The World’s Oldest Surviving Pair of Glasses (Circa 1475)

oldest pair of glasses

Above, we have what The On-Line Muse­um and Ency­clo­pe­dia of Vision Aids believes is the world’s old­est sur­viv­ing pair of glass­es. Dat­ing back to the 15th cen­tu­ry, the glass­es belonged to the Eighth Shogun, Yoshi­masa Ashik­a­ga, who reigned from 1449 to 1473, dur­ing the Muro­machi peri­od of Japan­ese his­to­ry. Both the glass­es and their accom­pa­ny­ing case were made of hand-carved white ivory.

Glass­es were actu­al­ly first invent­ed, how­ev­er, in Italy (some say Flo­rence, to be pre­cise) in 1286 or there­abouts. In a ser­mon from 1306, a Domini­can fri­ar wrote: “It is not yet twen­ty years since there was found the art of mak­ing eye­glass­es, which make for good vision… And it is so short a time that this new art, nev­er before extant, was dis­cov­ered.” In the mid 14th cen­tu­ry, paint­ings start­ed to appear with peo­ple wear­ing eye­glass­es. (Take for exam­ple Tom­ma­so da Mod­e­na’s 1352 por­trait show­ing the car­di­nal Hugh de Provence read­ing.) A gallery of oth­er his­toric eye­wear can be viewed here.

via Erik Kwakkel

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