The 23rd of April is World Book Day. And without glasses, many of us would never have been able to enjoy many hours spent poring over a good novel. Whether reading as a kid way past your bedtime in the dim light of the moon or as an adult fixed on the screen of your e-reader, our eyes are put through a lot for the sake of literature. That’s why today, we’re celebrating another story – of the great invention of glasses…
Can you see anything?
In the Middle Ages, this question was probably asked quite often. Until the Arab scholar Ibn al-Heitam (also known as Alhazen) made the ground-breaking discovery in the 10th century that you could see things magnified with the help of a hemispherical lens made of rock crystal. However, it was to take several more centuries before the scientist’s findings were actually applied. It was not until the end of the 13th century, when Ibn al-Heitam’s work “Treasure of Optics” was translated into Latin, that Italian monks developed a so-called reading stone made of the rock crystal beryl – from which, incidentally, the German name for glasses “Brille” is also derived.
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Lenses on a Stick
So, at first, people had to fiddle around laboriously with reading stones. But soon after, the first lenses were inserted into wooden frames by the famous Cristalleri from Murano – the glass-making Mecca near Venice at the time. Glasses were born, even if only as a reading aid for the farsighted (presbyopic). Either way, glasses at that time were only something for the well-to-do – especially since the majority of the population at that time could not read at all anyway.
In the following centuries, the invention was further developed, the lenses were fitted into metal frames, which were either held on a stem as a lorgnon, placed on the bridge of the nose as a pince-nez or clamped in front of one eye as a monocle. Glasses with arms were actually only invented in the 18th century. And short-sighted people also had to wait a long time for relief as concave lenses were not developed until the 16th century.
The Breakthrough of Spectacles
As late as the 19th century, people were still considered weak if they needed to wear glasses. But during the First World War, when those with visual impairment were also to be conscripted, they were prescribed glasses without further ado. It was after the Second World War in 1948 that 33 frame styles were designed as part of free health care for the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. It would be another 35 years before a new design (the 924 ladies frame) was offered in 1983.
Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine your neighbour, best friend, doctor and village butcher all wearing the same pair of glasses on their nose. Instead, we are spoilt for choice between thousands of frames made of the most diverse materials. The technical progress in lens quality is also remarkable. There are varifocals, glasses with blue light filters, glasses for driving, for sports, with UV protection and in almost every shade of the rainbow.
A Real Winning Team
But the most important thing is that glasses are no longer just an aid for people with weak eyes. They are much, much more. They’re the cherry on top of the style sundae, the freshly ground pepper on the steaming plate of pasta – oh, now we’re hungry. Style hunger, to be precise! If you’re a glasses-lover yourself, why not take a look at the menu of our own brand VOOY. Here, the wonderful principle of Buy 1, Get 2 applies – i.e. main course plus dessert at no extra cost. A pair of glasses for the office, one for the park, a sporty pair, a sleek pair, a pair for the workplace and a pair of sunglasses – the possibilities are endless, no matter what type of person you want to be on any given day, what the weather is like, what outfit you’re wearing or what your mood is. We think this is definitely something to celebrate. And Ibn al-Heitam would also jump and dance because his invention brings clear vision and the joy of reading to so many people.