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Medieval Inventions: Eyeglasses

In 1289 in a Florentine manuscript entitled Traite de con uite de la famille, Sandra di Popozo wrote: "I am so debilitated by age that without the glasses known as spectacles, I would no longer be able to read or write. These have recently been invented for the benefit of poor old people whose sight has become weak". Years earlier, Friar Roger Bacon wrote a description of lenses to make letters bigger in his Opus Majus (1268) - so it's clear that the first spectacles were made somewhere between 1268 and 1289. 

More historical evidence for the timeframe is heard in a sermon of a Father Giordano of Pisa who in 1306 pronounced, "It is not yet twenty years since the art of making spectacles, one of the most useful arts on earth, was discovered. I, myself, have seen and conversed with the man who made them first"

He fails to mention the man's name, of course, but the true identity of who first invented spectacles will probably never be known. 

However, we do know that the first artistic depiction of eyeglasses was painted by Tommaso da Modena in his 1352 portrait of Hugh of Provence. The religious scholar is seen with his glasses studiously perched on his nose. Then, as now, the wearing of eyeglasses somehow evoked an air of thoughfulness, and the use of spectacles as a subject detail - in both medieval and early Renaissance painting - would soon come to symbolize a wealth of education and wisdom...

Check out more related resources on the Web:

What Man Devised That He Might See

Eyeglasses History - Wikipedia

What is the History of Eyeglasses?

More Medieval Inventions...


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