Jason Clarke Antiques

Early Victorian Rosewood Cased Compound Microscope by JP Cutts Sutton & Son


For sale an early Victorian rosewood cased compound microscope by JP Cutts, Sutton & Son of Sheffield & London.

This rare example, given the dates of the company involved, is quite late for its type and owes an allegiance to the simple compound microscopes of George Adams and his New Universal microscope, W&S Jones’ Improved Compound microscope and Philip Carpenter’s, ‘Improved opake and transparent compound microscope’. The latter two were supremely popular models during the first half of the nineteenth century although the 1830’s saw a huge period of transition and development for the microscope which culminated in the 1850’s with The Great Exhibition and the competition set out by The Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce which sought to open the science of microscopy out to the wider public.

This example aligns very well with those models that were being manufactured by Carpenter from the 1830’s with its folding tripod, articulated base and mirror although this model also incorporates an integral rack and pinion fine focus. The barrel of the microscope with single draw tube is accompanied by six original objective lenses and various other accessories. The whole is enclosed in a superb rosewood case with a blank cartouche to the lid and original crimson baize lining inside.

A very rare, important and complete example of its type.

If the company’s advertising is to be believed, JP Cutts, Sutton & Son was started in 1804 by John Preston Cutts. Cutts was born in 1787 so it is considered more likely that this is the date that Cutts completed his apprenticeship with the Sheffield firm of Proctor & Beilby.

By the early 1820’s, business listings confirm that Cutts was trading in Sheffield but seemed to be involved in activities more associated with the town, such as razors and knife making. Seemingly, a shrewd businessman, during the 1830’s Cutts formed a partnership with James Chesterman and began manufacturing and marketing Chesterman’s inventions, namely the spring loaded tape measure and the self-winding window blind but ahead of all the above, his adverts clearly state that he was a, “manufacturer of all kinds of optical, mathematical and philosophical instruments” at their base on Division Street in Sheffield.

The 1840’s saw the incorporation of Sutton’s sons, William and Henry with the name changing to JP Cutts & Sons to reflect the change and later during the decade, John Sutton joined the partnership which then became JP Cutts, Sons & Sutton. These short-lived arrangements culminated in 1849 with Henry Cutts moving to Buenos Aires and William Cutts moving away to operate a separate business. This final move did not invoke a change to the name but it left both JP Cutts and John Sutton as the remaining partners until the early 1850’s when Sutton’s son James joined the business which culminated in the final name change to JP Cutts, Sutton & Son by which time they were using the title, “Opticians to Her Majesty” and advertising an overseas branch in Pearl Street in New York. No corroboration can be found for this Royal accolade but it must be presumed that the Queen had patronised the firm to some extent during this period. They were not however listed as being exhibitors at The Great Exhibition which would have been the most obvious source for this statement and also a good reason for them creating an overseas premises.

By the end of the 1850’s, both Cutts and Sutton had died, leaving the business under the sole ownership of James Sutton and under his stewardship, the company went on to exhibit at the 1862 London Exhibition where they were noted for their, “well made microscope and telescopes”.

The business continued until its dissolution in 1887.

This microscope is likely to date to the very early period of the partnership of Cutts, Sutton & his son given the style of the instrument and therefore can be dated to the early part of the 1850’s.

Circa 1852.

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