Old microscope slides prepared by Alfred Allen
by William Ells, UK
Over one hundred years ago these slides were prepared by Alfred Allen - 1833-1898. Allen was a founder member of The Postal Microscopical Society (UK) formed in 1873 as The Postal Micro-Cabinet Club, he was then living in Felstead, a small village (1931 census population 1,845) in the County of Essex, south east England.
I have 24 slides in my cabinet labelled 'Felstead' some with Essex in addition, all paper covered. Another, a section of hazel cut Dec. 31st 1891, is not paper covered. The bottom label has been cut; presumably it is an old Felstead label and by that time he had moved to the town of Bath. This latter slide has its hazel section stained red which is still a good colour more than 100 years on, stain unknown.
Most of the slides would have been prepared for their entertainment value, as a pastime, rather than for research, hence their paper covering to make them look as attractive as possible. This must have been quite popular to make it worth the printers while to produce them in different patterns and colours. I have slides by other preparers in a number of different patterns and colours to those shown here.
The slides were reproduced here by scanning which seems to have worked reasonably well with the exception of the black one which has a rather faint pattern in gold. I doubt if anybody will be looking at my preparations in 100 years time. I mostly make fluid mounts which cannot be guaranteed to last long.
Reference; A Century of Postal Microscopy by R.H.Sessions. Microscopy, 32, 225-241. London 1973 published by the Quekett Microscopical Club.
Comments to the author William Ells welcomed.
Editor's note: like Bill I have also found that flatbed scanners can be very useful for preparing good scanned images of microscope slides, both for Web use and for cataloguing purposes. Micscape 'Topical Tips 3' in the on-line library discusses this.
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Published in the October 1999 edition of Micscape Magazine.
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