Just mooching around the web looking for Trithemius-related stuff (as you do), I saw a reference to Renaissance “telescopes, microscopes and bezicles” in the first (free) page of Polygraphia and the Renaissance sign: The case of Trithemius, from the Springer journal Neophilologus. I had never heard of “bezicles”, so decided to have a sniff around, see what I was missing.

It turns out that the author meant the (more modern French) “besicles“, meaning ‘spectacles‘ (though people usually say lunettes): there’s a glossary of spectacles terms here. Now: besicles was originally bericles, where the ‘r’ somehow transformed into ‘s’ over the centuries (but you’d have to ask a linguist about this subtle shift). And bericles was in turn from beryl, a “smoke-coloured stone” (according to this fun page on spectacles history) used to grind the lenses from – although pure beryl is colourless, & it is the impurities in it which give it colour.

There’s a bigger article on spectacles in the American Journal of Gastroenterology (yes, really!), though you’d need to pay to read it (boo, hiss).

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