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Some More History Of Glasses & Sunglasses…

Spectacles History: Any More For Any More?

I’ve had a few more driplets of info from old reading around on the history of spectacles and sunglasses sitting here unpublished for absolutely age and todayI’m getting it out there.  For more info on where history and spectacles collide see Spectacles In History in our reference library. Meanwhile…


in the form of flat panes of smoky quartz, were first recorded being used in China in the 12th century (and could have possibly been earlier)  to protect the eyes from glare bright lights. These of course were not “corrective” lenses; they were just for cutting the light.  Or were they?  Another source claims (it was 13thC and) that they were worn by judges to shield thier eyes from being seen by those in court and thus hiding their expression.  Could be…

Glasses or spectacles which corrected poor vision were not around yet and it was over the other side of the world that these first apeared in any recorded history.

(I’ve also read that in the 19th Century syphillis sufferers who had extra sensitivity to light were prescribed tinted lenses.)


Spectacles In The Scriptorium

Spectacles in the Scriptorium

are supposedly invented by Salvino D’Armate in 1284 in Italy. The first picture of eyeglasses is Tomaso da Modena’s 1352 portrait of the cardinal Hugh de Provence reading in a scriptorium.

Another early picture of eyeglasses can be found in an altarpiece of the church of Bad Wildungen, Germany, in 1403.

Modern Glasses ~ Spectacles

and their invention is a subject of debate. In 1676, Francesco Redi, of the University of Pisa, wrote that he had a manuscript of 1289  where the author says that he would not be able to read or write were it not for the recent invention of eye glasses. Redi also produced a a sermon of 1305, where the speaker, Fra Giordano da Rivalto (a Dominican monk), said that glasses had been invented less than twenty years ago (and that he had met the inventor). Redi thus credited Fra Alessandro da Spina of Pisa (another Dominican monk) with the “re-invention” of glasses – after the original inventor kept them a secret.

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