Rowland of Bristol Multi-draw

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This is a delightfully compact six-draw telescope by Rowland of Bristol. Fully extended it is just over 23”, but compressed it only measures 5.25” in length, and 1.5” in diameter. So very easy to carry around in the pocket. The draws are brass, as is the barrel, which has polished brass shoulders, and then a central section which appears to have been coated with a red enamel/paint coating at some time past – much of this has chipped off.

DSC05739The only visible engraving is on the first draw, which says simply “Rowland Bristol”, so does not give any specific date information, in relation to the several generations of Rowland instrument makers in Bristol.

Richard Rowland operated from 50, the Quay in Bristol from 1792 to 1811, when the business changed name to (Richard) Rowland & Sons from 1812-1819. Then the business became “Edward & Thomas Rowland”, the two sons, at the same address (now called Broad Quay) from 1820-1840. Edward Rowland subsequently became the sole owner from 1842-51. The simple ‘Rowland’ of the engraving could honestly have been used in most of these periods, depending on how they wished to be known.

Telescope Design

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Multi-draw telescopes like this, in my opinion, did not appear until around 1820. There was the problem of obtaining supplies of the successively larger tubes needed, both for the draws themselves, but also for the sliders linking them. In addition, the standard four element eyepiece used two cartridges, which needed positioning with quite a large separation. This often meant that the first two draws were both used to support the cartridges, and usually the cartridge at the far end of the second draw had to compress inside the first draw tube, when the scope was folded up. The focus was also achieved by using the second draw moving into the third draw – leading to extra confusion for the user at times.

DSC05746This multi-draw has another, unique approach. The draws are relatively long, such that the second cartridge needs to be positioned half way along the second draw, for optimum performance. So the second cartridge is small enough to fit inside the first draw, except for the rear (ie objective end) lens mount ring. This ring is large enough to be caught by an internal shoulder in the second draw, half way along, which pulls the lens cartridge along into the middle of the second draw, when the scope is opened up. Ingenious!

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The sliding arrangement inside the second draw, to position the lens cartridge

Condition

DSC05745There are a couple of issues with the cosmetic condition: there is some damage to the eyepiece end of the second draw, which has a couple of dents. These can be seen in the photo opposite. Then the barrel paintwork is severely chipped, ie most of it is missing. It would benefit from a leather sleeve: hopefully a picture will follow with such a leather cover.

There is no end cap to protect the objective – this probably existed at some point.  The eyepiece has a rotating cover to seal the viewing window.

Accession number 278.

Re-covered barrel:

Black leather covering later added to the barrel.

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Negretti & Zambra telescopes

Negretti & Zambra has always been a name to conjure with, to aspire to, for me. Maybe because of the exotic name, maybe because they also made aircraft instruments. But regrettably most of their telescope models I have managed to purchase have resulted in disappointment! The first four models have not made it into these pages, mainly because they had problems functioning, ie they did not work well. So, in one last effort, I recently acquired a further N&Z model, of relatively conventional military design: this one also had a good traceable history.

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This new N&Z scope is a relatively standard design in the style of the Telescope Scout Regiment spotting scope of around WW1. It is a three draw all-metal construction, with the barrel being significantly tapered to house a large 2.25” diameter objective lens pair, covered with a sunshade. Whilst the scope is made of brass, this one, made in the 1890s, obviously needed a little bit of ostentation, or bling, so they plated the brass in silver, or a similar coloured coating. That way the scope would appeal to the landed gentry, the officers, who wanted to be seen in the field – and did not want the benefit of any camouflage!

And this telescope did appeal to one such officer and gentleman, his name is engraved on the first draw, and his initials are on the leather case. He was H B Smith-Bingham, and his chosen Regiment was that of the Wiltshire Imperial Yeomanry.

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The Boer War

In one week known as ‘Black Week’ in December 1899, British armed forces suffered three defeats against the Boers in South Africa, which led to the Government calling for troop volunteers to reinforce the regular Army in the campaign. The Yeomanry were supposed to be reserve forces, stationed at home, but a Royal Warrant asked standing Yeomanry regiments to provide service companies of approximately 115 men each for the Imperial Yeomanry, which was formed in South Africa. The Wiltshire Yeomanry provided two companies, which became the First and Second Companies of the First Imperial Yeomanry Battalion: with HB Smith-Bingham they arrived in March 1900.

There were various reports of his activities in South Africa during 1900, and then he was given a passage home in July 1901 on the ship the “Templemore”: he was then quoted to be a Lieutenant, serving with the 13th Imperial Yeomanry.

So the telescope probably saw service during the Boer War in South Africa.

The Wiltshire Yeomanry were formed originally in 1794, and was the first regiment in the British Army to be awarded the title of ‘Prince of Wales’s Own’ (entitling it to wear the Prince of Wales’s feathers as a badge). In 1884, it was placed at the head of the newly formed Yeomanry Order of Precedence by Queen Victoria.

The telescope

The telescope is 81 cms long fully extended, and 26 cms when all closed up. The sliders between the draws have felt linings, to run smoothly on the silver coating. Internally the first draw has two conventional cartridges, with two lenses in each. There are interesting minimal intrusion orifices in the barrel and the first draw, with black lining inside the tubes, to reduce reflections from the walls. There is a winking slider over the eyepiece lens, and the objective lens cap is riveted into the lid of the leather case, which is an interesting approach to not dropping or losing the cap!

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Above all, this one works, and works well. Quite a hefty lump to carry around on a belt, but better on a shoulder strap, or attached to the saddle of a horse. However with the limited field of view it would not be easy to use from horseback….

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This scope was Accession Number 316: bought December 2017, via Ebay. It seemed the supplier had not done any searches on the engraved name history, did not know what era it was from, and listed it in the Ebay section of “Barometers”. So they did not really do the unit justice.

N+Z History

Henry Negretti started work in 1840: he was born in 1818 in Italy, attended the London Mechanics Institute 1834-35, and seems to have been a glassblower and barometer maker, in various partnerships until 1850. Then he teamed up with Joseph Warren Zambra, and was in business at many different London locations, as an optical instrument maker,  until 1879, when he died: but the company continued into the C20th. It closed maybe in 1999, according to Wikipedia. The whole Wikipedia site shows examples of N+Z telescopes, predominantly these show black Japanned draws (the tubes that pull out), as this was their main style.

Three small telescopes: Dollond, Dixey, and A. N. Other

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These three telescopes are all small and easy to carry – they could be described as “Pocket telescopes” but you would need a deep pocket, since they are all around 6” long when folded up. All with three draws, they are the shortest units that can perform reasonably well, without going as far as having a multi-draw construction, a design that gets heavier and larger in diameter in the pocket. All three of these are the same sort of length when extended, 17 to 19 inches.

The interesting part is that these three illustrate several different aspects of design, and span around 120 years in terms of date of manufacture.

  1. The Dixey scope

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So named because it is engraved “C.W. Dixey, Optician to the Queen, New Bond Street, London” on the first draw. Charles Wastell Dixey worked there (at number 3) from 1839-1862 – so the Queen was certainly Victoria – and prior to working on his own he was in partnership with his Uncle George, and supplied George IV and William IV too. Those telescopes were labelled G & C Dixey.

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This scope is of a classic design, with two lens cartridges at either end of the first draw, each with two lenses in the Schyrle-Huygens eyepiece arrangement, which is the format generally adopted for telescopes after 1800. An interesting feature of this design is that the sliders mounting each draw are sized very close, making a good seal on the outside of the smaller tube. So Dixey added air release holes in each draw, to allow the air to escape as the scope is compressed. Because they are a good fit, he did not need to cut the full flap in the slider (that can be tightened using hand pressure) to enable later adjustment, that featured in many earlier designs. However he did make two parallel cuts in the slider on each side, creating a ‘double ended flap’ that can still be squeezed to tighten a little, if needed.

The different feature here is that the scope is all brass in construction, possibly reducing the maximum OD of the unit, compared to a mahogany barrel – it is about 1.25” OD round the Barrel, but 1.375” where the brass raised around the objective area. The outside of the barrel, instead of being leather covered, which became the normal covering later, is brass, with the surface scratched in a fairly irregular pattern, then coloured in a brown shade, to simulate the appearance of wood.

The objective is a dual element lens, in an achromatic combination, held in place using a threaded ring on the inner side. It would appear that originally there was a brass protective cover fitted over the objective, this seems to have been lost. The eyepiece has a captive sliding cover in the screwed on cap. This cap holds the first lens cartridge in place, which is a push fit into the first draw.

Accession Number 238

  1. The Dollond scope

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This Dollond is engraved ‘Dollond London x15’, all in capitals with the angular, heart shaped “O” letters. This dates it to after WW2, maybe in the 1950s. So it is 100 years further on than the Dixey: but still the same style of lens construction. The view through has the same sort of magnification, but the image is much bigger, and appears to give a wider field of view.

This could be down to the larger diameter lenses used in the eyepiece section: the three draws are altogether larger diameter and feel much stronger than those in the Dixey. The barrel of the Dollond is also larger by a little, measuring 1.625” OD. The largest, third draw is 1.375”, compared to the Dixey at 1”.

Where the Dollond scores comes later: it just feels right in the hands and is easy to use. This one has the brass barrel covered in pseudo leather – which is probably real….

Accession number 45 (a long time ago!)

  1. The Other One

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There are no markings engraved on this scope. It appears to be a standard three draw, small scope from the 1800 -1850 period, but is in remarkably good condition. This is maybe because of the substantial felt lined leather case that came with it.

It is a little unusual in that it has a brass barrel, rather than a wooden one, and this is coated with a veneer or similar covering. The surface of this veneer is textured, or roughened, to a sort of matt finish. It also has a sun shade over the objective, a third the length of the barrel, with a side sliding cover assembly over the lens that can be unscrewed. If the scope is used with this lens cover in place, but with the slider open, the diameter of the window opening onto the objective lens is only about 0.75”. The eyepiece cap screws into the top of the first draw, but this has an integral long parallel section, 11mm long, that prevents the first draw pushing further into the barrel.

The Schyrle lens system

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The three lenses in the Schyrle eyepiece design. The two lenses pictured still in the cartridges are there because their threads are too tight and difficult to remove. Both cartridges pictured have external threads on the bottom, to attach to the adjacent brass fittings.

It is inside the scope that the real differences become obvious. This was a real surprise, after the outside looked like a conventional early 1800s design. First the objective is a single lens, not an achromatic doublet. Then there are only three lenses in the first draw, making up the eyepiece assembly. These are equi-spaced, by about 6cms, and the lens closest to the eyepiece cap is in fact at the far end of a 3cms long cartridge, maintaining this large distance between the observing eye and the first lens. Plus there is a ‘Field Stop’ orifice close to this lens, on the objective side. This is a different eyepiece lens system to normal, it is a Schyrle lens system. This was supposed to have not been used after about 1750, since the achromatic objective lens and the Schyrle-Huygens eyepiece then took over. The Schyrle eyepiece was popular from the late 1600s to mid 1700s, and was developed by Anton Maria Schyrleus de Rheita, a Capuchin monk in 1645.

Others, notably Chris Lord, have suggested that Schyrle three lens systems were used on telescopes well into the early part of the C19th: the construction of this scope does seem to bear that out, in that it would appear to be of the style of the early 1800s. The internal connectors between draws are conventional, but close fitting brass to brass, such that there are no cut-outs that can be pressed down to tighten the connections up.

A characteristic of the Schyrle system is that the positioning of the eye along the optic axis is fairly critical, and equally any misalignment of the lenses in the cartridges – for example by cross-threading – makes it difficult to locate the image (ie sometimes it is difficult to use the scope without just seeing a grey blurr!).

The OD of the sunshade on this scope is 1.375”, and the barrel is 1.25”. The third draw is 1” diameter, like the Dixey. But as mentioned above, the window on the objective restricts its open diameter to 0.75”, whereas the Dixey objective lens visible OD is 1.125”, so gathering more light.

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Accession number 211

Conclusion

Three scopes, all very similar in performance, but all with their different features. All are compatible with the Ramsden small scopes from 1790, and the Andy McNab scope from the C20th. It really comes down to which ones are easiest to use and carry!

The Schyrle eyepiece system used in the third model is very unusual. It was seen once before in a James Chapman octagonal telescope in my collection, but this one really did date from the late 1700s. The scope described above looks to be a much later design, and in my opinion dates from the early part of the 1800s, maybe as late as 1840. A similar design of telescope, but one which uses the Schyrle-Huygens eyepiece system with 4 lenses in the first draw, and dates from around 1850, is the John Hewitson unit described earlier.

Hewitson scope (centre)

The Hewitson scope is the smaller, second one down: this photograph shows my first three significant purchases, back in 1992