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Chest microscope formerly owned by Pope Benedict XIV, Italy, 1701-1730

The high level of decoration reflects the status of this microscope’s former owner, Pope Benedict XIV. This is an example of a chest microscope, which were popular from the mid 1700s and throughout the 1800s. The microscope folds into the chest, which protects the tube as well as making the microscope portable – although this is quite a large example, measuring 395 mm high and 215 mm in width. The lenses are also adjustable in height. The top lens is protected by a brass cover and there is a drawer to store slides.

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Glossary: microscope

Instrument that provides a magnified view of an object being studied usually by optical means. Electrons, X-rays and ultra-violet light can be used instead of visible light

Glossary: microscopy

The use of microscopes to study objects or samples. The three major types of microscopy are optical, electron and scanning probe microscopy.