Historical Visual Glasses Designed by Benjamin Martin

Eyeglasses are an area of style that has changed immensely over time as technologies and tastes introduce new trends. At Eyeglasses Warehouse, we carry some of the most unique historical eyeglass styles for wearing, reenacting, and collectors including visual glasses designed and sold by Benjamin Martin in 18th and early 19th century glasses.

For these and other antique eyewear, we encourage you to search our site and check back often as we reclaim more historical spectacles.

About Benjamin Martin’s Visual Glasses

Benjamin Martin was an instrument maker and optician living in London in the mid 1750s. Struggling with his own vision problems, he invented an interesting pair of glasses that he called “visual glasses” or, in some advertisements, “Philosophical Spectacles.” Now collectors also know these glasses as “Martin’s Margins” as they were some of the first to include what is called a margin, or rim, around the lens.

Martin designed his glasses with round lenses surrounded by a rim of horn or tortoiseshell that measured several centimeters thick. The remainder of the frame follows contemporary styles and was made from: 

  • Iron
  • Steel
  • Silver

Martin believed the margin in his glasses would improve vision by blocking excess light to the eye. He wrote several papers explaining his invention, the science behind it, and why wearers should overlook visual glasses’ ridiculous appearance. He also clarified that improved sight was not an immediate effect of the glasses, but one that would come over time with continued wear.

Despite their dramatic appearance, which some customers called “uncouth,” visual spectacles became immensely popular. By the 1760s, they were being worn in America, and continued to do so until at least the early 1800s. Other opticians began imitating Martin’s design to create their own visual glasses as well.

Today, these glasses are a highly sought after item due to their interesting look and fascinating history. Although they were popular, their age makes these glasses rare as few have survived the more than 200 years since their original production, making them more of a collector’s item than daily eyewear.
Eyeglasses Warehouse will occasionally have glasses designed by Benjamin Martin and other historical eyewear from the 18th and early 19th centuries. To be the first to know about antique spectacles as they become available, bookmark this page and check back frequently.