A Victorian Ebonised & Brass Optician’s Mirror c.1880

Origin: English
Period: Mid/Late Victorian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1880
Height: 62.75”
Width: 13.25”
Diameter at Base: 10”

The scarce high-Victorian optician’s mirror having a chased brass column with spiralled finial to a rectangular plate with octagonal canted corners, within an adjustable frame, the whole standing on a circular ebonised and draught turned weighted base with gilded highlights to bun feet and surviving in original condition.

The mirror is in sound, attractive and decorative condition. The original plate glass is nicely foxed with an even spread to the whole plate. The adjustable pole with tightening knob is working and there are no losses to report. The mirror frame has been re-ebonised at some stage.

The correction of vision became more important during the 19th century for many reasons: the rise of ophthalmology, changing environments, and fascination with the eye and vision in British culture. This greater awareness and adoption of vision testing in the 19th century led to a corresponding concern of how vision errors could be optimally corrected. Remarkably, spectacles were not always favoured by the medical profession, and patients with eye defects might be subjected to bloodletting by leeches, or purging instead.

During the time this mirror was in use there was an evolution of shopkeeper opticians who sold scientific instruments for an examining nature to becoming professional scientific measurers of refractive error, or ophthalmic opticians. By the late-nineteenth century British opticians had formed into several organisations to promote their own views as to how the business of opticians should be protected. Eventually, in 1895, after much discussion  the profession of optometry was finally born when a group of like-minded opticians formed the British Optical Association.

A rare mirror and a beautiful one at that.