Looking Backwards: A History of Glasses

Eyeglasses are an important part of our everyday lives. Without them, we couldn’t productively get through out works days, see movies, or drive a car. But when did aiding impaired vision begin? And how long have glasses even been around?

It all started with the idea of magnifying lenses in the second millennium. Beforehand, in ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt, those with failing eyesight called for slaves to help with reading. Then, around 1,000 CE, the reading stone – the first magnifying glass – was invented to ease farsightedness; it rested on the table and was moved around across the page accordingly.


"Reading Stone"The first wearable eyeglasses


Venetians were skilled at producing these reading stones, and in 1286, they actually produced the first magnified lens that could be held up to the eye. Monks and scholars were the primary users of these hand-held glasses, which had round (shout out to you, Turing!) frames with a rivet to shape the nose. The development of bifocal lenses did not appear until the 18th century, when our very own Ben Franklin created a pair for himself.

In terms of the style and popularity of glasses, the style we see today - where the arm passes by the temple and sits on the ears - was not invented until the early 18th century by British optician Edward Scarlett. It was the Spaniards, however, that considered glasses as representative of a more dignified and stylish look. “Pince-nez” glasses - which inspired more current styles - were first created in the 1840s. By the middle of the following decade, eyeglasses were considered a fashion accessory.

"Pince-nez" glasses


Today, eyeglasses still hold their fashionable reputation – and, some say, make you look smarter ;) Find your perfect fit here

In the technology-driven 21st century, glasses can also help mitigate digital eye strain. Felix Gray offers non-prescription, +.25 magnification, and readers to help our those fatigued, dry, and strained eyes.  

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