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.


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.


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!


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….


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.


Medium sized Dollond from 1810

This is a 3-draw Dollond with a wooden barrel, a medium sized telescope around 20” long when extended. It was acquired in August 2017, as ref #313, and is frankly the same as two previous purchases, those with Accession numbers #193 and #98.


Dollond #313 (bottom) and #98 (top)


The design is classic for a medium sized scope, very similar to the early Ramsdens or the Watkins & Hill described on the last page – although earlier than that one, dating from between 1810 and 1820. The major difference in the Dollond is that the lens mounting positions in the first draw are at either end of the draw, and then at two places where the draw is split to allow access to these lenses. The photo shows the lens mounting positions along the first draw:


At the top are the two mechanical fittings. The first draw is made from the three bits of tube, shown in the middle row. The four lenses are shown as the bottom row, they go inside the ends of the tubing sections.

The reason this design is attractive enough to buy three models is that the Dollond optics are superb. Regrettably for Dollond, the mechanical construction is not so robust: the draw tubes are relatively thin, so examples can have damaged tubes that are difficult to move, and the joints between the tubes are not soldered in place as well as is achieved in later Dollond models, or other supplier’s units. The scope ref #98 had these poor joints, and no eyepiece cap. So it is basically used as a source of spare lenses. Ref #193 was complete, although one draw was stiff and the mahogany had a crack along the length, but it worked beautifully: this one was given away.

Why buy this third model?

Ref #313 was bought to replace #193, and is complete with end cap and slider in the eyepiece, and with original screws in the barrel. The mahogany barrel has a thick layer of French polish over the original polish, and looks almost black. It does have one mechanical problem, the shoulder of the slider on the second draw is only a press fit in place.

DSC05551 mounting ringIt is interesting to note that the design of this slider and shoulder was a Dollond Patent as well, described first in around 1780 apparently! It follows good mechanical principles, and positions the mounting thread around 1” inside the tube that is the next larger on the scope. At the flange ring against the tube end, there is a shoulder making a tight fit inside the larger tube, giving the joint two separated mounting points – and so there is less likelihood of a wobble developing at the joint.


DSC05595 closeRegrettably no info is available. The scope was bought from a dealer in Littlehampton, West Sussex, in August 2017 – an Ebay Buy-it-Now item that was suddenly withdrawn, so I chased it. Presumably there was a failed sale, or other interest.

Accession number 313.

Andy Macnab’s Ross telescope

I was quite surprised to find Andy Macnab’s telescope in an antiques saleroom: this was way back in 1995, in Beacon Marine Antiques, in Swanwick, near Hamble, UK. In fact the saleroom was in a barge, called the ”Bernadette de Lourdes”, moored on the Hamble River near Moody’s boatyard.


The telescope was made by Ross, and is engraved “Ross, London” and gives the serial Number 58140. I don’t know whether there is any reference book to find more data about these Ross serial numbers, maybe someone can tell me? Ross became part of Avimo in Taunton in 1975. It looks and feels like a 1930s built telescope. The feel is also just right, it’s relatively small, solid, easy to focus, light and easy to carry.




It is a two draw brass telescope, 24” long when extended, 10.5” closed, nearly 1.75” diameter. The barrel has a stitched leather covering, with a sunshade, and the objective lens cap has two holes to allow it to be retained with a leather thong or cord. The eyepiece has a sliding shutter to cover the lens. Inside, the lens cartridges are well engineered, and conventional. Bothe sliders are lined with felt, to give a very tight joint: the air inside is able to escape through an air exhaust hole under the sunshade.


The telescope came with its own leather case, which carries the initials AJM for AJ Macnab.

A J Macnab, the owner



Well, I wonder who AJ Macnab was? At least we know he was the owner, probably the first owner, as the telescope is engraved “A.J.Macnab, From A & J”. Presumably A & J were his parents, and it is reasonable to postulate that this was a gift maybe when AJM left home to join either his first ship or his first Regiment.

I have not found him as yet. It is not really likely that this was Andy McNab, the well-known author of “Bravo Two Zero”, and other stories about a Sargeant in the SAS in the Gulf War, as first this was just a pen-name, second, if he had this telescope when he joined the Army in 1930, he would have been about 80 years old in the Gulf War, and thirdly, he spelled his name in a different way! Plus if he was in the SAS, he surely would not have used a bright polished brass telescope when trying to hide in the desert sand!


Current use

This telescope has been one of the first choice units for me to take away on holiday, or on any leisure trip, for the past twenty years – usually accompanied by the Carpenter multi-draw, which fits better into an anorak pocket. It has also been to lots of air displays and events. It was acquired in 1995, and is Accession number 26.


Not a telescope I am going to part with!

Another large Berge, from 1800

I seem to have an affinity for Berge and his telescopes, probably because they are ‘almost as good as’ Ramsden scopes, but much cheaper! Nevertheless this one was really really cheap, because it has no objective lens, nor the metalwork that wraps round the objective pair. After cleaning it up, and re-polishing the wood, it makes a good display item, and even has the original brass objective lens cap, to make it look complete!


Four draws, creating a 35″ long telescope

Engraved as “Berge London”, and “Late Ramsden” on the next line, the initial letters of these two lines are next to the eyepiece, ie on the opposite side to the standard format that was mostly used after about 1790. But Matthew Berge was just a bit of a traditionalist, and stuck to the old format, because he took over from Ramsden in 1800. He worked at 199 Piccadilly, maybe until 1817 – he died in 1819: but we don’t know for how long he leveraged off the Ramsden name and quoted “Late Ramsden” on his scopes. Then the business was taken over by a further two ex-Ramsden employees who had also worked for Berge, called Worthington & Allan: Nathaniel Worthington continued this business until 1851.


So the scope is around 200 years old at least, is an impressive size, and a modern design for the era in which it was built: leading the field in design, as Ramsden also did!



This is a four draw mahogany barrelled brass telescope, measuring 10” when closed up, and 35” when opened out. The outer diameter at the objective, 2.25”, makes it a fairly hefty instrument. The objective lens thread is around 2” OD, and when fitted with the objective lens from telescope #271, a similarly sized unit from Spencer & Co (see the story posted 30 Dec 2016), the combination works and focuses very well. So I just need a 2” OD objective with a focal length of around 27” to bring it back into operation!


What is the future for this?

Accession number 292: it will probably end up on the wall at the Goonhilly Visitor Centre in Cornwall, where the original trans-Atlantic radio telescopes are being brought back into operation for space research. That is, unless someone wants a lovely 200 year old talking point for about £100, which is what I think it’s worth. Unless I find a good spare lens assembly!


The barrel has little damage, and polishes well: the brass draws have some stiffness from bangs!

Accession number 292: acquired in October 2016, from an Ebay supplier, based in Ashford, Kent.

A 3-Draw JP Cutts Telescope


This is a fairly conventional three draw, mahogany barrel telescope, of a good size from a well-known maker. John Preston Cutts was known to have been working between 1822 and 1841, but he claimed that the business had been established in 1804. He received a Royal Appointment to supply to Queen Victoria, so telescopes engraved to that effect (such as #282, described earlier) must have been built after 1837 therefore.

The business started in Sheffield, Near St Paul’s Church at 58 Norfolk Street, and then after 1828 he was at Division Street, Sheffield. In Sheffield he worked alongside James Chesterman, a mathematical instrument maker, who made linear measures (rulers). This telescope is clearly engraved as “JP Cutts, London” in a real Victorian scroll: his premises in London were at 3 Crown Court, Fleet Street, from 1836 onwards.


Later, the business traded as JP Cutts, Sons & Sutton, from both Sheffield and Hatton Garden in London: trading under this name was recorded in 1851. Not many of the actual dates relating to this business seem to be known exactly!


dscn4911-smThe OD of the main barrel is almost 1.9”, with the visible lens OD of the objective 1.6”. This assembly has been subjected to a ‘major trauma’, ie a big bang on the side, which has distorted the mounting ring and cracked the side of one of the lenses. This crack does not have any visible effect on the view through the scope.

On receipt, the brass fitting on the other end of the mahogany barrel lacked any retaining screws: these have been replaced with small modern brass round-headed screws, which still had to be cut in half to reduce the penetration. The barrel has one longitudinal crack, but is still stable.

The three draws all extend smoothly, and are remarkably clear of dents and dings. Total length extended is 28.5”: closed it is 9.5” long. The eyepiece is a flat ended, square design, typical of the very early and the late C19th: in the middle to early years of the century the bulbous or bell shaped design was fashionable.


What was it used for?

The telescope is the right size for use from on board ship, or for use by an Army Scout or Officer in the C19th. It is maybe a little too bulky and large for use by a country Gentleman for spotting deer or hare or foxes on the moors, he would probably prefer more of a pocket scope. In fact we have no information about any owners, this is just speculation.


A nice telescope that works well, probably made in the mid 1830s, say 1836 or 37, and sold thru the JP Cutts new offices in London. The telescope was bought on Ebay from a supplier in Littlehampton, in January 2012. It is my Accession Number #158.

A Telescope made by Tom Jones


This telescope has a very standard design, three brass draws, a leather covered barrel, flat ended eyepiece, 29.5” long extended. Looking at the two leather loops on the barrel, suggests the intended use is on a strap for carrying on a belt or over the shoulder, etc: possibly for Army or cavalry use. The impression is that it is a better than average quality, ie good leather, well stitched, good quality brass tubes: between the draws the mounts and sliders are all in good condition, no play – and are built with the threads well recessed and solid shoulders at the tube ends. The eyepiece flat-ish face is black, with some form of coating to the brass, almost enamelled.


So how old is it? Well you could say just pre-WW2, 1930s, Army. Or you could say 1900, or even 1870. You would not suggest it was 1830, it just looks too … modern? But the condition actually makes you realise it’s had a fairly hard life at some time, and survived. The second draw is very stiff, from tube damage. There are dents in the other draws, and the leather at the objective end looks to have lost its surface. The objective lens, which unscrews nicely, is peened into the mount.

dscn4887Between the two lenses of the objective pair around the edge there is a deposit of some form of dirt or solids. It is possible the objective end has been left sitting in some liquid or moisture, probably for several years, and this has left a deposit – because the two lenses were not quite matched in their internal face curvature, at the edges. I’ve no idea how to get at this without radical interference with the mount.

The maker – Thomas Jones


It does have a maker’s name, engraved on the first draw: and it’s on the right hand side of the draw, ie the ‘T’ of Thomas is next to the eyepiece! Surely this is the old style, pre-1800? The script is neat but flourishing, Victorian or earlier. The address is quoted, “62 Charing Cross, London”: even this implies possibly C19, rather than after the introduction of district letters in London.


Finding Jones in Gloria Clifton’s reference book shows up lots of makers, notably in Liverpool and London. But a Thomas Jones business, active from 1806 to as late as 1860, was at 62 Charing Cross from 1816 onwards. Interestingly, Jones had been apprenticed to, and worked for Jesse Ramsden, from 1789. Ramsden died around 1800, but this telescope shows his influence and style. Thomas Jones later received a Royal Appointment to the Duke of Clarence for his instruments – presumably that was in the 1820s.

dscn4895       dscn4889

So what date do we put on this telescope? I would suggest somewhere between 1816 and 1830, because the address says later than 1816, but the engraving on the right side suggests an earlier date, certainly not after 1830. In addition, from 1831 to 1835 he traded as ‘Thomas Jones and Son’, in partnership with his son, also called Thomas (II). We do not know when Thomas Jones (the father) died, but it was possibly in 1835, when the business reverted to just “Thomas Jones”, and continued trading until around 1860.


Much is described in the introduction: 3-draw, brass, leather clad barrel. Closed length is 9.75”, open it is 29.5”. The OD is 1.875”.

Accession Number #274, acquired March 2016.

George Willson telescope, ~1800

dscn4842-smI left this telescope languishing in a box for ten years (after buying it in 2005 on Ebay), not quite understanding why it would not work. In addition it had a problem with one of the mounting rings, the top “flange” edge had come away from the cylindrical slider. Obviously I had not spent enough time looking at it, as I hadn’t noticed the name stamped on the flat face of the eyepiece, under the grime, which turned out to be “Willson G, London”.

George Willson was apprenticed to James Moulding in 1797, and joined the Guild of Stationers. However by 1798 he was working as an optician, and had several apprentices, one of which was George Dixey. From 1799-1802 they worked in Wardrobe Place, Doctors Common, London – and from 1802-1809 they worked as a partnership, as Willson & Dixey, opposite St James’s Church, on Piccadilly, London. Willson & Dixey was a more prolific telescope maker.

This telescope, labelled just as Willson, is likely to date from between 1798 and 1802.



The telescope is a fairly standard design, with three draws, a mahogany barrel, two lens cartridges in the first draw, and a flat faced eyepiece. All the screws into the barrel are original, and everything unscrews well. Total length when fully extended is around 29”, and when folded it is just over 9” long, with an OD of 1.9”. It could have been intended for Naval use, or for use by an Army or Cavalry officer.

How to make it work!

The problem was fairly obvious in retrospect! The lens cartridge near the eyepiece did not fit properly, it was too small in diameter to achieve a tight fit inside the draw, but was held in place by the eyepiece cover. The mounting thread on the eyepiece did not attach anywhere. At the other end of the first draw, there was no cartridge, one lens screwed into the thread at the end, and another lens was positioned 2” inside the draw, apparently as a push-fit. Eventually I realised this was in fact at the end of the cartridge which should have been next to the eyepiece, it had just been pushed down along the draw. The eyepiece lens which should have fitted this cartridge was in fact the lens that was screwed into the objective end of the first draw.

So move everything back to where it should be, and of course it all works perfectly!

Slider Repair


Hopefully the slider on the second draw can be soldered back into place, and still slide along the draw-tube. I later solder tacked it into position, then sanded down the solder inside just enough to get it back fitting the second draw tube, so its in position, at least.

The sliders holding the draws in line have the threads at the outer edge, so this is just an average quality telescope of its day, unlike the next example which is the same date, ie 1800, but super quality, from a maker with a long pedigree……

This Willson is Accession Number 110

A Lincoln, with a triplet for the objective

This is a medium sized telescope, a three draw with a mahogany barrel, made by Lincoln, which is typically in the late 1700s. It was probably built for a Cavalry officer, or for a country gentleman’s use. It is 7.75” (19.7cm) closed, and 22.5” (57cm) long when fully open. Outer diameter is 1.625” (43mm). Performing fairly poorly, and with lenses rattling, when it was delivered to me in 2014, the operation of the scope was much improved by getting everything back into the right place!


The Lincoln name

The name engraved on the first draw of this telescope is quite simple: it just says Lincoln, London, with the first word in script, like a logo: and the latter word is written as “London” is typed here. So there is very little to go on to help date it. However it uses a triple lens as the objective, which would have been one of the ways to avoid infringing the Dollond Patent, which maybe lasted from 1762 through to around 1785, although he did petition to extend the life of the patent….. I must check that out. A similar triple lens would not have been used before 1762, so it was not made by Thomas Lincoln, who was active from 1720-1762, but by his son, Charles Lincoln, who operated 1765-1805.


The picture above shows the name engraved on the first draw, but it is significant that it is what I would describe as on the ‘right hand side’ of the telescope. This means the first letters of the lines, the “L” of Lincoln and London, are closest to the eyepiece. This is the old fashioned style, dating from early C18th up to about 1790. After that, the fashion changed, and the end of the word was closest to the eyepiece. However, it is always possible that Lincoln clung onto this approach, and continued writing his name the way he always had done! So it is generally an indicator of earlier than 1790, but this varies from maker to maker.

The three draw design, which requires three separate different sized tubes, was probably not possible before 1760 either. It is a design that maybe appeared in the 1770s-1780s. After Thomas Lincoln died, in 1762, his son Charles took over the business, and is recorded as an Optical Instrument Maker operating from 1765 to 1805. This telescope could be from anywhere within the 1780-1805 period.

Charles Lincoln operated from Leadenhall Street in London, a popular area for optical instrument makers. From 1772 onwards he was at 62 Leadenhall Street, with an address starting with “Sir Isaac Newton’s Head” – presumably this was the sign over the door. One of his apprentices was a William Cox, who later traded in London, but this Cox was not related to the Plymouth/Devonport-based William Charles Cox.

Telescope design

As mentioned above, the triple objective lens is distinctive, as it is made from two crown glass convex lenses (with a greenish tint) and one concave flint glass lens (clear of colour). These lenses are not well held within the brass ring at the end of the barrel: it appears that the ‘as made’ state was that these were held in place when the rear edge of the mount was peened over the rear lens, but at some time, maybe to clean between the lenses, this slight peening has been pulled back.

The eyepiece design is fairly standard. The last draw at the eyepiece contains two separate cartridges, one at each end, with two lenses in each. The lenses appear to be original, solidly mounted in their brass carriers that are threaded into the cartridges, but this section, which acts as a microscope, seemed initially to offer a very narrow field of view. This was then apparent when using the fully assembled telescope, when again the field of view was very narrow. The problem was identified as because of the positioning of the small orifice within the bottom cartridge. Somehow this had been loaded with the lenses in the wrong ends, and with the orifice positioned further away from the objective lens, the problem disappeared, but left a “jagged edge” appearance around the visible image disc. This was also eliminated, giving a much cleaner image, when the other cartridge closer to the eye was rotated and the lenses then replaced, although this orifice appears to be much larger and closer to the centre between these other two lenses.

dscn4338The mahogany barrel is fine, and has been improved by re-polishing; the connecting shoulders at the end of each draw are standard, with knurled end flanges. The screws holding the brass part of the telescope to the rear end of the barrel are not original; at the other end they are the originals: this brass mount is therefore slightly loose!

The objective lens has a push-on end cap present, the fairly standard design eyepiece cap has a flat end-face and includes an internal flip-across cover to protect the lens.

Acquisition #197

3-Draw Ramsden scope from 1780


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.


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.


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


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.



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.

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 a wood sandwich between the brass fitting parts. The thread for the objective lens assembly is 1+13/16” diameter.








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?


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


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


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 re-glued.


Carpenter 8-draw telescope

Carpenter telescope fully extended

Carpenter telescope fully extended

This is a favourite of mine. It’s small, or compact might be the word, when closed up – it almost fits in your pocket. It certainly fits in a coat pocket. Yet when extended to operating length, it’s long enough to be impressive, but above all it works well. So it is the ideal telescope to use on holiday.


There is a rosewood veneer over the (presumably brass) barrel. This contains eight brass draws, all just above 3” (8.2cms) long.

Engraving on the eyepiece.

Engraving on the eyepiece.

The outer diameter is about 2”, and the closed up length 5.5”. There is no sunshade, and no lens cover over the objective, that is probably missing. The eyepiece has a flat end, with a sliding cover over the aperture. On the flat end of the eyepiece the engraving says “CARPENTER – LONDON”: while the word London is fairly even, on a straight line, the “Carpenter” is on an arc, not quite centred on the centre of the eyepiece, with varying weight/punch angle and quite unevenly spaced – as if done by hand, unevenly. Over to the left there are a number of dots in what seems to be a vertical line – with eight dots it looks deliberate, rather than an accidental mark. Incongruously, this line of dots is absolutely in a straight line. Maybe this indicates the eight draws of this model?

In use, the extended length overall is 27”. The second set of eyepiece lenses are at the end of the second draw, so focus is adjusted from the second to third draw, keeping the first draw fully extended.


Dismantled into the eight sections, with eight close fitting sliders left in place on the draws

Dismantled into the eight sections, with eight close fitting sliders left in place on the draws

This telescope was found at the Scientific and Medical Instruments Fair, at the Portman Hotel in London, 29th October 1995.

Surprisingly, it was filthy, with the wood looking very tatty, and dirty lenses. The supplier was Alan Jones (Nautical and Scientific Instruments) of Plympton and Plymouth, PL7 5AS. It was still expensive – a marked price of £185 was knocked down to £170. Admittedly it is quite an effort to dismantle all the pulls to clean them. The most satisfying results of cleaning were seen with the rosewood veneer, after stripping off the original polish it was cleaned with linseed oil and turps, then polished with beeswax and more linseed oil.

Carpenter of London

DSC03886The Carpenter family story seems to start at around 1808, with William and Philip Carpenter working in Inge Street, Birmingham. In 1826 Philip Carpenter opened in London, and in 1827-33 he was at 24 Regent Street, at the corner of Jermyn Street. Interestingly, Gloria Clifton quotes him as making kaleidoscopes, microscopes and microscope accessories. He died in 1833, and from 1834-37 his sister Mary (quoted as an Optician) ran the business at this address. From 1837 onwards Mary went into partnership with William Westley, and Carpenter and Westley continued through to 1914. Certainly from 1828 up till 1835 there was a factory in Birmingham supplying the Carpenter London shop, but apparently Carpenter and Westley re-sold stock from Negretti & Zambra. There were also some other instrument and toy makers in Birmingham named Carpenter at this time.

So it is likely this telescope with the Carpenter name, and from a London shop, was produced between 1826 and 1837.

Probable use

Because this is a very compact telescope, it would have been attractive for use by Cavalry officers or land troops in charge of artillery etc. But presumably the Regent Street shop (I assume) was chosen to attract attention from the wealthy shoppers passing by, which might have been land owners visiting London. So the target market might have been more for the gentry to use on their travels, or their country estates.

Where does it fit

DSC03956The two draw Ramsden and Berge telescopes made in the 1790s probably pushed the designs of the time as far as they could go, in relation to the availability of different sized accurate tubing, which had to be both smooth on the outside and circular in section: so piping constructed with a welded or brazed seam was not suitable. But then we have the Watkins telescope from 1890, which was the previous one listed on here, with a long four draw design. In the early 1790s and 1800s such tubing in different sizes was becoming available, and probably operating from Birmingham factories the Carpenters were aware of the latest materials and machining techniques. Presumably in this era a major industry had developed, producing the rifles, cannons, and ammunition, maybe also later on pistols, with shell cases etc in brass, all of which stretched the gun drilling and tube boring technology. So I see this Carpenter type, from 1830, as taking advantage of the materials then available, and skilled enough in machining to not be daunted by the task of producing all the threads and fitments! There are other manufacturers who possibly produced such multi-draw telescopes, even Dollond, but unless we guess from the type of script used on the side of the Dollond scopes we have no easy way of dating them!

While probably not the first multiple draw telescope, it does enable the owner to boast about the obvious skills of the machinists!

Holiday use

The Carpenter scope in use at 'The Ship' Inn, Midships at Porthleven in 2006

The Carpenter scope in use at ‘The Ship’ Inn, Midships at Porthleven in 2006

Beware! If you carry the telescope in your hand luggage, as is the sensible thing to do, the Security people with X-ray machines are a little confused as to what the object is, when they see several concentric tubes linked together in what looks like a hand grenade sized object! Strangely the security guards I met had never seen anyone carrying a telescope before, I thought it was quite a normal thing to do.

This telescope also regularly comes away on holiday within England, it easily fits under the car seat. Most of its trips take it back to Cornwall.

What is it worth today?

Probably £250-300 only: it is accession number 29. I just like the design so bought another similar one, which I must find, but I don’t think the second one is named. No, it isn’t named, it is number 156. It is the same length as the Carpenter when closed, but much larger diameter, so not so pocket friendly, and heavier. The Carpenter weighs 600 gms, this other one weighs 820gms. It has 9 draws, or maybe 8.5, because the first one seems to be an afterthought to get the lenses in the right place! Its also fully lacquered, which I don’t like, and lacking a leather cover on the barrel. So buying another was obviously a mistake!