular and had to have the extra weight added to the front of the base for balance when the heavier binocular tubes were fitted. This is an extremely rare and important microscope. I believe only 14 of this model were made by Dancer, six of which I have been able to track down, mostly in museums.
A fine Wenham type binocular microscope in it's fitted case with a host of accessories, the most popular Dancer instrument. It is a large stand, about 18 inches high in use, with the Dancer signature and number 348 on the heel of the foot dating to about 1869. This is an excellent example of the Large Best or No.1 compound binocular microscope by Dancer. The cast brass equiaxial foot supports the trunions on the limb by way of a pair of turned brass tapered pillars. The Wenham binocular body tubes are focussed by large thumb wheels driving a rack & pinion and fine focus is by nosepiece levered thumb-wheel. Interocular focus is by one thumb-wheel driven rack & pinion to the two eye tubes. The nosepiece houses a shoe containing the Wenham prism and can be slid into or out of the optical axis to provide binocular or, for higher magnifications, monocular vision. The mechanical stage has a rack & pinion with thumb-wheel both sides for fore & aft movement and a single side worm driven lateral control. The stage has a built-in socket for sub-stage accessories. A sturdy brass pillar holds the mirror assembly which comprises a large plano/concave mirror on a “U” type joint. The microscope comes with a host of accessories fitted into the top 3 drawers in the case, including three objectives (¼, ½ cover correction and a 2 inch) in lacquered brass cans, a pair of low power "top hat" type eyepieces for binocular viewing and a high power top hat style eyepiece, a nosepiece polariser, a sub-stage analyser, a general purpose sub-stage condenser with lever operated iris, swing-out filter ring and dark ground stop, stage forceps, a few cover slips and adhesive, forceps and a fine wave plate . A fine set with rare polarising accessories.
This particular microscope also came to me without case. It is a large stand, about 18 inches high in use, with the Dancer signature and number 382 on the heel of the foot and an inscription to the first owner(?), “Arthur Fryer from Fryer, Benson & Forster24th April 1871.” This Manchester company were sugar refiners and patented a process for improving sugar refinement (perhaps the strange finish on the lacquer is due to the atmosphere in the sugar refinery in which it was used?). This is an example of the Large Best or No.1 compound binocular microscope by Dancer. The cast brass equiaxial foot supports the trunions on the limb by way of a pair of turned brass tapered pillars. The Wenham binocular body tubes are focussed by large thumb wheels driving a rack & pinion and fine focus is by nosepiece levered thumb-wheel. Interocular focus is by one thumb-wheel driven rack & pinion to the two removable eye tubes. The nosepiece houses a shoe containing the Wenham prism and can be slid into or out of the optical axis to provide binocular or, for higher magnifications, monocular vision. A Dancer 1 inch objective with can is present. The mechanical stage has a rack & pinion with thumb-wheel both sides for fore & aft movement and a single side worm driven lateral control. The stage has a built-in centring substage, adjusted by thumbwheels, holding a removable wheel of stops condenser. A sturdy brass pillar holds the mirror assembly which comprises a large plano/concave mirror on an articulated arm. In all a very substantial and usable instrument.
THE MANCHESTER FIELD NATURALIST’S BINOCULAR MICROSCOPE “Manufactured by the desire of the Committee of the Society” according to Dancer’s 1873 catalogue. The “society” is now the Manchester Microscopical Society (of which I am a member) and can be found at Manchester microscopical The microscope is a portable Wenham binocular instrument which disassembles to fit into it’s case. It is built on the Ross bar limb style with the Wenham prism mounted in a shoe to slide into the body tube. With the prism in line with the optical axis the microscope works as a low power binocular and with the prism out of the optical axis the microscope is a monocular capable of high power magnification. The microscope takes the RMS standard objectives and has lots of unusual features. Apparently it was offered with either rack & pinion main focus or chain drive. This is chain driven, presumably to reduce weight. Inter-ocular separation is by a simple (lightweight) lever mechanism, and the plain stage has a slide bar. The stage has a central hole threaded to take sub-stage accessories. Below the stage is a plano-concave mirror. The microscope is signed on the foot “J.B.Dancer Manchester” and is numbered “26”. Whilst the inside of the case and drawers are fitted out to take a host of accessories, sadly the only remaining are a higher power eyepiece and a nosepiece analyser.
An antique (economical) Wenham style binocular microscope, engraved on the foot J.B.Dancer, Optician, Manchester in it's mahogany case. The microscope is based on the Ross “bar-limb” design, and has a flat “Y” shaped foot with side plates forming trunions to hold the limb. The main focus is by rack & pinion on the triangular bar, fine focus by limb mounted thumb-wheel long-lever and inter-ocular separation is by simple lever and the Wenham prism is housed in a sliding shoe for both binocular and monocular vision. Even though this is an “economical” type, it still has a thumb wheel operated mechanical stage (the upper surface of which is “engine turned”) with slide bar, a socket to accommodate sub-stage accessories, and a plano-concave mirror. The microscope comes with accessories, including three objectives (¼, ½ and a cover correction 1/5, inch), a pair of low power "top hat" type eyepieces, a live box and a wheel-of-stops condenser. There is a free standing bull's eye condenser fitted into the case and forceps in the drawer. The case has a brass handle to the top, a door with brass hinges and a working lock with key and has two fitted drawers, one for accessories and one for slides. The case also has an unusual Dancer trade label, on the inside of the door, showing Dancer's prize medal achievements and stating that he trades “By appointment to Her Majesty's Commissioners”, dating the instrument to sometime post 1862. A very usable, “no frills”, binocular microscope.
A polarising monocular microscope engraved on the foot J.B.DANCER, MANCHESTER in it's mahogany case. This “bar limb” style microscope has a flat “Y” shaped foot with side plates forming trunions to hold the limb. The main focus is by rack & pinion on the triangular bar, fine focus by limb mounted thumb-wheel long-lever and a thumb wheel operated mechanical stage (the upper surface of which is “engine turned”) with slide bar, the underside of which is threaded to take the sub-stage polariser, and a plano-concave mirror . The microscope comes with several accessories, including five objectives (¼, ½ ,4 inch & two high power dividable button types), two "top hat" type eyepieces, forceps, live box, a sub-stage screw-in polariser and an analyser which (unusually) screws into the back of an objective. The case has a brass handle to the top, a door with brass hinges and a brass plaque to the front elaborately engraved “PRESENTED TO John Riley BY FRIENDS CONNECTED WITH THE DROYLSDEN INDEPENDENT CHAPEL MAY 1875 DROYLSDEN”. This instrument looks to be a dedicated petrographic microscope as the polariser and analyser screw into the instrument and the are no other sub-stage facilities.
A fine antique Wenham style binocular microscope, engraved on the foot J.B.Dancer, Manchester and engraved on one of the side plates A Christmas gift from Joseph Sidebotham, and on the other To Joel Wainwright, 1883, with accessories in a fitted mahogany case. Joseph Sidebotham FRAS, was a prominent member of the Manchester Lit & Phil., a colleague of Dancers and notable Manchester businessman in the 1800's. The recipient of this microscope was a protege of Sidebothams and went on to become a famous author and artist. The microscope is based on the Ross “bar-limb” design, and has a flat “Y” shaped foot with side plates forming trunions to hold the limb. The main focus is by rack & pinion on the triangular bar, fine focus by limb mounted thumb-wheel long-lever and inter-ocular separation is by a single thumb-wheel mounted behind the body tubes and the Wenham prism is housed in a sliding shoe for both binocular and monocular vision. It has a plain stage with sliding over-stage and a socket to accommodate sub-stage accessories, and a plano-concave mirror. The microscope comes with a host of accessories, including three objectives (¼, ½ and a dividing 2/1, inch) in lacquered brass cans, a pair of low power "top hat" type eyepieces and a pair of high power top hat style eyepieces, a sliding over-stage & a live box. The sub-stage accessories are a general purpose condenser with filter ring and lever operated iris and a wheel-of-stops condenser. There is a free standing bull's eye condenser fitted into the case and a wet cell, and forceps in the drawer. The case has a brass handle inset into the top, a door with brass hinges and a working lock with key and has two fitted drawers for loose items. The microscope is in excellent working order with very few cosmetic blemishes.
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