3-Draw Ramsden scope from 1780

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This is a 220 year old telescope, made by one of the best makers in the Eighteenth Century, Jesse Ramsden, from around 1780-1790. As such it is way ahead of its time, a compact unit with three brass draws, so it would be useful at sea, but also for Officers in the Cavalry, where a smaller size was needed: plus it would have had a good set of lenses, making it optically excellent. Ramsden, who worked for Peter Dollond, was also related to the Dollond family after he married Sarah Dollond in 1766, Peter’s sister: she was the daughter of John Dollond. So he presumably could access the best suppliers, and had free use of the Dollond Patent and other technology.

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The lens fittings in the first draw: only the first and fourth lenses were present.

What we can see here looks really good, but it is lacking three vital components: two lenses from the eyepiece draw tube, and the objective lenses. So there are only actually two lenses still present in this unit. Nevertheless it makes an excellent space model.

It has obviously had some hard times, with the mahogany barrel being crushed at some point, then bound together with varnish, plastic film and a sail-cloth binding. Some of these can be seen in the “Before” pictures during the restoration. The barrel was stripped of sail cloth and other things, glued back together and then polished.

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As received, but after removal of the sail cloth! Showing the crushed mahogany barrel.

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Barrel glued, filled and repolished, with a polished brass end fitting.

Jesse Ramsden

Jesse was born in Salterhebble, Yorkshire, but worked in London for Peter Dollond, George Adams and Jeremiah Sisson, an associate of Nevil Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royal. He started business on his own account in 1763, and had many notable apprentices, including William Cary. By 1772 he was working at 199 Piccadilly, with a workshop at #196. He was appointed FRS in 1786, and won the Copley Medal in 1792. When he died in 1800 his employee Matthew Berge took over the business, working at 199 Piccadilly till 1817.

Other Berge and Ramsden telescopes feature on this website, as the best available at that time. The smaller Ramsdens in my collection were described in an early post, dated 5 February 2014. The closest to this telescope would be the large five-draw Berge (Late Ramsden) posted on 9 April 2014.

Construction

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Re-polished first draw tube, showing the breaks in the tube for the lenses.

The telescope is a classic design of four eyepiece lenses and an objective pair. Before the advent of the lens cartridges the first draw was divided into four or more sections, screwed together to form one smooth OD tube. At each break a lens carrier is inserted: not only do the tube sections have different screw threads, so that they cannot be put in the wrong order, but the lens mounting threads are all different in diameter and/or thread, so that they cannot be inserted in the wrong place.

The 4th lens mount, closest to the objective, has a thread of 7/8”. This is present.

The third lens mount has a thread OD of 13/16”. This is absent.

The second lens mount has a thread OD of 1”: the tube OD is 1+1/16”. This lens is absent.

The first lens mount, at the eyepiece, has a thread OD of 13/16”, but this lens, which is present, is too large to screw into the third lens mount position, so there is no possibility of confusion there.

On many of the pieces that make up this 3-draw scope, the code XV is visible, to identify the drawtubes and mounting adaptors used on the production line. Noticeably one of the mounting flanges for a draw is labelled ‘15’ in ink, ie in a modern number format, so is maybe a replacement in production.

The objective lens assembly, which is absent, would screw through the brass fitting (now ‘only-just’) into the mahogany barrel, with four grub screws: much of the barrel wood has broken away with damage and wear, so only really one grub screw is holding the fitting in place. Interestingly the brass at the other end of the barrel has the same four grub screws, and these screw into an inner brass cylindrical (1/2” long) retaining ring, inside the ID of the wood – it makes for a strong wood sandwich between the brass fitting parts. The thread for the objective lens assembly is 1+13/16” diameter.

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Overall the telescope is 27.5” long when fully open, 9+3/8” when closed. There is no sunshade or lens cap present on the objective – undoubtedly there would have been a lens cap: the eyepiece has a brass slider over the lens aperture. The barrel is 1+7/8” OD, and the draws are 1.25”, 1+3/16” and 1+1/16” OD. Most of the draws feature a location arrow, presumed to indicate the best orientation for the tubes, when the arrows are aligned.

What now?

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The three brass draws, re-polished

Undoubtedly this is now an excellent space model, but it needs three lenses to work: adding these from a C19th spare telescope would not produce the quality needed for a Ramsden scope, even if they were found with the right size, strength and thread patterns. The chance of finding a good C18th lens set to fit, that would not ruin a different telescope specimen, is very small.

It’s still a good Ramsden 1780 telescope space model, and as such has a significant value!

Why do I say 1780, rather than later? First the fact that it has a split draw tube, and does not use cartridges. Second because the engraving on the first draw has the initial letters next to the eyepiece end of the telescope: this was the fashion, or standard, earlier in the 1700s, ie between say 1765 and 1790. After around 1790 the fashion changed, and the signature was on the other side of the telescope. Its not an exact date change, just an indicator – but it makes this scope probably earlier than 1790.

Accession Number #289. Acquired and then renovated in August 2016.

As delivered photos

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The barrel as delivered, covered in sail cloth, over a form of plastic binding.

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The draws on the left are not repolished, as received: the right hand side shows the first draw polished, and the barrel stripped down to the wood and the cracks re-glued.

 

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Large, tapered telescope by Baker

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This large telescope has a long leather-covered metal barrel, with a single brass 6” long focusing tube. The draw tube has several dents and dings, but slides in fairly smoothly: possibly helped by the felt lining in the mounting sleeve. At the eyepiece end it is engraved with

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Baker

244 High Holborn

London

Inside the single draw there are the conventional two cartridges, each holding a pair of lenses. Each cartridge and the draw tube is labelled with a scratched ‘XI’, presumably to identify the set in the workshop.

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The tapered barrel

DSCN4036smallThe barrel has an attractive taper, which goes from 2” OD at the objective end, down to 1.25” OD at the eyepiece end: this is clad in thick brown leather, solidly laced along the length. Whilst it is not too heavy, the tapered tube has a narrow straight tube of maybe half the total taper length inside at the eyepiece end.

Charles Baker worked at 244 High Holborn, London, from 1851–1858: but the Baker business was at this same address, quoted as 244 High Holborn, London WC, from 1859-1878, and 1881-1909. No other names are quoted in this business by Gloria Clifton’s Directory of Scientific Instrument Manufacturers, but by 1895 they were agents for Zeiss and Leitz. So the age of the telescope is difficult to pin down, it is certainly Victorian! The solid construction and good quality of materials maybe suggest mid-Victorian.

The sunshade…?

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The barrel is finished off at each end with a reasonable length of polished brass: at the objective end this should be a sunshade, which you would expect to slide forwards, over the actual lens element. It seems that the bashes to the end of the sunshade, and maybe some sticky cleaning materials or varnish used in the past, have stuck the sunshade in its storage position. So at the moment this part is non-functioning.

Accession Number #284.

Acquired from Ebay in July 2016, value probably £120.

Solomon 6-draw Pocket Telescope

This telescope was a nice surprise for me, as I bought it as a multi-draw with an interesting covering on the barrel, reminiscent of the baleen covering used in Victorian times. It was advertised on Ebay as a five draw pocket-sized scope in a cardboard case, lacking an objective cover.

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Recovering the end-cap

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French text and the lost end cap

The impression on first inspection was that the objective end of the scope had a cylindrical ring round the lens carrier brass section, with four expansion slots – the type used on a slip-over end-cap. It looked like the end-cap sliding side section was stuck on there, with no actual end-cap. Sure enough with some force the side cylindrical section pushed off the objective lens mount.

Looking inside the telescope case the end cap appeared to be stuck down at the bottom of the case. It did not take too much to push this out of the case, and it was then ‘Super-glued’ (rather than soldered) onto the side cylindrical section, to reconstruct the end-cap.

DSCN4012Also inside the case was a soft cushioned end piece, which fitted the eyepiece end of the telescope – so obviously this part of the case was meant to accept the eyepiece, rather than the objective. On the back of the cushioning the words forming the remains of some writing were in French, so along with the appearance of the scope this convinced me that the telescope was actually a French design, probably sold in England. Because it is such a small pocket telescope version, you assume it was sold to a country gent, to be carried in his pocket.

Operational problems?

The disappointment was that the telescope did not work properly, so it needed to be dismantled to see the problem. As with any multi-draw scope, say with 5 draws or more, the focusing eyepiece covers the lengths of the first two draws: so there is one cartridge in the first draw, mounted from under the eyepiece cover, plus a second cartridge carrying one lens at each end, mounted in the objective end of the second draw tube.

DSCN4020.JPGThe cartridge in the first draw was fine, but the second cartridge appeared to be at the end of the first draw. It became obvious that the telescope in fact had a sixth draw, and this draw was very stiff, possibly because it had been distorted. Withdrawing the second cartridge showed that the second, inner lens was missing. This lens was located – it was jammed up the first draw tube, held in place because its own over-sized knurled mounting ring was too big to slide easily inside the first draw, when the scope was fully collapsed. This had possibly led to the distortion of the first draw, and it does appear to be a design fault.

I now have to decide whether to file down the knurling on the lens assembly to sort out this problem. It seems a valid adjustment, and the protruding shoulder (at the right hand end of the left hand lens cartridge in the above picture) has no function. The inner lens mount of the opposing cartridge is the same as the OD of the cartridge: this one is a sliding fit inside the first draw.

Engraved on the sixth draw!

DSCN4013Even more interesting was that there was a supplier name engraved on the first draw, which was “S & B Solomons, 39 Albemarle St, London”. The Solomons were opticians and spectacle makers, and accepted London suppliers of telescopes and microscopes: it is possible that this was an imported French-made pocket telescope, brought in to provide their ‘Landed Gentry’ customers with impressive pocket-sized devices. Albemarle Street is off the Strand in Central London, and Samuel and Benjamin Solomons were operating there from 1840 to 1875, throughout the early Victorian period.

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Once this lens is repositioned, the telescope works extremely well, particularly for such a small device. The OD at the objective is 1.125”, the fully open length 15.5” and the closed length only 4”.

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What about the barrel covering?

The basic original query – as to what the barrel is covered with – remains unexplained. It looks and feels like plastic moulded basket weave. Indeed its construction appears to be that of a woven cane, treated with some black varnish or resin.

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The ring covers the ends of the weave, this one held in place by the retaining flange at the end of the sixth draw.

Accession Number 286. This telescope is now for sale, fully working, priced at £185 sterling.

JP Cutts & Sons Victorian telescope

This is a medium sized telescope in excellent condition from a good maker, with a unique and interesting engraving. A two-draw brass telescope with an oak wooden barrel, not just a veneer on a brass barrel.

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The engraving tells that the maker is J P Cutts and Sons, in Sheffield. They were therefore quite a way from the sea, but maybe close to suppliers of good drawn tube. So it was maybe intended for sporting use, rather than naval use – we can only speculate.

But the engraving also says that the makers were “Opticians to Her Majesty”, which implies to Queen Victoria, because JP Cutts worked from Sheffield from 1822-1841, based in Division Street from 1828 to 1841. They became JP Cutts, Sons, and Sutton in 1851, so this might imply that this telescope was made before 1851. The engraving is interesting, in that the “Her” looks to be a different script than the rest of the engraved letters, so the scope might be dated only just after Victoria’s Coronation, say in 1841, marginally into the Victorian era, and certainly before 1851. So it is over 165 years old.

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Condition

There are only minor dings and imperfections to the draws, but the instrument works as it should. More important when looking at old telescopes, all the screws into the barrel are original, they don’t look like they have ever been unscrewed. All the lenses are in original condition, in my opinion.

Under the sunshade over the objective there at first look to be four air exhaust holes, to aid the telescope action, but in fact these are the recessed screws holding the objective assembly to the barrel.  In fact the barrel extends well forward towards the objective, giving more strength to the objective mount. Maybe air exhaust holes are not needed in medium-sized telescopes.

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Dimensions

The telescope length, when fully opened, is 20.5”: closed down it is 7.5”, so it is medium sized, rather than a pocket telescope. The wooden barrel, which appears to be oak, is in good condition, and 72mm is visible. The sunshade is 70mm externally, and the largest diameter of the scope body is 42mm.

Further Reading

A full description of the J.P. Cutts business, with further examples of their telescopes and microscopes, is given by Brian Stevenson on the webpage microscopist.net/CuttsJP.html. There Stevenson points out that the company later introduced a Trade Mark, including an anchor, using the “TRY ME” brand. He also notes that often the ‘J’ would be written as an ‘I’, although his full names were John Priston Cutts, and confirms the period of JPCutts & Sons as being around 1840-45.

Subsequently, after buying several others with this Trade Mark, I can say definitely that the Trade Mark should say “TRY MF”. This is what appears when the engraving is distinct and readily readable! It has also been seen on a Newton of Halifax branded scope, presumably a J.P.Cutts reseller.

This Telescope has been sold

Acquired earlier this year, this is not my personal preferred style of telescope, so in August 2016 it was advertised for sale on Ebay, for GBP80, UK delivery postage paid. It was then sold within a week.

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Accession number 282.

Shuttleworth – a classic rebuild?

Any aviation enthusiast, and particularly any aeroplane photographer, knows the name Shuttleworth for their marvellous collection and displays of vintage aircraft, at Old Warden. So when you see a telescope, labelled as manufactured by Shuttleworth, it is one not to be ignored, even when only sold for spares!

This Shuttleworth example would be a classic candidate to follow the rebuild route adopted by some old aeroplane restorers, where sometimes it might only be the nameplate screwed onto the airframe that has any link to the original item it is claimed to represent! This telescope comprises what would seem to be the original three brass draws, a mahogany barrel with the two brass ends, still screwed in place with the original screws.

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The Missing Elements

Inside there is one of the two lens cartridges, but without the lenses: the other cartridge is missing, as is the eyepiece end cap. The objective lens pair are both smashed, but still held in place together: the lens holder does not unscrew because of the bent rim, caused by the impact which smashed the lenses.

To replace these five lenses and the objective carrier would seem to be a step too far, the end result would have needed to require the destruction of a decent, complete C18th telescope, and the result would be a mish-mash.

So it is to stay as a space model, a shell, but with many interesting features.

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The Shuttleworth business

Henry Raynes Shuttleworth was an Optician who worked in London from 1760-1797: he had been apprenticed to John Cuff from 1746-7. Two of John Cuff’s other apprentices moved over to work for Shuttleworth, one in 1761, the other in 1769, as following bankruptcy in 1750, John Cuff’s business went downhill, ceasing completely in 1770.

From 1760 Shuttleworth was to be found at “The Sir Isaac Newton & Two Pairs of Golden Spectacles, the Old Mathematical Shop, near the West End of St Paul’s, London”. So that might explain why he did not engrave an address on his telescopes, but just put “Shuttleworth, London”. After 1774 he had an address that then sounded a little boring, in Ludgate Street, London.

From 1788, Henry Raynes’ son Henry Shuttleworth became an apprentice to his father, then taking over the business in 1797 when his father died: he continued trading as an Optician until 1811.

The design features

This telescope is a sophisticated design, following that of the two Ramsden scopes described earlier. The engraving of the name is positioned on what could be described as on the left side, ie you have to move the telescope to your left to read it, which is the old standard.

EDSCN3955ach draw has an arrow, which is taken to indicate how the tubes should be aligned to get the best performance. The air hole in the top of the third draw is to let the air compressed inside the telescope discharge easily to atmosphere.

Of most interest to me are the draw lines on the second tube, where the drawing process that formed the tube has caused a surface imperfection, from either slag impurities or from sticking of the metal to the die? Here I am guessing, maybe someone will explain?

Noticeable on the brass around the objective lens assembly iDSCN3956s a blemish on the surface, where it appears a 4-5mm diameter hole has been filled in, asa repair.

All of the retaining shoulders for the draws are labelled XII, as are the two larger draws: but the first draw, which carries the engraving, is labelled XI…!

There are no marks or letters/words of any identifiable nature on the wooden barrel. There is the normal focus line scribed round the first draw.

Sizing

The telescope, when fully extended, is 22.5″ (lacking the eyepiece), and when closed is 7″. Visible objective lens diameter is 37mm, and overall max diameter 43mm.

Conclusion

The telescope is of a 1780-1800 design and build standard. The directories suggest Shuttleworth were spectacle makers mainly, although they are known and quoted for producing a microscope. All these little blemishes, or inconsistencies, suggest to me that the Shuttleworth operation did not produce many telescopes, maybe only one or two at a time, or maybe even they were bought in, and then engraved with the Shuttleworth name before being sold. Some of the telescope and microscope makers had no retail premises – for example this applied to John Cuff after 1758, so Cuff might well have acted as a general sub-contract manufacturer.

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Accession number 285