A Massive Multi-draw – by Richardson

This was a relatively recent purchase, July 2019 on Ebay, from a Hospice Charity, and quoted to be not working. That is a much better phrase than the more usual “lens missing” or “lens broken” damage report, so it sounded like a repair was possible. In addition the scope was a good length, at 28.5″, with a 45mm objective.

The basic structure looked good, with eight brass draws, a barrel covered in something like paint, and a name engraved as G Richardson, St Catherine’s, London. The address rang lots of bells, saying “around 1800”, “Pool of London” and “similar to James Chapman”. But all that contrasted with the design, which looked like 1830+.

A quick check in Gloria Clifton showed that George Richardson had worked 1807-1830, but only up to around 1820 in St Catherine’s. He had done work for Charles Lincoln, and came from a family line of opticians, taking over from his father and grandfather, both of whom were associated with Lincoln, and Chapman. A very good pedigree. So as a real multi-draw enthusiast, I bought it.

On arrival the view through the scope was of a tiny diameter, and very blurred, difficult to get a consistent focus across the image. With everything apparently original and in place, this was difficult to understand, but eventually the second cartridge was discovered to be reversed: this meant that the small orifice in between the two lenses was in the wrong position. Reversing this bit of brass made the telescope regain its normal function.

The scope was cleaned up – quite a task on a multi-draw – and the brass is in good condition. The barrel covering could be anything, but is thicker and more insulating than paint. It could be fishskin or fine leather stuck down to the barrel, but there is no obvious join/seam. It could be a coating that is baked on, as it has become crazed. No matter, it works, and is functional.

How old is it?

Dating this telescope is difficult, as the name and location suggests it is before 1820, but the design with multiple brass tubes of slightly different diameters required a supplier able to produce such exact tubing, which was only just becoming possible in around 1820-1830, and so is unusual.

There is a clue in Gloria Clifton’s information about the Richardson family, in that George’s brother Thomas is quoted as a “Brass manufacturer”, and so maybe the brothers worked together to be amongst the first to present such multi-draw telescopes, using and demonstrating his brother’s skills. So a date of 1820 is distinctly possible.

Accession number 332.