An image of a pair of small glasses with tortoise shell rims. On the left side there is a long handle being held up. In the background, there is a mirror and other beauty items on a table.
Milly Harris' Lorgnette

Country of Origin: Likely England
Year: ca. 1900
Materials: Glass and tortoise shell 

This piece is a type of glasses known as a Lorgnette, which is French for a side long look. These were invented in the 17th century as a form of spectacles for men. During the 18th century, lorgnettes became popular for women, as traditional spectacles were considered unseemly, these could act as an accessory rather than given themselves away as a visual aide.

Lorgnettes were made of various materials including ivory, metal, and tortoise shell, like the one from the Harris collection. They could be a traditional spectacle style, like these, where a pair of glasses was attached to a long pole. This meant that women with visual impairments could bring them to places like the opera or a theatre and observe things, but also remove them quickly if they wanted to look attractive. It was also great for spying on other people quickly and discreetly! Lorgnettes remained popular, especially as a form of opera glasses until the 1950s.


This pair belonged to Milly Harris and was probably used when she went to the theatre, as she often did throughout her life. The frame is made of tortoise shell, and on the foldable handle there is a metal portion. On one side are her initials A.A.H., Amelia Archange Harris. The glasses have a long wooden storage box, which Milly labelled- Tortoise Shell Lorgnettes A.H.