Pritchard (b. 1804 - d. 1882) was one of the earliest
established commercial providers of microscope slides in London, being in business from the
mid 1820s until the late 1850s. He was primarily known and
highly respected as a skilled instrument maker, microscopist, and optician,
as well as a prolific author. His popular and influential books on optics and microscopy,
published beginning in 1827, are considered by many to have played a
pivotal role in the further development and commercialization of
the microscope. At the same time, they encouraged the popular interest in and
investigation of the
natural world. His books also contained some of the first lists and
descriptions of interesting microscopic objects for study, with
methods for their preparation. A savvy businessman, the books also
inform readers of the fact that various mounting supplies and materials, as well as professionally prepared examples of many
were available from his retail shops along with his microscopes
and other instruments.
name has become associated with several different types of early
commercial slides, including those using red sealing wax in their
and various examples of early "test" slides. Recent research (published over the last dozen years
or so) suggests that, while probably making preparations for his own use and study, Pritchard was
likely not the actual maker of the
many microscopical preparations that bear his name. It does seem rather unlikely that a
successful gentleman of
Pritchard's stature and social standing would have spent long days
toiling at the workbench to produce commercial quantities of slides for
much more probable scenario would be that he contracted with some of
the early London slide makers to provide the inventory he advertised
through his shops. Similarity of handwriting and construction style
to known early examples prepared by W.H. Darker, C.M. Topping and
J.W. Bond suggests that they may have been the slide makers initially
supplying Pritchard during the 1830s, while further developing their own name
recognition and business interests. This
would also explain the wide variation in handwriting that can be seen on
slides bearing Pritchard's name: they would have likely been labeled and
signed with Pritchard's name by the different makers who were actually mounting the preparations for
resale through Pritchard's shop. As regards the
"red sealing wax" method of slide construction, an
interesting excerpt from Prof. John Quekett's 1848
"Practical Treatise on the Use of the Microscope"
concerning slide preparation and "Mr. Darker's Method"
attributes the original development and use of the technique to W.H.
Darker, although Pritchard did describe the method in his anonymously
authored book "Microscopical Objects, Animal, Vegetable,
& Mineral " in 1847.
slides shown below are mostly circa 1830s to 1840s, and while not all
are signed, their construction details using methods that Pritchard
helped popularize, including the use of red sealing wax as an edge seal and
finish, would argue for their inclusion as additional examples of microscopic preparations that might have been sold through his shop.