The Model R isn’t as common as many other microscopes of the B&L brand. In fact, significantly older and more professional stands often command far lower prices than the Model R does on the second hand market. It’s commonplace to see the Model R (and similar Gem and New Gem) microscope selling for $120.00 US. This is perhaps on the more reasonable side of things when one considers that while in production the Model R commanded a weeks wages for a common factory worker. Currently, a worker making the US federal minimum wage would need a bit less than a week to afford the microscope and someone earning the median hourly rate in 2018 of $22.13 could afford one after a days labor.
Without looking at the numbers for a great many other microscopes it’s hard to claim the Model R has held it’s value more or less than other stands. One would be foolish to claim it’s due to utility more than rarity without some investigation. Suffice it to say that a Model R makes an entirely serviceable field microscope while a modern introductory stand (even the rare model to make use of a mirror rather than an electric lightbulb) would make a poor companion out in the field. With the Model R there’s no need to carry along the box, or even the foot, simply take the body and a pocket of slips (and cover slips) off to the nearest stream or creek. A drop of water is more than enough to keep the cover in place and one need only point the stage towards a nice white cloud, or even the clear blue sky, for ample light.
Most everything written about the Model R tout it as a simple and sturdy introductory microscope for a child. It’s size seems to support this notation as well. However, when one considers the text with which the microscope came bundled it’s not so clear that the claim rings true. One must acknowledge however, that in decades past the educational recreations permitted youth were, let us be direct, far more complex than those which our litigious permits today.
Dr. Julian D. Corrington’s monograph Adventures with the Microscope was published in 1934 and written while Dr. Corrington was working at another Rochester, NY area institution, Ward’s Scientific. Primarily an educational scientific supply house Ward’s served educators and schools far and wide, as they continue to do to this day. The above book was for all intents and purposes a handbook and companion for the Model R. Throughout the prolifically illustrated text one finds halftone prints of the Model R, Gem, and New Gem (as well as numerous more advanced and specialized instruments). This was a book written for one who would enjoy the use of the Model R at home, and gravitate towards the more costly stands in their time at school.
Dr. Corrington’s book was written in a friendly style that was far more amenable to a complete reading of the text than most other works on the microscope. At the same time one may jump freely between chapters, which are largely centered on the technique to be employed or the object to be observed, without the feeling of having missed out on an important prior section. At some 429 pages (excluding nearly 30 additional pages of appendixes and index) it is as comprehensive a text as one may hope for. It’s a work one might rarely need to exceed in the pursuit of microscopy.
Sadly, Dr. Julian D. Corrington’s Adventures with the Microscope has been out of print for decades and too many who search out an introductory text are apt to find the slim volume of nearly the same title put out by Richard Headstrom, Adventures with a Microscope. The work is still under copyright and is slated to enter the public domain in 2049 (date of the authors death +70 years). It’s telling, I might point out, that a quick search on Worldcat.org shows four universities with copies of the book, all within 60 miles of my home, some 62 in the continental US hold copies. Whomever the target audience of the work may have been at publication, it’s found a home with college level students today.
One day soon we’ll look at some of the exercises from the book and compare them to those in similar texts. -K