Intriguing to the somewhat macabre ~ £10,000 microscope slides

This entry was posted on Jul 27 2011
A selection of the slides that sold for £10,000

A selection of the slides that sold for £10,000

A collection of Victorian microscope slides made one of the more unusual lots passing under the hammer at Toovey’s Fine Art & Antique Auctioneers & Valuers Spring Gardens rooms in July. The lot was included in the specialist auction of Clocks, Watches and Scientific Instruments that Toovey’s hold every two months. The exceptional group of over a thousand biological and botanical slides was contained in a twenty-nine-drawer, tabletop cabinet. Subjects captured between glass ranged from the intriguing to the somewhat macabre, with specimens such as blow fly ovary, frog’s lung, flea’s gizzard and various human tissue samples, all neatly labelled and many in colourful, decorative mounts. Collections like this are sometimes referred to as ‘cabinets of curiosities’, a term first applied to the great curio rooms of Renaissance Europe. As interest in science and nature grew during Victoria’s reign and microscopes became increasingly sophisticated, viewing specimens like these became highly popular, not only with professionals but also with middle class families as a source of education and entertainment. A number of companies specialised in sourcing, preparing and mounting interesting samples from around the world to meet the demand. It is now unusual to find such a good collection of slides in near original condition like this, a specialist collector from Bristol travelled to the Sussex Auctioneers’ saleroom to secure the lot for £10,000 against six telephone bidders.