Paragon brass binocular microscope
Easily one of the most innovative and practical instruments of its day, the Paragon by Swift can be seen as a pinnacle of perfection in the development of the Wenham binocular microscope. This model stands about 17” tall in its closed position. It features the semi-circular Wale limb that had been introduced by the American, George Wale, on his New Working Microscope in 1879. This limb, also featured in a variation on the famous Ross Radial, allowed the microscope to be easily inclined, even parallel with the working surface, and held firmly in place with a simple twist of the radial knob.
The microscope is signed, “Swift & Son, 81 Tottenham Court Ru., London N.W., Paragon” on its base. The signature and address help to date the instrument to circa 1890. Coarse focus is rack and pinion, fine focus with a knob conveniently placed just below the coarse focus knob (see photo). Eyepiece separation is also rack and pinion controlled. The mechanical stage is equipped with full lateral movement, and circular positioning with a micrometer scale. The substage condenser is uniquely designed, having a variable iris diaphragm, centering knobs, optical elements, an attached nicol prism that swings easily into place, and a rotating filter holder with rotating filters for advanced petrological use. An analyzer slides into place within the optical tube. All controls work perfectly. The mirror is plano-concave, excellent on the plane side, but showing age clouding on the concave side.
The microscope comes with an extensive array of accessories housed in their own mahogany box that stores in the main case. The optical system is comprised of six original Swift lenses in their own brass canisters, three pair of binocular eyepieces, one high power monocular eyepiece, and a camera lucida. Objectives include: ½”, 1”, 1 ½”, 2”, 3” & 4”. The optical system is in excellent operating condition, producing sharp images with good contrast. Other accessories include: a compressorium, live box, stage forceps, two pair of brass tweezers, a brass canister containing an extensive variety of black stops, zoophyte trough, and three filters (blue selenite, ¼ mica, and red selenite) for petrological work (see photo). Also included: two standing lenses -- one a bullseye, the other a double concave. The outfit is stored in its own hand dove-tailed mahogany case with brass carry handle, lock and key, and an inside slide and accessory drawer. The microscope is finished in lacquered brass with a black japanned base. The lacquer coverage is complete and in excellent condition showing only minor age wear.
Swift was at the forefront of innovative instrument design. The Paragon featured here is easily one of the most significant microscopes introduced toward the end of the 19th century. More than just a magnificent display, it remains a practical and usable instrument of exceptional quality.