From Globules to The Single Lens- The History of Glasses

Reading glasses have been in use since time immemorial. They are actively used by millions around the world. Glasses not only help people see better but also serve as style statements. To understand how modern-day glasses came into existence, let us examine its brief history.


History of glasses

To this day, the origins of the first reading glasses are unknown. There is, however, proof of Roman literary figure Seneca using water-filled glass globule to read better. The concept then moved to Asia, where monks made use of convex glasses to magnify text.


Mainstream reading glasses came around the 13th century when glass blowers in Venice came up with lenses that were placed inside frames made of wood. They resembled magnifying glasses and were used to read small text.


Widespread belief exists that commercial eyeglasses were first made in Italy by combining two magnifying glasses. These were wrapped using metal or leather and placed over the nose to assist with reading. Subsequently, glasses found their way into art, where paintings depicting monks wearing glasses were popularized in 1352.


These glasses were predominantly used to assist with hyperopia, while the ones for myopia came about post-1400s.

Salvino D’Armate

The first commercial reading glasses were introduced in 1284 by Salvino D’Armate. He brought fourth glasses that could be placed over the nose and helped with reading.


Types of lenses

Concave and convex lenses were popularized in the 17th century. The former was used to rectify nearsightedness, while the later used to fix farsightedness. Bifocal lenses were introduced in 1784 by Benjamin Franklin and are still widely used.



The first frames were introduced in the 1600s and strung together using ribbons. They were used to pull over the ears to keep them in place. In 1730, an optician introduced rigid temples that made glasses stay around the wearer’s temples.



In 1929, Sam Foster invented sunglasses using polarizing filters. These glasses protected the eyes from UVB and IR rays. Sunglasses are a staple in today’s wardrobes and a must wear before stepping out in the sun.


Glasses today

Today, glasses have become practical and extremely versatile. From glass to plastic to metal, frames are made using a variety of materials. Lenses are lightweight and easy to wear.

Magnetic reading glasses are popular, as they are easy to use. All you have to do is to bring the two lenses together and make them snap in place. To detach, simply pull them apart.



As you can see, reading glasses have come a long way, and magnetic ones are here to stay!


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