Spectacles: Function and Fashion

Oxford, Museum of the History of Science

A selection from the Museum’s large collection of spectacles, visual devices, and optical instruments, curated by Dr Catherine Karela.

The history of this seemingly simple device goes back to the 13th century.
Monks were among the earliest users of spectacles. As literacy became more common, they were used by a growing public, served by an increasingly commercial trade. From an early date lenses were made which could correct for either long or short sight.
The objects on display cover 4 centuries of developments in spectacles. Although they reflect technical and medical advances, they also bare the mark of more futile traits of the society that was using them.
Ornaments, precious materials, and imaginative design show that spectacles became a fashion accessory as much as a medical device. The 18th century fashion for wigs provided a handy new way of securing spectacles on the wearer’s head and gave rise to the name “wig spectacles”. Accessorising was as important in the 18th century as it is now!

The development of optical instruments tells an interesting story: that two fields as far apart as medicine and fashion, may have overlappings. In fact, it looks like s
pectacles can be both medical and frivolous devices. New technical developments enable new styles, and fashion can act as an incentive for innovation.New Coming Nike Air Max 2018

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