Spectacles gallery

 Elkington type bifocal spectacles

The British Optical Association Museum is one of the world's foremost authorities on the history of spectacles. The contents of this online exhibition are the result of several decades of research carried out by museum staff and supporters. The text has been subject to detailed peer review and is constantly revised to reflect the latest scholarship. We believe this is the most reliable history of spectacles available on the web.

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  1. The invention of spectacles

    The invention of spectacles

    How and where glasses may have begun

  2. Rivet spectacles

    Rivet spectacles

    The earliest form of spectacles

  3. Seventeenth century spectacles

    Seventeenth century spectacles

    Eyewear in the 1600s

  4. A bit on the side

    A bit on the side

    The development of spectacle sides

  5. Eighteenth century spectacles

    Eighteenth century spectacles

    Eyewear in the 1700s

  6. The Vickris-Hyam spectacles

    The Vickris-Hyam spectacles

    A special pair of spectacles with a family history

  7. Nineteenth century spectacles

    Nineteenth century spectacles

    Eyewear in the 1800s

  8. Scissor spectacles

    Scissor spectacles

    The cutting edge of eyewear

  9. Quizzing glasses (Quizzers)

    Quizzing glasses (Quizzers)

    A single lens to peer through

  10. Monocles


    A single lens to wear in the socket

  11. Reading glasses and magnifiers

    Reading glasses and magnifiers

    Not what the phrase means today

  12. Lorgnettes and folding eyeglasses

    Lorgnettes and folding eyeglasses

    Spectacles on the end of handles

  13. Twentieth century spectacles

    Twentieth century spectacles

    Eyewear in the 1900s

  14. Dr Dujardin's Luminous Spectacles

    Dr Dujardin's Luminous Spectacles

    Seeing lights

  15. NHS Spectacles

    NHS Spectacles

    Free glasses for all...for a while

  16. Cellulose nitrate spectacles

    Cellulose nitrate spectacles

    Burning glasses!

  17. Driving spectacles

    Driving spectacles

    Put these on your hooter

  18. Twenty first century spectacles

    Twenty first century spectacles

    Eyewear in the 2000s

  19. Sunglasses


    The past wasn't dark