History of Spectacle Lenses Part II

The Middle Ages (5th century- 15th century)

Around 1000 AD, the spread of "reading stone", magnifying glass made with transparent quartz or beryl, started in Europe among monks to help them read manuscripts. The invention of reading stones was based on the theories of the Arabic astronomer and mathematician Alhazen. Nevertheless, it took two more centuries before the idea of putting lenses directly under the eye clicked.

The fist spectacles, rivet spectacles, seem to have appeared in Italia in the 1260s and were made of two convex lenses, surrounded by two circles of wood, connected by a nail. This first version of spectacle remained not very practical without the use of arms. However, in the Middle Ages wearing spectacles signified knowledge and learning. Painters of the time often included spectacles when portraying famous persons even though they had lived before the time of invention. An Englishman Fanciscan firar Roger Bacon can be associated with the appearance of one of the first spectacles. He commented, "Such an instrument is useful to the elderly and to those with weak sight for they can see better, however small, if magnified enough”. Although some sources claim that Bacon invented the spectacles, this still remains a myth. We still do not know who actually invented the first spectacle lenses.

With the invention of the printing press in 15th century and the growth of availability of books, it prompted the need for practical spectacles among the elderly and the weak-sighted. Soon the mass production of inexpensive spectacles spread, and the spectacles became not only a practical tool, but also a new kind of fashion accessories which triggered further development of spectacle lenses.

A rivet spectacle in wood   A rivet spectacle in metal
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