Robert Maxwell’s Naval Telescope

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Continuing the theme of telescopes that could have had celebrity owners, or even notorious owners, this is a whopper. It is certainly a naval telescope, bought for use on board ship. The owner’s name, engraved on the first draw, is confirmed to be Robert Maxwell. In fact the engraving says that it was “Made for Robert Maxwell”, and the maker was “W J Cannon (of) 177 Shadwell, London”.

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Since Gloria Clifton’s Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers has date limits of 1550 to 1851, there is no mention of W J Cannon, he was only active after 1851. In fact, the engraving also tells us that this telescope was made in 1863. So while dated beautifully, the Robert Maxwell who used it was long before the Maxwell of Pergamon Press fame. He eventually was disgraced by mis-appropriating the funds from the Mirror Newspaper Group Pension Fund, fell off the back of his yacht apparently (maybe while using a telescope?) and was eventually found drowned, floating in the sea. That was in 1991, He wasn’t really called Robert Maxwell, he adopted that name after arriving in Britain from Czechoslovakia, fleeing from Hitler.

The Telescope itself

 

dscn5032It is very large: indeed it seems to be a little on the ostentatious side. The eyepiece has the Victorian bell shape, and is gilded on top of the brass, as is the sunshade and the objective lens cap, on the far end of the scope. Then surprisingly the cartridge housing, located in the central split of the single draw, is also gilded, as is the one at the eyepiece. The eyepiece has had a knock, and the slider that protected the lens is now missing.

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Closed up, the telescope is 21”, and has an OD of 2.5”. When fully extended the length is 38”. The brass barrel is covered with a sheet of leather, that was once stitched along the seam, but has shrunk significantly, so the seam has split over half the body length, and has left a 0.25” gap over the length of the 15” barrel. This is a shrinkage of only 1.6%, so although it is very noticeable, the shrinkage is very small!

Bought on Ebay in September 2012, accession number 166.

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