Hensoldt Field Glasses

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OK, not really a telescope, but German Hensoldt binoculars

These Hensoldt Wetzlar binoculars were acquired in 1993. At that time I had just started this new passion, acquiring and analysing optical instruments… My son, at 19, had a Saturday job at the Rod Box, a fly fishing equipment shop in Kingsworthy, near Winchester, and one of his workmates, aged over 70, another fly fishing advisor and salesman in the shop, had some interesting binocs, 8 x 30. He had bought these binocs in a shop in Parchment Street, Winchester, in the 1950s, but was interested in parting with them, if they could be replaced by a good modern pair.

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The deal was done, my son swapped some modern Praktica sport binoculars, from Argos, for these old, unknown and uninspected binoculars, for me. When they arrived, they appeared really neat, small, military style field glasses, very like the ones my Dad had in Burma in WW2 – which I have never found. Much fingered and worn on the leather, but not showing any signs of wear or damage.

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Marked “Hensoldt  Wetzlar” on one side, and “Berlin & London” on the other, the base had “Sterior” marked on the centre focussing end stop. But more interesting, on either side at the base the inscription/engraving reads: “Baron Dimsdale” on one side, and “Meesden Manor   Buntingford” on the other. Plus some original, possibly military data markings, engraved on the lower end-plate, reading “N. S. L.  G167”.

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There are other marks, internally: the lens units are stamped 174, and the prisms 271. There is an original factory serial number stamped under the focus bar, which says 1l963: this appears to be the normal place for Hensoldt to mark serial numbers. The second digit looks more like a plain stroke than another figure “1”.

It is perhaps relevant to set the scene for what follows, to suggest that these binoculars probably date from the early 1900s. The markings showing “Berlin & London” suggest that they were produced before WW1. The only ownership information evident is on the leather case, which has an imprint on the base that looks like “Rabjohn  SM”.

Baron Dimsdale

IMG_1267An enquiry to Cambridgeshire CC Libraries found that, despite Buntingford being in Hertfordshire, they were able to tell me that several sons of Robert, Baron Dimsdale, attended Cambridge Uni: one, Charles Robert Southall Dimsdale became Baron in 1898, but died in 1928. He was actually the last to live at Meesden Manor – he was succeeded by his son Edward Charles, and then his son, Thomas Edward Dimsdale. A letter to Meesden Manor in 1995 gained a response from Wilfrid Dimsdale, son of Thomas Edward.

The family is descended from Thomas Dimsdale, an MP and Doctor, who went to Russia in the 1760s, in order to inoculate Catherine the Great’s son against smallpox. The results were a success and Catherine rewarded Dimsdale with £10,000, a pension of £500 per annum, £2000 expenses and a Barony of the Russian Empire.

IMG_1266Meesden Manor was not quite so fortunate. It was acquired by the family in 1833. In the 1900s Thomas Edward was a regular Army officer, serving in India prior to WW2. During the war the area around the house was requisitioned for use as a camp for delinquent allied soldiers, mainly Americans. The house was not used for such, but in 1944 a V1 Flying bomb, aimed at London Bridge, missed, and hit the house. It was finally demolished after the war.

The Binoculars

These are honestly the best conventional binoculars I have ever had the opportunity to look through. They are light, easy to separate and use, and the two images can be separately focussed. They are almost as effective as the Canon image stabilised unit I have now acquired.

The objectives have a clear diameter of 24mm. Marked on the body is presumably the magnification, which is X 8.  The glasses undoubtedly had to have been acquired by the late Baron, who died in 1928: but because of the Berlin & London marking on the body, by the manufacturer, they must have been produced before the start of WW1, somewhere between 1900 and 1914.

Note that they have no stylised trade marking, the words “HENSOLDT WETZLAR” are engraved in normal caps.

These binoculars are currently being offered for sale on Fleaglass.com

Collection accession number #9.

 

A Vintage Dollond, working well!

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This is a three draw Dollond, with a mahogany barrel: the barrel is cracked and has obvious previous damage – but initially it was bought for the spares it might supply. Classed as such, seemingly identical to one other unit, and similar to several others in the collection, it did not warrant much attention initially. But on selling its apparent twin, suddenly this was worth looking at more closely!

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The mahogany barrel cleaned up totally, removing the marks from its long life, apart from the filled area where an impact had been the start of a crack along the wood. The brass fittings have most of their original screws. The three draws, now polished and shining, open smoothly, although two have one dent each, and the first draw has three. The first draw splits twice along its length, at the mounting points of the second and third lenses: the small section near the objective forms the cartridge for the second pair of eyepiece lenses.

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The first draw is engraved “Dollond, London” in script (on the modern side, suggesting a date at the end of the 18th Century), and the end eyepiece cap/cover is missing. Overall length extended is nearly 29”: the outside diameter at the objective is nearly 2”, with the visible lens diameter around 1.7”. The only major screw thread that does not function is the slider joint on the third draw, where it connects to the barrel, but for polishing the third draw can be withdrawn through where the objective lens is mounted. Some of the internal lens mount screws are very tight, and difficult.

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Inside, all the lenses appear perfect, and the sliders forming the joints between the draws have ‘shoulders’. This means that the retention thread is on the objective end of the slider, with the shoulder around an inch separated, making a stronger joint and therefore better, consistent alignment. It probably dates the telescope as after 1780 approx.

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The slider, with the separated shoulders and screw thread

This was a quality telescope, and it still works optically just as well as it did in 1800!

Now given accession number 338, it was acquired back in 2005, in a batch of scopes intended for spare parts only!

This is put up for sale now as a fully working scope, although missing the top eyepiece cover: it should be worth around £150.

Long single draw Ramsden, c1780, under renovation

When a colleague comes back from a seaside trip to Dorset with a couple of high definition snapshots of some old telescopes in a shop window, and one of the sales tickets on a long wooden scope body is visible – saying “Ramsden – needing renovation” – this is quite an event. So the shop phone number was also visible, and first thing Monday the guy confirms that it works OK, and is happy to take a phone order and post it off.

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The single draw and tapered wooden barrel of this design set the style apart from other Ramsden telescopes in the collection – it was obviously earlier in date than 1790, and intended for naval use. In fact the design could perhaps be seen as the fore-runner to the Worthington and Allen scope described earlier in 2018, on this blog: they were the successors to the Ramsden business in the mid 1800s. The W+A unit is bigger diameter, heavy, solid – reflecting the Victorian approach to such things, maybe!

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Ramsden (below) after polishing, cf the Worthington+Allen above

The wood condition looked good, and the need for a coat of wood varnish would easily be satisfied. On arrival the scope was even better than the pics: very light, really easy to use hand-held. The engraving on the first draw – actually the right way round, ie the modern way, compared to the ‘younger’ Ramsden (1790s) and Berge (1800) units in the collection – has possibly been worn down by frequent polishing over the years, and it is difficult to see on the photos.
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Renovation so far has involved sanding off the barrel to gain an even pure wood colour, and then coating with French polish: the black tape round the brass fittings is to prevent the French polish affecting the brass. Actually all the external brass was fairly well polished. The photos of the single draw, with the two cartridges, each holding two of the four lenses in the eyepiece construction inside this draw, show the darker patches at the end normally inside the wooden barrel, and on the rear side of the mounting slider: the draw itself is fine.

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The screws holding the two brass fittings to the barrel look original, and are really stubborn – there is no way these will unscrew. This currently gives a problem, in that the rear face of the objective needs cleaning and the lens holder itself does not want to unscrew. The final cleaning option will have to be a cloth attached to the end of a broomstick! OK, so I used the sophisticated variant, with an optical lens wipe on the end of a broomstick, but it worked well…..

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Subsequently, the brass end pieces on the barrel were carefully machine buffed with polish, which removed some old varnish and new varnish spatters., and the brass shone much brighter. New pics below –

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Description

The wooden barrel is about 24.5″ long, and the wood is probably a medium European hardwood, possibly oak, and not as fine grained as mahogany. The single draw, 27mm diameter, adds another 6″ to the overall length. Max diameter at the objective is 2″/50mm. The engraving says merely Ramsden, London, in script, which is typical.

Lovely telescope, and I believe quite unusual for a Ramsden: now restored, it will go on sale on Fleaglass for £800.

Sales of Telescopes

Sales of telescopes from my collection have started this year, in order to reduce the numbers! Eventually some items will be sent to a museum display, and plans are moving forward with that too. From September 2018 several selected telescopes have been offered for sale on www.fleaglass.com, the website that provides a marketplace for all types of antique scientific instruments.

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Meanwhile, some telescopes have been despatched to collectors in Germany, Israel, Italy, Norway and the USA. As well as a couple in the UK, in exotic locations like Grimsby, Cheltenham and Lancaster! It is of particular satisfaction that some of the named telescopes have been returned to the families or descendants of the original owners, or makers! Other collectors have been able to find useful spares for their own repairs, from my stock of bits, as long as they can describe what is needed adequately for me to understand it!

 

Worthington + Allan tapered scope

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This telescope was bought on Ebay in March 2018, from a guy in Aylesbury. It looked an absolute wreck: I wanted it because the maker, Worthington and Allan, was the partnership that took over the business of Matthew Berge when he died in 1820. Earlier Berge had been apprenticed to, and then taken over from Ramsden: both had made high quality instruments for astronomical observations and also general use. You will notice that some of the best telescopes in this collection have come from Ramsden or Berge, they were an offshoot business from the original Dollond family.

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Nathaniel Worthington had been an apprentice to Berge, at 199 Piccadilly, London, and the partnership with James Allan lasted from 1821 to 1834, located at 196 Piccadilly.  In 1834 Allan dropped out, and Nathaniel continued working under his own name until 1851. So this telescope dates from around 1830, and indeed it has the lens quality and build quality you would expect from such a firm.

The scope is my reference #319.

Description

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The scope has one single draw, and a long, tapered barrel in wood, apparently mahogany. Open it is nearly 80cms long, when closed it comes down to 66cms. On arrival, both of the brass to wood joints at the two ends were loose, basically the grub-screws had rusted away, and the wood around the screws had also rotted, so the holes were too big.

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Also the barrel was sleeved in a fairly badly fitting brown leather cover: the stitching was intact but it appeared to have shrunk by 1cm at each end, compared to what would have been a good fit. This did not appear to be an original part of the telescope, but a subsequent addition – possibly mimicking the metal barrelled telescope designs of the later, Victorian era.

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The major damage visible on this telescope is unusual – the brass mount at the eyepiece end of the barrel has had a major part, maybe an eighth of the circumference, torn out, without making any damage to the barrel wood beneath.

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The single draw has two lens cartridges, one at either end. The engraving on the first draw is noticeably on the “wrong” side of the telescope, as used in the C18th: this was just being phased out finally in the 1820s.

Renovation

The original condition above is shown in the photos from the Ebay description, and there follow some photos taken during the renovation work.

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There was not much that could be done to repair the broken area of the brass fitting: also the screws would not come out, so to secure the brass in place, and prevent the wobble, Superglue was used to fix it to the barrel. At the other end, the objective lens housing used round headed screws that were loose in the holes, so these were removed. New brass screws were fitted, in a different part of the wooden structure.

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The leather cover over the wooden barrel was slipped off, and the barrel paint/varnish removed with sand-paper. It was noticeable that it was a very red varnish, in some ways resembling paint. Another large tapered scope in the collection by Dollond, possibly from this period, also has this red appearance, as does the scope that is named after Jervis: see the links quoted below.  The colour came off easiest with sand-paper at the point that would have been the hand-hold, half way along. The barrel was then coated with French polish, which brought it up with a good mahogany red colouring.

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Barrel during sand paper treatment of the old varnish

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Finished barrel after French polish and wax

All brass fittings were rubbed hard with Brasso, then machine polished, and then polished again with Brasso, so they have nearly recovered to a light brass colour.

Similar scope designs

Some of the other samples of this style of scope are present in the collection: they are prized because they are so easy to use hand-held, like the original Dollond eight sided unit from the 1760s, and because of the long length they have a good magnification.  Ideal for spotting light club aircraft flying overhead.

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The scope that shows the parentage of the design is the Matthew Berge unit, reference #112. This is described on the page

https://telescopecollector.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/single-draw-large-wooden-scope-by-berge/

You will remember that Worthington worked with Berge and then took over the business.

A second similar unit is the Dollond, reference #58, shown on page

https://telescopecollector.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/c18th-dollond-with-tapered-body/

This unit has a split eyepiece tube, giving access to the lenses, a difficult design, but one which enabled the use of a smaller brass tube, which was presumably the best or only style available. There is then the Dollond ref #297, a more recent acquisition, shown on page

https://telescopecollector.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/a-tapered-dollond-from-1770/

Here again the later added leather sleeve was discarded to great effect: it is rather a long scope to hand hold for use spotting light aircraft!

The John Jervis (aka Earl St Vincent, after the major battles that brought Nelson to fame) telescope, also of a similar design, is discussed in the story about telescopes linked to Alresford, where I live: see

https://telescopecollector.wordpress.com/2016/07/22/naval-and-telescope-links-to-alresford/

Another story describes the telescope itself, and the renovation work on that:

https://telescopecollector.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/captain-sir-john-jervis-1735-1823/

The Ramsden telescopes I have tend to be smaller, three draw units: typically they are the only ones I could afford, made by Ramsden, as his models demand a high price, because of the quality. They also are not often seen on sites such as Ebay! These small units are described on this website too.

Original intended use

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No way would this large scope be considered for cavalry or Army use, it is too big anything other than naval/coastguard use, where space and a handy support spar or post would be available to lean against. The magnification is high for a telescope, maybe 30+, a significant advantage when spotting sails on the horizon.

Troughton and Simms nickel-plated scope

This is a telescope by Troughton and Simms, a famous British maker: the name is engraved on the first draw. But equally, as they worked in London over a long period, from 1826 until 1915, it is therefore difficult to date.

In 1788 Edward Troughton came to London from Cumbria, where his father was a farmer, to be apprenticed to his brother John, a scientific instrument maker based at 136 Fleet Street. When John retired in 1804 Edward took over the business, but around 1826 formed a partnership with William Simms, at that same address.  The business became known as Cooke, Troughton and Simms in 1915. This model is likely to date from very late Victorian or Edwardian times, judging by the design and the silver-coloured nickel plating.

Indeed the design is very unusual, in that it has a single draw, from a short barrel. The single draw has a split half way along, which gives access to the second lens cartridge.  The lens quality is what you would expect from such a maker.

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Indeed the objective shows the normal greenish hue of Victorian scopes.  The focus is interesting, the first draw has to be pushed a long way home to bring a sharp image for a long distant object but this has an advantage, in that the telescope can focus on very close objects too, around 2m or 6 feet away.

 

The other real advantage is that the brass body of the scope is plated with presumably a nickel plating, which looks silver.  This does not tarnish like the normal brass used on telescopes, so your hands stay clean and there is no polishing required: I have had this scope for over ten years and it has only ever needed a wipe over with a soft cloth, to keep it clean.

There is a sunshade over the objective. Overall widest OD is 50mm, and length closed is 9” (233mm), fully open it is 17” or 433mm.

Conclusions

NotDSC05827 really conclusions, more guesses! (1) I think this scope dates from the 1880s-90s. (2) It was probably built for, or aimed at, the professional Gentleman’s market: – the man who was a Surveyor, or Landowner. Reasons here are that a military one would not be coloured silver, at least without any leather cladding. A naval one would be bigger when closed, and longer when in use. The silver colour makes it try to show quality. The only drawback here is the size, it is hardly a pocket sized telescope!

This telescope was sold in 2018, to a current member of the Simms family, descended from the William Simms who set up this partnership in 1826. It was my reference #96, originally acquired in 2004.

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Bollemeijer & Brans Dutch telescope

 

DSC05800This is a fairly standard design of large three draw telescope, with an OD of 53mm (just over 2”), and a visible objective diameter of 36mm. But it is labelled on the eyepiece end flange as by Bollemeijer & Brans of Rotterdam – which was why it is of interest, as an example of a Dutch telescope.

The telescope construction is exactly the same as UK built equivalents, with five lens positions, the first draw containing two cartridges with two lenses each. These lenses are each glued into the threaded brass mounts, which are then positioned at each end of the cartridge. What seems to be consistent is that these lenses are nibbled at the edges to fit inside their respective mounts, and this nibbling in most of them is evident and affecting the visible part of the lens.

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Thankfully these slight imperfections do not interfere with the image quality, which is very good.

The extended length of the scope is 728mm, nearly 30”: it is fairly heavy (630gms), with a brass barrel, covered with black leather, which is stitched and seems to be the original. There is an objective lens cap, and a winking eyepiece lens cover. Closed up the telescope length is 245mm.

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As mentioned, the scope works well, but the surprise is that one of the draws has to be pushed home by 50% of its travel to achieve a focus on a distant object. The converse of this is that the close up capability is improved, so that objects as close as around 6 feet, ie below 2m distant, can be brought into focus easily.

The Bollemeijer family business

Grandfather (Opa) Bollemeijer started his optical business in Amsterdam in 1924, with his sons: it is possible that the “& Brans” means “and sons” in old Flemish or Dutch. It seems that from WW2 onwards Bollemeijer and his descendants have concentrated on the supply of spectacles, and no longer also produce instruments: they now are employing the fourth generation in the business, located in Heemskerk, closer to Amsterdam than Rotterdam.

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        he Grandfather on the left, and his two sons on the right, in the original shop in the 1920s         (shown in the centre picture)

Obviously in the 1920s, if he had any business in Rotterdam, Opa Bollemeijer and sons Herman and Joop would have seen the need for supply of optical instruments like telescopes to the ship’s crews passing through this port. The photos from the 1920s of their shop (maybe in Amsterdam) show that they were Zeiss agents, dealing with cameras, perhaps more than working with spectacles. The picture of Herman and Joop shows new films and Kodak cameras on the shelves, and magnifying glasses in the display counter in front of them, which could have been made in the shop. So this all does suggest the telescope itself is probably dates from the late 1920s.

Reference #188

Naval three draw telescope

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This is another medium sized three draw telescope, solidly constructed with brass draws and barrel, but the barrel is decorated and protected with an interesting woven sleeve. The ends of this sleeve are finished off with what looks like a length of rope, but like the sleeve this has no obvious ends, and on close inspection seems to use the same thin wire or nylon cord, wound into the solid structure of the rope. The material is not metallic, so must be something like nylon, but made of six or more strands in a flat band and then woven into the diamond patterned covering.

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This is certainly a man-made woven cover, and not a natural covering like the fishskin or other leather, suede or skin-based coverings often found on older telescopes and instruments. It is obviously very durable, but does not give a further clue as to what use the scope was designed for. It could still be for naval or military (army or cavalry) use, or even for sporting/shooting hobby use.

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The telescope itself is 180mm or 7” long when closed, 42mm diameter, and 460mm long (just over 18”) when fully extended. It has a brass end cap fitting over the objective, and a winking cover that can be used to seal the hole through the eyepiece. There are no marks of engravings on the brass body.

Dating this example is also difficult, but it could be Edwardian or from around WW1.

Reference #300

Liverpool telescope

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This telescope is engraved ‘Wood, Liverpool’ – obviously a maker aiming at customers in the naval market therefore, and a good neat size suitable for a deck officer on-board ship. As such it is the typical size used by ‘Officers of the Watch’ (OOW), at 22” open, but uses three draws, compared to the classic single draw OOW telescope. The advantage of this is that when closed the scope is only 7.25”.

However the design shows that it predates the classic OOW telescope, and was built in the 1800s, ie C19th. First, it uses a wooden barrel, which looks like oak, and this is in very good condition. The brass fittings at the ends of the oak barrel are both secured with three screws, which are modern replacement screws, round headed, but they suit the scope. The originals were probably tiny countersunk screws: obviously these were not quite up to the job, which was fairly normal in the C19th.

The other design feature of note is that the eyepiece is a very square style, fixed to the first draw with three tiny grub-screws. In my opinion this moves the manufacturing date back to around the 1820s.

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Condition

The three draws are in perfect condition, as is the oak barrel. The only real problem in terms of condition is that the fourth lens in the first draw has a crack straight across the diameter, which is visible as you look through, but it does not offset the image seen at all, between the two halves.

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The maker?

The ‘Wood of Liverpool’ is presumed to relate to Benjamin Wood, who worked from 1819 till 1835 in Wapping, next to the docks in Liverpool, and then from 1829 onwards also in Bath Street, further along the dockside. Possibly the business was passed to his son, Benjamin Jasper Wood, who continued working until 1865. From 1847 to 1897 there was a different business that sold telescopes, believed unrelated, run by George Smart Wood, in Prescot Street, Lord St and London Road, amongst other places.

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Pocket Mahogany Telescope

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This is now a beautiful three draw small or pocket telescope, 41cms long when extended, and 142mm or 5.5” when closed. Overall diameter at the objective is 30mm. The barrel has a mahogany outer sleeve, and all the lenses are in good condition. The only things probably lacking are the objective end cap, and the slider in the eyepiece, which many people removed to make the scope easier to use. It works really well – the lenses are very good, possibly implying a good maker in the 20th century.

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This telescope was previously described to be in need of restoration, by the seller, but basically after cleaning the lenses it worked perfectly. There are no significant dents on the tubes – although there is evidence of some damage on the third draw. The barrel outer is a mahogany sleeve, in a thick layer over a metal base tube – which gives the unit good rigidity. This mahogany is too substantial (too thick) to be called a veneer, but it had a crack where the mahogany had shrunk on drying out, presumably. This was filled and stained before re-polishing the barrel, which now shines.

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There are no identifying marks on the tubes, so no makers name. It could date from anywhere between 1850 and 1940, but is probably from the 20th century, mainly judging by the good quality lenses and the good condition.

This one (#317) was sold on Ebay in April 2018, to a collector in Lincolnshire.

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