Skip main navigation

Stereoscopes: hand-held

David Brewster’s lenticular stereoscope was developed by a number of manufacturers. New designs, ranging in price and size, came on to the market.
Stereoscopes Hand Held
© 2016 National Museums Scotland

David Brewster’s lenticular stereoscope was developed by a number of manufacturers hoping to benefit from the huge demand for stereo images.

George Lowden (1825-1912) of Dundee made Brewster’s prototype stereoscope, which no longer survives, but his agent Ebenezer Scott took out a patent on his behalf, for larger eyepieces, seen in the image above.

Here we examine a range of hand-held stereoscopes designs from 1855 to 1900.

Image: Stereoscopic novelty box decorated with floral patterned paper, English, 1856. IL.2003.44.11.84 © Howarth-Loomes Collection at National Museums Scotland
George E Johns, a London box manufacturer, patented the idea of turning simple boxes into stereoscopes by adding lenses to one side, in his patent no. 2486 of 1856. In the image above, you can just see the eye pieces on the left.

Image: Polished wooden box containing two Holmes-pattern stereoscopes and assorted stereographs by Underwood & Underwood, New York, around 1902. IL.2003.44.10.236 © Howarth-Loomes Collection at National Museums Scotland

The polished wooden box above contains two Holmes-pattern stereoscopes (designed by Oliver Wendell Holmes) and assorted stereographs; it was manufactured by Underwood & Underwood, New York. Can you can see how neatly the stereoscopes and stereo photographs all fit in to the box?

Image: Hand-held stereoscope on a stand, HC White’s US patents of 1896, 1896 and 1902. IL.2003.44.10.31 © Howarth-Loomes Collection at National Museums Scotland

This stereoscope – above – features the 1900 World’s Fair medallion in the centre of the hood. It was retailed by Fine Art Photographer’s Publishing Co, London. You can see the stereo image, in place, ready to be viewed through the eyepieces.

Image: Inexpensive metal hand-held stereoscope. IL.2003.44.10.239 © Howarth-Loomes Collection at National Museums Scotland

Above is a simple metal stereoscope, described in Sir David Brewster’s book Treatise on the Stereoscope (1856) as: ‘Japanned Tin Stereoscope, open at sides, front and bottom – 2 shillings and 6 pence’.

Image: Stereoscope, early Claudet binocular stereoscope in purple leather with brass eye pieces, in a fitted case with stereo-cards, stamped in gold by London Stereoscopic Company, London, late 1850s. IL.2003.44.10.5 © Howarth-Loomes Collection at National Museums Scotland

Antoine Claudet (1797-1867) was one of the first daguerreotype practitioners in London, learning the procedure from Daguerre himself. As well as practising the daguerreotype process, Claudet went on to take out a number of patents connected with improving the stereoscope. This one, pictured above, appears to be no. 515 of 1855, which claimed that curved sides prevented internal reflection.

© 2016 National Museums Scotland
This article is from the free online

Stereoscopy: An Introduction to Victorian Stereo Photography

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education