Benjamin Franklin Bifocals, suitable for Scrooge or Santa.

A fellow asked me recently about the first appearance of octagonal eyeglasses. He had thought they were an aesthetic mutation of the 1920s which flourished and declined before WWII. This is not so. Octagonal eyeglasses were first seen in Continental Europe early in the 19th Century. Here’s a pair of octagonal frames circa 1850; solid 14k gold eyeglasses, in fact.

They have the added bonus of having bifocal lenses as invented by the legendary American Benjamin Franklin, in which a pair of lenses for nearsightedness and a pair for farsightedness are cut in halves and inserted in the tops and bottoms of the eyewires.

The frame also has contemporary repairs. You’ll note a substance resembling bird droppings where the crank bridge meets the eyewire to your right. This is solder where the two pieces apparently separated.

One could easily imagine these spectacles gracing the face of either Ebenezer Scrooge or Santa Claus. As such you could argue they represent a duality that treads the line between good and evil. I, in turn would counter-argue that they’re simply an interesting pair of antique eyeglasses.

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