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Shop sign, Europe, 1871-1900

This large pair of pince-nez spectacles was used as a shop sign in the late 1800s. It indicated an optician’s shop or perhaps a spectacle maker. The pince-nez, or nose-pinching spectacles, were particularly popular in the late 1800s – although the design had been in existence for several centuries. As the numbering of houses and businesses was not standard practice until the 1800s, it was common for shop signs to use symbols to advertise their presence and to describe the type of trade carried out on the premises. This sign would undoubtedly have been quite eye-catching to a potential customer walking down the road.

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Glossary: shop sign

Use broadly for signs identifying places of business.

Glossary: nose spectacles - pince nez

Type of spectacles supported by the nose, used to compensate for defective vision. Similar to bow spectacles,they are characterised by a C-shaped metal spring bridge, often fitted with pads, that clips onto the nose. Pinch-nez (nose-pinching from the French) first appeared in the late 19th century and were popular for the next 40 years.

Glossary: pince-nez

A type of spectacle that rests solely on the nose. Translates from French as nose-pinch