Catalogue Number: 2839
Shagreen pull-off spectacle case of Chinese origin
Category: Spectacles and lenses
Sub-Category: Spectacle case
Year Of Publication/Manufacture: 19th C
Time Period: 19th C
Place Of Publication/Manufacture: China
Description Of Item: Large pull-off spectacle case made of wood covered in thin metal over which has been stretched a thicker layer of green shagreen (shark skin). The two sections of the case are trimmed with copper and there are additionally copper ornamental embellishments on the top and bottom of the case on both the front and back. A thin leather cord loop (probably not original) is attached to the pull-off top to secure the case to a belt. This looped leather cord may have also been attached to the ring at the bottom of the case with another cord or tassel so the pull-off top did not get separated from the main body of the case.
Historical Significance: The case is quite large when at the time spectacles in Europe were usually quite small. According to the Antique Spectacles website at http://www.antiquespectacles.com/topics/discoveries/discoveries.htm 'In the Far East, spectacles had a different development. They were brought in by Western European merchants and missionaries in the early 15th century. The larger the spectacles the more influential the man since they reflected social status more than a need for vision correction. In Asia, these eyeglasses were attached to the ears by loops of cord; a concept originally noted around 1500 in Spain and called threaded (thread loop) spectacles. Occasionally weights were applied to the end of the cords which then hung over the back of the ears.'
How Acquired: Purchased by Kett Optometry Museum from Graham Geddes, antique dealer
Date Acquired: April 2016
Condition: Good except for the missing cord and some indentations in the surface of the case.
Location: Archive room. West wall. Unit 4 Drawer 5