Along with the study of antique microscope slides, comes a fair amount of mystery. While there is much about the history of scientific discovery, and the relevant business practices of the time that are well known and understood, much still remains obscure. Many successful and prolific mounters of those times are little known, or completely unknown today, with only their surviving slide output to remind us of their dedication and expertise. Part of the enjoyment of collecting antique slides is the pursuit of historical information concerning them.

This page, "Special Interest" is envisioned as a spot to "compare notes" and possibly further build on the body of knowledge pertaining to antique microscope slides and their preparers, It will feature images of unusual or rare slides sent in by interested collectors, with their questions or comments pertaining to that particular slide(s). Interested parties are encouraged to submit their own slide images, as well as comment via email with information or thoughts on other posted images. These comments or identifications will be added to the appropriate slide image. 

Above, a very unusual example of a Selenite Stage slide by C.M. Topping, useful for enhanced viewing of polarizing specimens.  Note the raised edge built into the slide prior to the cover papers being applied. In use, this slide would have been placed on the microscope stage with the raised edge to the rear. The slide to be viewed would then be positioned on top of it, being retained in place by the raised lip. While standard Topping Selenite slides are frequently seen in collections, this example is extremely rare. (Courtesy of R.C.)
The slides above are all obviously from a set or series of chemical mounts for viewing between crossed polar filters. They appear to have been professionally made, often featuring somewhat unusual chemical compounds. Two bear secondary labels from the T.H. McAllister shop, but none that I have ever seen have a maker's identification. Any further information would be most welcome!

 The image to the left is a photomicrograph of the mount featured on bottom right - showing the finely detailed tissue and capillary structures made visible by Hyrtl's injection and corrosion techniques. 

Shown below (bottom left), a cabinet (c. 1860) with set of 24 rare multi-injected and corroded preparations "Organa Respiratoria" (Organs of Respiration),  mounted by Josef Hyrtl (b. 1810 d. 1894), a highly acclaimed Professor of Anatomy in Prague and Vienna. Each mount consists of the prepared specimen in Canada Balsam between two glass covers held in an ebony wood block. They were mounted for reflected light investigation only, and totaled over 400 different preparations in 17 groups for the entire series. Each mount is labeled on the rear with the appropriate information in Latin (bottom right images, front and back). Featured mount is 5th from top in the cabinet's right hand column.

~ Images courtesy of Mr. B. Davidson ~

Typical Hyrtl ebony wood mount showing the front (top) and labeled back of mount (below). The mounts are all approximately 45mm x 42mm in size.


Our first "Slide of Interest" is from my own collection, being an unusual signed and dated example of diatom mount with a possible connection to Rev. William Smith. Mounts by Rev. Smith are well known, usually bearing only his written or engraved initials W.S. in the bottom left corner of the slides (see the four examples on the "Diatoms" page).

While it is possible that this slide may be signed and dated by Rev. Smith, what I can't determine is the word or designation after "W. Smith,". To my eye, it appears to be "Wrug" or perhaps "Wruy".  I have tried to match to a place name or title, etc., but have not found a suitable answer that makes any sense. 

Mystery Solved! 

The "mystery" word has been narrowed down to Wray, a small town in Lancashire near Hornby. The Whit Moor is nearby. The town is mentioned in W. Smith's  1856 "Synopisis of British Diatomaceae", on pages 21 and 29. Both of those notes mention a Mr. George Smith of Wray as the source. Mr. Smith was a regular correspondent with Rev. Smith, and it is possible it is his signature on the slide It has also been determined that Mr. G. Smith was not related to the Rev. William Smith. Some further information on the area around Wray is here.

I have made an enhanced enlargement of the lettering at the bottom of the slide, presented as the 2nd image to the left. My choice of "r" for the 2nd letter is based on the letter formation of the "r" in April in the date "10 April 1851".