Conrad von Rappard, 1805 - 1881

August Menzel and Company, 1850 - 1851
and Engell and Company, 1851 - ca. 1865
distributed by Schäffer and Budenberg

by Brian Stevenson
last updated December, 2013

Depending upon one’s views, Conrad von Rappard was an escaped felon or a political refugee through the mid-1800s. During that time, he completed a Ph.D. on studies of synapta (sea cucumbers) in Paris, and operated a microscope- and slide-making business in Wabern, Switzerland. Being without legal documentation in Switzerland, von Rappard first named his business after partner and noted biologist August Menzel, then after his wife-to-be Augustine Engell.

Karlheinz Rosenbauer, in his Mikroskopische Präparate, identified von Rappard’s slides. They were covered in black paper with gold patterns (Figures 1 and 2). The slides were generally issued in groups of 24 to 100, and were prepared with numbered circular labels. von Rappard distributed his slides to France, England, Netherlands and probably other international markets, so numbering the slides was more efficient than producing written labels in multiple languages. Each slide series was accompanied with a booklet describing the specimens. These slides are often found today with various handwritten labels, placed there by owners who did not want to continually refer to the manufacturer’s list (Figure 1C). The mounted specimens changed between series changed, probably due to inconsistency of supplies to Wabern. Three different specimen lists, from 1851 through 1854, are illustrated in Figure 11.

In addition, von Rappard produced microscopes (Figures 4-6). A handheld instrument designed for passing around a classroom or salon proved to be very popular (Figures 5-6). Paul Wächter, of Berlin, continued to produce that pattern of microscope into the 20th century (Figures 7-9).

Figure 1. Microscope slides produced by Conrad von Rappard, as Menzel & Co. or Engell & Co. All are standard 1x3 inch (27 x 77mm). (A) Front views. The numbers were attached as circular labels, allowing mass production of the patterned wrapping papers. Unnumbered slides are often encountered, probably due to loss of the gummed number labels. (B) A different, complementary pattern was applied to the slides’ reverse. The edges are covered in plain black paper. (C) Examples of von Rappard slides on which purchasers applied their own descriptive labels. That fact accounts for the wide variety of label and handwriting styles that can be found on these slides.


Figure 2. Smaller slides (5/8 x 2 5/8 inch / 16 x 67 mm) by von Rappard/Menzel/Engell. The lower image shows the pattern of the back paper.


Figure 3. Three standard (1x3 inch) slides with differently-colored variations on the von Rappard/Menzel/Engell paper pattern. The black and the green papers have the same pattern as on the front of the gilt-on-black slides, and the middle, pink slide has the same pattern as seen on the reverse of the gilt-on-black slides. In that von Rappard produced his slides in Wabern, Switzerland, it is reasonable to assume that the papers on these slides also came from that location and that they were, therefore, produced by von Rappard. It is not apparent whether these were produced in a series or for individual sales. The handwritten labels are in English, and so may have been applied by a purchaser. The reverse and edges of the slides are covered with a single sheet of textured purple paper. All three contain specimens for viewing through crossed polarizing filters (polariscope).


Figure 4. An early model microscope by Engell & Co. Engraving from ‘Illustrirtes Lexikon der Gesammten Wirtschaftskunde’, 1854.


Figure 5. Views of surviving School and Salon Microscopes, by Engell and Co. (A and B) Set up as a table-top, drum-style microscope. (C) Set up with a base that firmly held a slide and permitted numerous people to view the same object by passing from hand-to-hand (see Figure 6). (D) Cover for the base shown in panel C. The description notes that lenses were produced by Hartnack, in Paris. (E) All parts fit into a wooden carrying case. Paul Wächter, of Berlin, later modified the focusing mechanism, and sold such microscopes into the 20th century (see Figures 7-9). Photographs generously provided by Drs. Guillermo Crovetto Montoya and Timo Mappes. These and other instruments in their collections may be seen at and


Figure 6. Engravings of the Engel & Co. “School and Salon Microscope”, with the slide-holder attachment that allows the instrument to be focused, then passed from person-to-person. From ‘Das Mikroskop’, by Pieter Harting, 1866.


Figure 7. From an 1882 issue of ‘The Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society’. Paul Wächter (Waechter) appears to have acquired von Rappard’s patent for this microscope. Wächter improved the focusing mechanism. His firm was still producing this instrument in 1906.


Figure 8. From an 1885 issue of ‘The Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society’. The U.S. firm of Queen and Co. imported many of their instruments, so it is very likely that their “Class Microscope” was manufactured by Wächter.


Figure 9. From an 1885 issue of ‘Knowledge’. A 1906 advertisement for Wächter’s version of the instrument used the same engraved picture, suggesting that Wächter supplied this instrument to Theiler & Sons.


Figure 10. Undated of engraving of Conrad von Rappard in mid-life.


Conrad (Konrad) von Rappard was born August 19, 1805 in Unna, Westphalia, Prussia. His father, Konrad Gerhard von Rappard, was an officer of the Court in Potsdam. His grandfather, Johann Konrad von Rappard, was a Royal Commissioner and operator of salt mines and brine works.

Young Conrad studied law between 1823 until 1827 in Berlin, Bonn, Halle, Jena and Heidelberg. He was a member of the Corps Wesfalia fraternity, where participation in mensur-style fencing gave him the facial scars (Schmiss) expected of an educated aristocrat on the rise.

After law school, von Rappard served as a judge in Potsdam, Zehdenick, Poznan and Altlandsberg. He held a judgeship in Altlandsberg until 1842.

In 1838, Conrad married Franziska Richter. They had at least 3 children over the next 11 years.

Likely influenced by his family’s history in mining, in 1842 von Rappard led a consortium to establish coal mines in Brandenburg. A series of mines apparently turned a good profit. In 1850, he purchased the farms and manor of Glambeck.

von Rappard was elected to the Frankfurt National Assembly in 1848. There, von Rappard became involved with many liberal, democracy-inclined politicians. He was part of the 1849 commission that offered Prussian Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm IV the Crown of all Germany. The King refused, insisting that such a crown could only be offered by the Princes of the Germanic states, not by commoners. Following the dissolution of the Frankfurt Assembly in May, 1849, and subsequent rebellions, an arrest warrant was issued for Conrad von Rappard. Forewarned, von Rappard escaped to London. He was tried in absentia, and sentenced to imprisonment.

From London, von Rappard moved to Paris, then Zürich and Wabern, Switzerland. He had signed over his property in Germany to his wife before fleeing. Franziska refused to have anything to do with her fugitive husband, and the couple eventually divorced in 1854. von Rappard’s business partners in Brandenburg were also unwilling to continue associating with him.

In Switzerland, von Rappard made business ventures in mining, hotels and microscopy, the latter a reflection of his growing interest in biology. The Microscopical Institute of August Menzel and Co. was established in Wabern in 1850. The term “microscopical institute” (mikroskopische institut) came to be used by many Germanic microscopists, and meant “microscopy business”, not an institute of higher education. August Menzel and Co. was the first such business in Switzerland. Menzel probably managed the day-to-day operations of the business, as von Rappard was apparently away for much of the next 1-2 years. In 1852, he received a Ph.D. in Paris on studies of synaptae. His research included excursions along the coasts of France, Italy, Holland and England. von Rappard’s interest in marine biology probably accounts for his microscope slides’ emphasis on such animals. Relative to Menzel in Switzerland, von Rappard would have had easier access to sea life during his studies, and was probably the producer of many/most of the company’s slides.

Coinciding with the end of his doctoral studies, von Rappard renamed the business as Engell and Co. in early 1852. Clearly, von Rappard had a strong relationship with Augustine Engell for many years before their marriage. That event took place in June, 1856. Their daughter, Clara, became a noted artist. Her paintings of Conrad and Augustine appear at the end of this essay.

Initial offerings of the microscopy business were series of slides (Figures 1-2 and 11). Microscopes were produced by 1854 (Figure 4). The popular school, salon or demonstrating microscope employed lenses produced by Hartnack in Paris. Presumably, von Rappard or employees crafted the microscopes’ brasswork. As early as 1851, von Rappard contracted with the industrial valve company of Schäffer and Budenberg to distribute his microscopes and slides throughout Europe. Based in Magdeburg, Germany, Schäffer and Budenberg opened a branch in Manchester, England in 1853, and had other branches in Paris, Lille, London, Glasgow, New York, Milan, Zürich, and Hamburg.

Due to failing eyesight, von Rappard gave up the business of microscope slide-making in the mid-1860s. He then devoted the remaining years of his life to developing tourism in the Interlaken region of Switzerland. He was granted a pardon by Kaiser Wilhelm I, in 1871, and briefly visited Germany again. Conrad von Rappard died at his villa in Interlaken on January 8, 1881.

Figure 11. Three early lists of specimens on microscope slides prepared by August Menzel & Co. and Engell & Co. Each list has different contents, probably due to varying access to specimens. The emphasis on marine life reflects von Rappard’s interest in oceanography.


Figure 12. Paintings of Conrad and Augustine Engell von Rappard, by their daughter, Clara von Rappard.



Many thanks to Guillermo Crovetto Montoya and Timo Mappes for providing images of their Engell microscopes.



Archiv der Pharmacie (1852) Description of August Menzel and Company, and distribution by Schäffer and Co., dated July, 1851, page 364

Aus der Natur Notice of microscope slides prepared by Engell and Co., Vol. 21, pages 502-506

Baedeker, Karl (1863) “The Villa Fellenberg at Wabern contains the Microscopic Institution of Engell und Co.”, Switzerland, Williams and Norgate, London, page 122

Bibliotheca Zoologica: Verzeichniss der Schriften über Zoologie, Vol. 1 (1861) Dates and publishers of microscopical object lists from August Menzel and Engell, page 15

Clara von Rappard (accessed November, 2013)

Correspondenz-Blatt des Zoologisch-Mineralogischen Vereines (1856) Descriptions of slides by Engell and Co., Vol. 10, page 100

Frey, G. (1852) Forward and specimen list from August Menzel, dated December, 1851, Die Hartgebilde der Niedersten, Franz Hante, Zürich

Harting, Pieter (1866) Description of the Engell and Co. School and Salon Microscope, Das Mikroskop, Vol. 3, pages 196-197

Henry Heil Chemical Co., Illustrated Catalogue and Price-list of Chemical Apparatus (1906) Picture and price list for Waechter’s Demonstration Microscope, page 321

Jahrbücher der in- und Ausländischen Gesammten Medicin (1857) Notice of microscope slides prepared by Engell and Co., Vol. 93, page 144

Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society (1882) “Waechter’s (or Engell’s) Class or Demonstrating Microscope”, Series 2, Vol. 2, page 398

Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society (1885) “Queen and Co.’s Class Microscope”, Series 2, Vol. 5, page 119

Knowledge (1885) Description and picture of Theiler and Sons’ Demonstration microscope, “new to the English market”, Vol. 7, page 491

Löbe, William (1854) Description and illustration of Engell and Co. microscope, Illustrirtes Lexikon der Gesammten Wirtschaftskunde, Vol. 3, O. Vigand, Leipzig, page 576

Mitteilungen der Schweizerischen Entomologischen Gesellschaft (1880) Obituary for August Menzel, Vol. 5, pages 492-494

Monthly Microscopical Journal (1869) Description of an 1855 French list of slides by Engell and Co., Vol. 1, pages 74-75

Natuurkundig Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch-Indië (1856) Descriptions of slides by Engell and Co., Vol. 11, pages 488-489

Official Catalogue, Exhibition of the German Empire (1900) Schäffer & Budenberg, pages 162-163

Rade, Karl (1851) Descriptions of slides by August Menzel and Co., Pädagogischer Jahresbericht für Deutschlands Holtschullehrer, Vol. 5, F. Brandstetter, Leipzig, page 295

Rade, Karl (1854) Descriptions of slides by Engell and Co., Pädagogischer Jahresbericht von 1853 für Deutschlands Holtschullehrer, Vol. 8, F. Brandstetter, Leipzig, pages 220-223

Regel, Eduard (1865) “Das mikroskopische Institut von Engell & Comp, früher Menzel & Comp.”, Gartenflora Deutschlands und der Schweiz, Vol. 14, Ferdinand Enke, Erlangen, page 94

Rosenbauer, Karlheinz A. (2003) Schäffer & Budenberg, in Mikroskopische Präparate, Vol. 1, pages 80-83

Verhandlungen des Naturhistorischen Vereines der Preussischen Rheinland und Westphalens (1854) Descriptions of slides by Engell and Co., Volume 11, pages 33-37

Wille, Klaus-Dieter (2004) Conrad von Rappard: Life stages of a Westphalia nobleman between Brandenburg and Switzerland, translated into English from The Herold, Vol. 16,


Pictures of Engell and Wächter microscopes: