Monday, July 02, 2007

Microscopes and Paleography

Typically when you visit a manuscript collection, there are microscopes and other tools available to assist with viewing artifacts. I have found it helpful to bring my own microscope on several occasions. Often the provided microscopes are so large that it requires the user to relocate to a position where the tool is bolted in, and there is also the added element of exposing the manuscript to light in order to make the microscope work effectively which may set your curator on edge. Portable magnifying glasses are often of the 2x/5x variety which I find to be too weak to really examine ligatures and ink blots (e.g., these). About a year and a half ago, I did some web research and found that there is a niche market for geological field microscopes which suit paleographic purposes well. There are more powerful microscopes which offer very high resolutions and digitally feed to your computer, but they are very expensive (e.g., here, here, and here). I like my 10x/20x pocket piece which I got here. There are a couple items out from Bausch & Lomb which look like they would be very nice. Their eyeglass loupes are low power (3x7x), but offer hands-free magnification. The company also has a folding three-lens magnifier which is reasonably priced and offers what I think is about the right range of magnification for someone doing paleography. Microscopes.com offers a wide selection of all sorts of tools if you want to look for yourself.

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