Smith, Beck & Beck, 31 Cornhill, London, #4375

The Large Best model binocular microscope. c.1866

Smith, Beck & Beck, 31 Cornhill, London, #4375. The Large Best model binocular microscope. c.1866 Smith, Beck & Beck, 31 Cornhill, London, #4375. The Large Best model binocular microscope. c.1866
Smith, Beck & Beck, 31 Cornhill, London, #4375. The Large Best model binocular microscope. c.1866 Smith, Beck & Beck, 31 Cornhill, London, #4375. The Large Best model binocular microscope. c.1866
substage condenser
case microscope in the case
Smith, Beck & Beck, 31 Cornhill, London, #4375. The "Large Best" model microscope. Wood case.
SmithBeck and Beck Large Beck Microscope

Read the description of the Large Best microscope in "The Achromatic Microscope" by Richard Beck, 1865


This microscope is signed on one foot of the tripod base Smith, Beck & Beck, 31 Cornhill, London, #4375. It is an example of the Smith, Beck & Beck "Large Best" or No. 1 model microscope dating from 1866. This was the top-of-the-line model produced by the firm at the time.

The firm was established by James Smith, one of the three premier English microscope manufacturers of the Victorian era (the two others were A. Ross and H. Powell), around 1839. In 1847, Richard Beck became a partner in the firm and was shortly followed by his brother Joseph Beck in 1857. After the retirement of Smith in 1865, the firm was known as R&J Beck.

The microscope is constructed in brass with a bright lacquered surface finish and is about 19 inches tall when set up for use with the draw tubes partially extended as shown in some of the photos. The main focus is by rack and pinion and the fine focus is by calibrated micrometer screw operating on the nosepiece. The interocular separation is adjusted by moving the draw tubes with rack and pinion. The substage is focused by rack and pinion and can accommodate the various accessories supplied with the microscope. The microscope is equipped with a mechanical stage having orthogonal motions. The upper plate with slide holder can rotate in the optical axis. The instrument is supported by double pillars and can rotate upon the tripod base. The accessories associated with the microscope can be identified with reference to the later R. & J. Beck 1882 catalog.

A later example of the Large Best by R. & J. Beck and a later portable version of the microscope are also represented in the collection.

The following was extract from The Microscope and Its Revelations William B. Carpenter, 1856

Large Best

Smith and Beck's Large Microscope.—The general plan of this instrument (Fig. 29) nearly resembles that of the “dissecting microscope” of the same makers, already noticed, so far, at least, as regards the mode of supporting the body, and of effecting the focal adjustments; whilst in the construction of the stage, and in the arrangement of the fittings beneath, it differs from all the microscopes hitherto described. The stage is furnished with the usual traversing movements; but it is distinguished by its thinness; and this is of importance in certain cases, as admitting of a more oblique illumination than could otherwise be obtained, and also as allowing the construction of the achromatic condenser to be much simplified. The platform for the object is fitted upon the traversing apparatus, in the same mode as in the microscope last described, and possesses the same kind of rotatory movement. Beneath the stage is a continuation of the gun-metal limb which carries the body and this is ploughed out into a groove for the reception of a sliding-bar, which carries what may be termed the “secondary body” namely, a short tube (seen beneath the stage), capable of being moved up and down by a milled head, and fitted for the reception of the achromatic condenser, polarizing apparatus, etc. This “secondary body” consequently answers the same purpose as the “secondary stage” of Mr. Ross’s microscope, and its relations to the other parts of the instrument are essentially the same; but it differs in the following particulars:—first, that by being made to work in a groove which is in perfect correspondence with that wherein the principal “ body” works (this correspondence being secured by the action of the planing machine that ploughs both grooves), the “secondary” body always has its axis so perfectly continuous with that of the first, that no special adjustment is needed to “centre” the greater part of the illuminating apparatus ; and, secondly, that the tube will carry the achromatic condenser at its upper end, the polarizing prism at its lower, and the selenite plates between the two, a combination that cannot be made in any other instrument. Moreover, as all these fittings are received into a tube of which the exact size and position are assured, the makers of this instrument can supply additional apparatus at any time, with the certainty of its accurate adjustment. This “secondary body,” however, has not the rotatory movement possessed by Mr. Ross’s “secondary stage” and to the limited class of purposes, therefore, which that movement is adapted to serve, it cannot be adapted. The mirror is hung in the usual way between two centres; but the semicircle that carries these, instead of being at once pivoted to the tube which slides upon the cylindrical stem, is attached to an intermediate arm and by means of this it may be placed in such a position as to reflect light very obliquely upon the object, and thus to bring out a new set of appearances, with which it is very important in certain cases to be acquainted.

A short history of the R. & J. Beck firm

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