Alphabet Post: Q is for Quizzing Glass

I know this should have gone up yesterday, but going back to work this week has thrown everything off!  Anyway, here’s a fascinating fashion accessory of the 18th and 19th centuries.


The quizzing glass, also familiarly called a “quizzer,” was a fashion accessory used by both men and women for about  a hundred years, from Georgian period thru the mid-nineteenth century, although portraits depict similar devices being worn as far back as the 16th century.

The quizzing glass was a single lens, used to magnify objects and improve the person’s vision, as eyeglasses were unpopular at the time.  In addition to helping with vision, peering at someone or something through the quizzing glass was dubbed “quizzing,” defined by the  Royal Dictionary Cyclopedia of Universal Reference by Thomas Wright, 1865 as  ‘the act of mocking by a narrow examination through a quizzing-glass or by pretended seriousness of discourse.’

Note the quizzing glass around the young lady's neck.

Note the quizzing glass around the young lady’s neck.

Quizzers were worn around the neck on either a chain or a ribbon for ease of use. They were worn not only by those who needed vision adjustment, but by all fashionable ladies and gentlemen who wanted to look “smart.”  They remained a necessity for women until the 1830s when the double-lens lorgnette became more popular.  Men continued to wear the quizzing glass until the early 20th century.

If you’re interested in the lovely fashion accessory, both Historical Hussies and Candice Hern have excellent articles and pictures of the quizzer.

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7 Responses to Alphabet Post: Q is for Quizzing Glass

  1. I love it when characters use quizzers. Shared and tweeted.


  2. Daisy Banks says:

    I love these little extras people used to announce their status to the world. Thanks for sharing.


  3. melissakeir says:

    I can see where these would be helpful but also where people would get the “I want to look smart”.


    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      Well, smart as in “fashionable” rather than intelligent, I think. I know that term was used in Victorian times to mean fashionable. It’s used in The Importance of Being Earnest, where Gwendolyn is called “smart” referring to her dress. At least I hope that’s what I remember. LOL Thanks for coming by!


  4. lizaoconnor says:

    Most interesting. I suppose who could actually read would be ‘smart’ compared to those who couldn’t. If only wearing such around one’s neck could alter their intelligence.


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