AO (American Optical) Spencer Microscope Manuals and Catalogs

Ok, what is going on here . . .?

I'm a microscope enthusiast and amateur microscopist, if you will, and the microscopes that I own (OK, that I could afford  :-)  although it would be hard to buy something really better -- they are excellent!) are AO (American Optical ) or AO Spencer microscopes.  Because these instruments all date from the 1950's and 1960's or before, information on them is becoming harder and harder to find . . . so here you go!    

What Are You Looking for?
AO/Spencer Microscope Manuals and Catalogs? Below, on this page -- scroll down.
To Learn A Little AO Spencer History? (Including finding out the date of manufacture of your scope from the serial number) Try Here.
A Reference of AO/Spencer Objectives?  Click Here.
A Reference of AO/Spencer Eyepieces?  See Here.
A Reference of AO/Spencer Bulbs for Your Scope? Right Here. 
Repair Tips for AO Microscopes? Click Here.
Some 'Odd and Ends' Information on AO/Spencer Scopes? Try Here.
Manuals and Catalogs of Other Manufacturers (Zeiss, Leitz, B&L, etc.)? Check Gordon's site Here.  If you happen to have a Zeiss-Jena Microscope then go here.  Leitz Pol microscope info -- don't miss here.  A new resource has appeared for Leitz owners!  Don't miss hereHere is a resource for Olympus microscope owners.
Information on Polarizing, Petrographic, and Geological Microscopes of all brands See Greg McHone's wonderful site here for manuals, catalogs, and guidance on many models and manufacturers.
Advice on Buying a Microscope?  Try Microbe Hunter Here.
Advice on Microscopy and Using Your Microscope?
You should read Micscape every month for fascinating articles on the world of amateur microscopy.   The encyclopedia of all microscope knowledge on the web is Molecular Expressions -- spend some time there if you can.
Many knowledgeable microscope enthusiasts frequent's 'Microscope' forum.  If you need to locate a manual for particular microscope, or just need help with pretty much any microscope related issue, join the forum (it's free!), leave a message, and they often can help or direct you to a source of help. Also visit and query the Amateur Microscopy net which also is frequented by knowledgeable enthusiasts and, as a bonus, contains arguably the best photomicrography found anywhere in the world (professional or amateur!).
Robert Bagnell's 'Light Microscopy', a text for his Pathology 164 course at the UNC School of Medicine, is a very excellent, complete, on-line book on microscopy. Zeiss's 'Microscopy from the very beginning' is another excellent introduction to modern microscopy (note: download the pdf brochure).  
Looking for advice on cleaning your microscope's optics?  First, see the excellent page here.  Remember though that the cement used in microscope optics changed greatly over the years and you should definitely consult the manufacturer's directions in the manual for your specific microscope. The Zeiss document, 'The Clean Microscope', can be found here (download the brochure)).

Again, though, for AO Microscopes, what cleaning agent to use shouldn't be a mystery because recommendations are given by AO in the manuals for your specific scope as found below.

Viewing an excellent online video:  Imaging the Hidden World: the Light Microscope (1984) by Bruce Russell will give you a good idea of what to expect from microscopy as a hobby.  View it!  You'll enjoy it I promise.
"What about books?" someone might ask. 

A.  For microscopy as a hobby in general, you can't do much better than Werner Nachtigall's 'Exploring with the Microscope'.   This book is out of print but there are almost always used, as new, copies for sale either on eBay or from for less than $30.  It really is a 'must have'.

B.  For learning about the microscope and how to use it, and what to buy, etc., in my opinion you can't do better than Dave Jackson's 'Better Microscopy -- Vols 1 & 2 Special Combined Edition' for $22 from   Get it!   No hobbyist (and maybe a professional or two too ;-) ) should be without this book .

C. For the history of the microscope, and lots of insights into why things evolved as they have, Hartley's 'The Light Microscope:  It's Use and Development' is the ultimate resource.  Unfortunately, it is usually very expensive, but watch on . . . sometimes you can find one for less than $50.

D.  Don't miss Robert Bagnells 'Light Microsopy' . .  an online book that is very excellent and quite advanced.

E.  For a very detailed, and expert, look at instruments in use in the 1950s, and early '60s -- an era in which many hobbyists' scopes were manufactured  -- George Needham's 'The Practical Use of the Microscope' reigns supreme.  Look for it on  Used copies can often be had for less than $50.

Note: Many of these files were furnished to me by Robert Tolley, after I had contributed a Darkfield manual and the newer Series 10 manual, who in-turn, received it from others, so I believe that many amateurs have probably contributed to this collection over the years.  I have since tried to add to it as documents or scans have been kindly sent to me, or I have been able to bid on them on eBay. 

 I am searching for an AO Series 2 or Series 4 reference manual, if you have one, please contact me

An AO Series 10 MicroscopeAn AO Cycloptic Stereo MicroscopeAn AO Spencer Series 2 Microscope

1.  The AO Series 10 Manual:

    A.  The 1965 version, in the form of a beautifully scanned pdf, has been kindly contributed by Tom Woods.

    B.   The 1967 version is available at Gordon's site in two parts: part a & part b.   Also this pdf version contributed by Carl Hunsinger.

    C.  The 1969 version is available right here (2.98 MB).   Also this pdf version contributed by Carl Hunsinger. 

    D.  The 1974 version is also available right here (2.52 MB).   Also this pdf version contributed by Carl Hunsinger.

    Note:  The Dual Viewing Adapter Manual is available here.

2.   The AO Series 10 Catalog (3.65 MB).  Also this pdf version of the 1974 catalog kindly contributed by Carl Hunsinger.

3    The AO Series 10 Darkfield Manual (0.65 MB).  Also this pdf version kindly contributed by Carl Hunsinger.  Mickey Makay contributed this earlier pdf version from the 'black scope' era of the 1940's.   Tom Woods also contributed a guide to the condensers and funnel stops.

4.   The AO Series 10 PhaseStar Manual (8.01 MB pdf from

5.   1974- 1975 AO Series 10 PhaseStar Catalog (1.92 MB)  

B. The 1966 PhaseStar Catalog and Price List (courtesy of Gary Bennett)

6.   The AO Cycloptic Manuals: 

A. 1962 Reference Manual (1.64 MB)

B. 1977 Reference Manual (13.96 MB pdf file, courtesy of Eldred Spell.)

C. Cycloptic Dual Viewing Addendum (0.2 MB)

Make sure you read R. Jordan Kreindler's Micscape article on the Cycloptic.

7.   The AO Cycloptic Catalogs and Sales Brochures: 

    A.  The 1956 Catalog, 1956 price list, and a warning letter (again, 1956) about unscrupulous repair services (all courtesy of Tom Woods).   This was the initial launch of the Cycloptic Series.

    B.  The 1962 version (4.20 MB).

    C.  The 1975 version (3.15 MB).

    D. The 1967 version in two parts:  Pages 1 - 19  &  Pages 20 - 36  (both kindly provided by Gary Bennett).  Also this pdf version kindly contributed by Carl Hunsinger.

    E. 1985 Sales Brochure (Reichert), 1985 price list (Reichert), and 1988 Sales Brochure (Reichert-Jung) (all courtesy of Tom Woods)

8.   The AO Series 2 & 4 Catalog (4.64 MB).

9   The AO Series 2 & 4 PhaseStar Manual (1.45 MB)

10. The AO Series 2 & 4 PhaseStar Catalog (0.98 MB)

An AO Spencer Series 35 MicroscopeAO Series 40 Teaching Stereo

11. The Effective Use and Proper Care of the Microscope note: A must read!   

This book was revised and republished over the years as AO Spencer's microscope line evolved.  There are:

The 1941 edition (7.44 MB) Eldred Spell has kindly contributed this edition which features the earlier black scopes such as the Model 33.  
The 1949 & 1954 edition (5.30 MB): These editions are identical (i.e. the 1954 edition was simply re-published from the 1949 edition) and feature the newer black scopes such as the Series 35, Scholar's Microscope, etc. 
The 1956 edition & 1958 edition  (5.40 MB) These editions are identical (thanks to Jason Raitano for sharing scans of his 1956 edition to compare with my 1958 example).  Features the MicroStar Series 2 & 4 'gray' scopes and associated accessories and models.
The 1959 & 1960 editions Rumored versions  . . . I have not seen them to confirm.

Why am I trying to get a copy of multiple versions?  Unreasoned obsession?  No . . . well maybe :-) . . . the reason one might want a specific year is that it contains instructions for a certain range of microscope models.  I believe that during the years above, these are the only 'users manuals' AO Spencer provided for their microscopes.

12. The AO Series 15 & 35 Catalog (1.97 MB)

13. The AO Series 15 & 35 Phase Catalog (1.81 MB)

Also: Directions For Use of Spencer Phase Turret Condenser (For No. 8M Phase Microscope, and No. 15M or No. 35M Medical Microscopes).

14. Dealer's Catalogs:

14a. The AO Blue Book (25.2 MB).  note: It's 208 pages!, but this is a famous publication you should see!  (Note:  Tom Woods contributed this ''errata' sheet from his personal copy of the 'Blue Book')

14b. Similar to the Blue Book, Humboldt State University offers a scan of the 'AO Scientific Instruments Catalog' (circa 1950).  Note: This is an as yet incomplete, but slowly growing, earlier (ca 1950) version of The Red Book in 14c below.

14c. The AO Red Book -- 1955.  Contributed by Dave Jackson.  A famous successor to the Blue Book above in 14a.  

14d. The microscope pages from the 1955 Macalaster Bicknell Company catalog -- a laboratory supply dealer.   

14e. Wallace Kelley and Tom Woods shared this 1929 Bausch & Lomb catalog -- Microscopes and Other Scientific Instruments.

15. I Saw Them Making Microscopes (1.24 MB) note: This is a 20-page 'walk through' of the AO Spencer plant in 1937.

16. The Microscope - Construction, Use, and Care 1926 (6.25 MB)  note: This scanned booklet courtesy of Eldred Spell. Also, Steven Melamut kindly scanned the copy that came with his Duke Medical School Spencer No. 44 scope.  Pdf is here.

17. AO Series 40 Teaching Stereo Catalog (0.67 MB). 

18. AO Series 40 Teaching Stereo Manual (1.63 MB).

18b.  AO Series 40 Dealer Service Manual (6.2 MB)

19. Spencer Medical Microscopes:

A. 1935? (a guess) (0.89 MB)  note: a sales brochure featuring brochure featuring models 13MH and 33MH scopes.

B. 1937 (2.1 MB) note: sales brochure, a few more bits of information added to the above, plus more pictures. 

C. 1955  note: much newer version showcasing the model 15, etc.  (this brochure courtesy of Dave Jackson)

20. Spencer Microscope Accessories (1.91 MB) note: 18 pages long; it seems to be a subset of the AO Blue Book (above).

21. Spencer Lamps (0.94 MB) note: 10 pages long; published Feb of 1935, and describes Spencer Microscope Lamp offerings.

22. Spencer 'How to Use and Care for the Microscope' (1.78 MB) -- 30 pages, most probably from 1910.  Features the Series 45 and 20.

23. Spencer, The Evolution of the Microscope

A. 1938 (3.05 MB) note: This scanned booklet courtesy of Eldred Spell.

B. 1957 (5.30 MB) note: This scanned booklet courtesy of Matt Brin

24. Spencer 1943 'The Use of Polarizing Microscopes (3.52 MB)

25. Three American Microscope Builders, a publication of AO Spencer in 1943 (35MB pdf file), and about microscope builders Charles Spencer, Robert Tolles, and Herbert Spencer.  (note: This document is housed on Eldred Spell's site).

26. Stereoscopic Microscope Reference Manual -- Series 20, 21, 23, 25, 26, 27, and 28.  A 1967 American Optical publication, written by Oscar W. Richards.  note: This document courtesy of Matt Brin.

27. Spencer Research Microscopes, catalog M-66, dated May,1935 and accompanying price list No. 8 note: These documents courtesy of Tom Woods

A very nice 'on-line' AO Series 20 Microscope Manual can be found here, and another one here in pdf format (6.8 MB -- includes the phase manual too).
Looking for AO Series 150 Microscope documentation?   See the manual and the catalog (dated 03/75) in pdf format.    

I also have a  newer, but much smaller, catalog produced under the AO/Reichert name (dated 05/85)  that I can send you if you'd like.

mtarnoff-at-gmail-dot-com kindly contributed more complete pdf manuals for both the AO version and the AO-Reichert version.

Also, see Bill Resch's article on Micscape for an example of refurbing a 150.

I also have scanned images of the following (listed in no particular order).  

Note: for those files without live links, if you send me an email I will email them to you, or at least provide a link to them from this site from which you can download them -- no problem.

Catalogs: Catalogs (cont.): Manuals: Manuals (cont.): Other:
Spencer Lens Co. 1924 Catalog AO Series 10 Fluorescence Catalog AO 635 Camera Reference Manual  Reference Manual: PolarStar Series 2300, N2300, L2300 Reichert 'Principles of Phase Contrast' Bulletin
Spencer Lens Co. 1929 Catalog H10 and H20 FluoreStar Vertical Illum. Catalog AO 682 Camera Reference Manual Reference Manual: AO StereoStar/Zoom (1979) Image of complete AO-Baker Interference Microscope (at Gordon's site - see also closely related manual here)
Spencer Lens Co., ca 1930, announcement of the 'New Low Fine Adjustment' (courtesy of David Rose) AO 10 PhaseStar L10 & H20 Catalog AO Filar Micrometer Eyepieces Manual Parts Manual: AO StereoStar/Zoom (1979) Instructions for the Model 1573 Micro-glide Stage 'F' for Series 60 (courtesy of Eldred Spell)
AO DIC and DICV catalog AO 10 Epi-Lume Catalog AO StereoStar Manual (1975) Reference Manual: AO Spencer Fluorolume Illuminator model 645 Procedure for replacing optics on the AO-Baker Interference Microscope
AO Reichert HB Meter Catalog AO 10 FluoreStar H20 & V20 Catalog Reichert StereoStar Manual (1990) Reference Manual: No. 637 StereoCamera Installation Instructions: Model 44 Transilluminating Base Kit
Reichert Microstar IV Catalog AO Series 20 Catalog AO 10 Dual Viewing Adapter Manual Reference Manual: Photomicrographic Cameras 682, 684, 1070 Optical Alignment Procedure: Single Phase outfit No. 1206PPL for Series 110/120
Reichert Darkfield Colony Counter Catalog AO Reichert 100 Catalog AO Series 60 Manual (pdf kindly furnished by Charles Caylor) Reference Manual: MetalStar 2200 Metallurgical Microscope (courtesy of Jay Stanley) Series 10 & 20: Instructions for using a Miller disc for counting reticulocytes
AO Reichert Water Bath Shaker Catalog AO Series 110 Catalog 'AO ExpoStar Manual' (i.e. Photomicrographic Cameras models 1052F, 1053F, and 1055F Reference Manual) combined with the ExpoStar and PhotoStar catalogs  Reference Manual: Photomicrographic Cameras 1052B, 1053B, 1055B Looking for instructions on reticles?  Look Here
AO Reichert BioStar Inverted Catalog AO Series 110 & 120  PhaseStar Catalog   (1.7MB zip file) AO Series 110 Manual Reference Manual: Photomicrographic Systems for No. 580 StereoStar AO PolStar (Series 110/120) Polarizing Microscope Brochure (6.37 MB pdf from
AO Reichert Product Review Forensic Catalog AO Series 110 Objective Catalog AO Series 120 Manual   AO Preventative Maintenance Check-list
Reichert Hemacytometer Catalog AO Series 150 Catalog AO Series 160 Manual Reference Manual: AO Photomicrographic cameras 679, 680 AO Series 10/20 MicroStar Dual-View Ad and Price List (courtesy of Gary Bennett)
AO Reichert TS-Meter Catalog AO Reichert 150 Catalog TV Camera Adapters for Diastar and Microstar IV -- Cat#'s 1900 and 1900T(courtesy of Jay Stanley) Reference Manual: Series 1860 Industrial Microscope 1967 Series 10/11 MicroStar Price List (courtesy of Gary Bennett)
AO Polanret Catalog AO Reichert 151 Phase Catalog (courtesy of Gene Goldsand) Effective Use and Proper Care of the AO Microtome - 1975 (courtesy of Jay Stanley)  -- 12.6MB pdf file Parts Manual: Series 1860 Industrial Microscope AO Cycloptic Internal Illuminator Ad (courtesy of Gary Bennett)
AO UltraStar Catalog AO Reichert 151 Catalog Effective Use and Proper Care of the AO Microtome -- 1959 (includes models 815, 820, and 860) (courtesy of Stephen Rozak)  -- 16.2MB pdf file Reference Manual: Series 110/120 PhaseStar (courtesy of Eldred Spell) AO Cycloptic Swing-Out Lens Ad  (courtesy of Gary Bennett)
AO ExpoStar and PhotoStar Camera Catalogs, combined with the 'AO ExpoStar Manual' AO Reichert 160 Catalog "Key to Oil and Grease Points on the AO 820 Microtome" (courtesy of Stephen Rozak)  Reference Manual: AO No. 2053 Fluorescence Lampholder (courtesy of Eldred Spell) Duo-Star Comparison Microscope Ad (courtesy of Gary Bennett) 
AO Starlight Microprojector Catalog AO Reichert 310 Catalog Photomicrographic Equipment Reference Manual  (Series 4 era (late '50s) at Gordon's site) Reference Manual: Dual Viewing Teaching Microscopes models DN50, DN60 AO Twin-View Stereomicroscopic Microscope Ad (courtesy of Gary Bennett) 
AO StereoStar/Zoom Catalog (1975, with '75 and '77 price lists) AO 820 Rotary Microtome Catalog AO Cycloptic Photographic Tube Adapter (Model No. 638) Reference Manual (courtesy of Jay Stanley) Reference Manual: TV Camera Adapters Cat# 1056 & 1056T -- Series 110/120 (courtesy of Eldred Spell) Spencer Polarizing Microscopes Price Lists 1945 1947 (courtesy of Tom Woods)
AO StereoStar/Zoom Catalog
AO Orthophot Guide and Catalog (courtesy of Jay Stanley) AO50 Reference Manual (and Parts Manual) AO Cat# 3050 Military Field Scope (3.7 MB zip file) (courtesy of Wallace Kelley) Spencer Dark Field Microscope Brochure (courtesy of Tom Woods)
Reichert DiaStar Catalog 1967 Series 10/11 MicroStar Catalog (courtesy of Gary Bennett) The Spencer Bright-Line Haemacytometer ( 4.84MB zip file)* AO 1152 & 1191 Analyzer Turret & 1153 Polarizer/Full Wave Plate (courtesy of Mike Lafleur)  
AO Reichert Product Review Catalog AO Desk-type Mettalograph (courtesy of Gary Bennett) AO 820 Microtome Reference Manual (courtesy of Melanie Schori)
Instruction sheet for the No. 829 attachment for the AO 820 microtome (courtesy of William Porter)
AO 110 Dealer Service Manual  
AO Utility Microscope Catalog (courtesy of Gary Bennett) AO Photomicrographic Cameras -- models 682 and 1070 Catalog (courtesy of Gary Bennett) AO 45 Dealer Service Manual AO 150 & 160 Dealer Service Manual  
AO Cycloptic Model 638 Photographic Tube Adapter (courtesy of Gary Bennett) 1967 AO Fluorescence Microscope and Illuminator Catalog (courtesy of Gary Bennett) AO 100 Dealer Service Manual AO Stereoscopic Micro 23-25-26-27-28 Reference Manual (from 1969, slim, not a lot of info)  
1967 Stereo Star Zoom Catalog
1967 Stereo Star Price List

(both courtesy of Gary Bennett)
Spencer Polarizing Microscopes Catalog 1946  (courtesy of Tom Woods) AO 100 Reference Manual

"Info from the inside cover of an American Optical 820 microtome serial 18166" (courtesy of Mark Phillips) -- jpg or rtf

Spencer Lens Co. 1896 Catalog (courtesy of Tom Woods and Wallace Kelley) Spencer Lens Co. 1914 Catalog (courtesy of Tom Woods and Wallace Kelley) Reichert Univar Manual (dated 11/1975, courtesy of

William Porter who translated it from German)

Reichert Vertical Illuminator for Incident Light Fluorescence. Models: 2017M, 2071MP, 2017H, and 2071HP (courtesy of Tom Woods)  
    AO Polanret Manual (courtesy of Matthew Dyson)    
*Note: Haemacytometers are useful for counting many types of cells other than blood cells.  See: and/or  Also, a heamacytometer can be used as a very useful stage micrometer
Ever see a Telegraph code in a catalog?!   The 1924 and 1929 catalogs have them:

See the AO Series 10 'dual view' in the Dickies Catalog -- click Here.
Here is an article I wrote for Micscape on adapting a Heine Condenser to an AO Series 10.
What science-minded youngsters dreamt about in 1910 (below) . . . "The handiest, handsomest microscope on the market" 

Ad from the Ohio Journal of Science, 1960, featuring a Series 4 Phasestar on an Ortho Illuminator (courtesy of James Bosley).

The cover of George Needham's 'The Practical Use of the Microscope' -- a very famous and somewhat rare book from 1958 -- features an AO Series 4 set-up for photography.

Looking for the Joseph Leidy Microscopy portal?  Click Here.

Steven Born notes that the 'Smithsonian Instruments for Science 1800-1914' collection has a couple of early AO Spencer related materials.
Central Scientific Company Catalog (1911) Shows pricing and descriptions for Spencer models 36, 40, 66, 70, etc. and some accessories
Spencer Lens Company Catalog (1896) Shows pricing and descriptions for Spencer models 1, 2, 3 -- you can't get much earlier than that!  :-)

A 1937 Spencer Brochure Cover
1937 Spencer Brochure Cover
Back to the P.S. Neeley Personal Home Page
The images, articles, and concepts of this page are copyrighted by P.S. Neeley -- copyright 2004