USB microscope recommendations for books

In 2023 Amazon has a variety of attractively priced USB microscope models. I would like to get one that would work well with old books, both in terms of its stand or clamp arm, and ability to double as a wider angle full page camera, for scanning and photomicrographing small type sizes. Do any type-folk have experience or advice to share? Which models to avoid, etc? I do most of my work in Windows but do prefer something cross-platform that the OS sees as just another imaging device. I dream of something that can see the sharp edge of the type impression inside the ink spread with the right oblique lighting, etc.


  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,815
    I have a 1000X RoHS USB microscope, but never got around to trying it out because at the time I got it I did not have Windows hardware and I wasn’t able to get it to work on my Mac even running a Windows emulator. As I recall, I got it based on a recommendation from Riccardo Olocco.

    Interestingly, in the recent book Designing type revivals that Riccardo wrote with Michele Patanè, they recommend instead a set up with a digital camera shooting through a loup. There are photographs of the set up in the book, which is highly recommended, and examples of the output.
  • George ThomasGeorge Thomas Posts: 622
    edited February 25
    I use these:
    Celestron Deluxe Handheld Digital Microscope, (44302-C), Grey -- for smallest type up to 10 point. Works very well with Mac Image Capture app.
    Canon A630 PowerShot in Macro mode for 12 point and above. No flash; use a LED light ring designed for microscopes.
    Post-processing in PhotoShop for both devices to make the true edge of type visible.
    I had a fitting made so I can attach either of these devices to an old photo enlarger stand and maintain a fixed distance. The microscope can also be used by hand.
  • John ButlerJohn Butler Posts: 163
    edited March 5
    John, thanks for the book recommendation! I ordered it a week ago, received it yesterday, and just finished reading it. It’s been a while since I devoured a book that quickly. Between it and Frank Blokland’s dissertation, and the advice from you and George here, I expect to save lots of time and headache and dead ends.
  • John ButlerJohn Butler Posts: 163
    edited March 12
    I gambled about $40 on a Plugable brand USB microscope, and flush against the page it’s good enough to capture ten point or so. It comes with a rudimentary gooseneck stand, so inches away it can capture a few lines. Here’s something close to Gutenberg-Gotisch from an old Sammlung Göschen book. The built-in LEDs can be dimmed or turned off entirely, and separate illumination can reveal other qualities in the printing.

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