Worthington + Allan tapered scope


This telescope was bought on Ebay in March 2018, from a guy in Aylesbury. It looked an absolute wreck: I wanted it because the maker, Worthington and Allan, was the partnership that took over the business of Matthew Berge when he died in 1820. Earlier Berge had been apprenticed to, and then taken over from Ramsden: both had made high quality instruments for astronomical observations and also general use. You will notice that some of the best telescopes in this collection have come from Ramsden or Berge, they were an offshoot business from the original Dollond family.


Nathaniel Worthington had been an apprentice to Berge, at 199 Piccadilly, London, and the partnership with James Allan lasted from 1821 to 1834, located at 196 Piccadilly.  In 1834 Allan dropped out, and Nathaniel continued working under his own name until 1851. So this telescope dates from around 1830, and indeed it has the lens quality and build quality you would expect from such a firm.

The scope is my reference #319.


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The scope has one single draw, and a long, tapered barrel in wood, apparently mahogany. Open it is nearly 80cms long, when closed it comes down to 66cms. On arrival, both of the brass to wood joints at the two ends were loose, basically the grub-screws had rusted away, and the wood around the screws had also rotted, so the holes were too big.


Also the barrel was sleeved in a fairly badly fitting brown leather cover: the stitching was intact but it appeared to have shrunk by 1cm at each end, compared to what would have been a good fit. This did not appear to be an original part of the telescope, but a subsequent addition – possibly mimicking the metal barrelled telescope designs of the later, Victorian era.

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The major damage visible on this telescope is unusual – the brass mount at the eyepiece end of the barrel has had a major part, maybe an eighth of the circumference, torn out, without making any damage to the barrel wood beneath.

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The single draw has two lens cartridges, one at either end. The engraving on the first draw is noticeably on the “wrong” side of the telescope, as used in the C18th: this was just being phased out finally in the 1820s.


The original condition above is shown in the photos from the Ebay description, and there follow some photos taken during the renovation work.


There was not much that could be done to repair the broken area of the brass fitting: also the screws would not come out, so to secure the brass in place, and prevent the wobble, Superglue was used to fix it to the barrel. At the other end, the objective lens housing used round headed screws that were loose in the holes, so these were removed. New brass screws were fitted, in a different part of the wooden structure.


The leather cover over the wooden barrel was slipped off, and the barrel paint/varnish removed with sand-paper. It was noticeable that it was a very red varnish, in some ways resembling paint. Another large tapered scope in the collection by Dollond, possibly from this period, also has this red appearance, as does the scope that is named after Jervis: see the links quoted below.  The colour came off easiest with sand-paper at the point that would have been the hand-hold, half way along. The barrel was then coated with French polish, which brought it up with a good mahogany red colouring.


Barrel during sand paper treatment of the old varnish


Finished barrel after French polish and wax

All brass fittings were rubbed hard with Brasso, then machine polished, and then polished again with Brasso, so they have nearly recovered to a light brass colour.

Returning to the broken brass mount at the eyepiece end of the barrel, I decided a cosmetic repair would be better than a broken collar. So the holes were patched with a hard setting resin designed for metal repairs. This was solid and blue in colour: it took a lot of filing to become more or less curved on the surface, but was still blue/white. So a gold coloured Hammerite was used to hide the resin. Not brilliant, but a passable cosmetic approach.

Similar scope designs

Some of the other samples of this style of scope are present in the collection: they are prized because they are so easy to use hand-held, like the original Dollond eight sided unit from the 1760s, and because of the long length they have a good magnification.  Ideal for spotting light club aircraft flying overhead.

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The scope that shows the parentage of the design is the Matthew Berge unit, reference #112. This is described on the page


You will remember that Worthington worked with Berge and then took over the business.

A second similar unit is the Dollond, reference #58, shown on page


This unit has a split eyepiece tube, giving access to the lenses, a difficult design, but one which enabled the use of a smaller brass tube, which was presumably the best or only style available. There is then the Dollond ref #297, a more recent acquisition, shown on page


Here again the later added leather sleeve was discarded to great effect: it is rather a long scope to hand hold for use spotting light aircraft!

The John Jervis (aka Earl St Vincent, after the major battles that brought Nelson to fame) telescope, also of a similar design, is discussed in the story about telescopes linked to Alresford, where I live: see


Another story describes the telescope itself, and the renovation work on that:


The Ramsden telescopes I have tend to be smaller, three draw units: typically they are the only ones I could afford, made by Ramsden, as his models demand a high price, because of the quality. They also are not often seen on sites such as Ebay! These small units are described on this website too.

Original intended use


No way would this large scope be considered for cavalry or Army use, it is too big anything other than naval/coastguard use, where space and a handy support spar or post would be available to lean against. The magnification is high for a telescope, maybe 30+, a significant advantage when spotting sails on the horizon.

Medium sized Ramsden 3 draw telescope

This telescope is a  product from a major telescope maker from the 1790s. So, bought on Ebay, it came looking sad and unloved, held together with masking tape. But with everything in place, more or less: maybe not in the right places however.


As received, c/w masking tape and grime

Taking it to pieces, the first draw, the eyepiece, did not work as an inverting microscope, which is always a bad sign. Then the view through the unit was rather how I imagine tunnel vision to be, a view down a long narrow tube. No real field of view available.

The name Ramsden


The engraved first draw, after polishing

However, the telescope is a Ramsden, made maybe 1790, engraved properly (on the left side, as was the standard in 1790), and is complete with the objective lens cap. The objective lens is clean and complete, the barrel in good condition. Inside, the lenses in the first draw looked a lot the worse for interference, one stuck in the threads, and with gripper marks round one of the brass lens mounts as evidence of a lot of previous stress. It also appeared that they had been shuffled, so did not work well optically. Indeed the first draw worked as a microscope only when reversed. Then one lens was found to be jammed into the cartridge with an unusually positioned aperture assembly pressed inside the cartridge.

On removing this aperture, an unsupported unmounted lens is found: it was obviously necessary to start to sort them out. In this scope unusually the threads all seem to be much the same size, for the lens mounts, so that makes it easier to get them mixed up. Later the manufacturers “keyed” the lens threads to make things easily located. It transpired, after hours of trying, that this bare lens must have been a substitute for a broken one, and it was just not right. The lenses and cartridges, with their integral apertures, were returned to what seems to be the correct orientation and position by comparing the design with three other Ramsden scopes in the collection. I then realised that this one is almost identical to #51, a Ramsden bought many years ago, and reported on this website already. That report, and others, also gives the history of Ramsden in the 1790s.

Eventually the lens was replaced by a slightly smaller lens and mount from a J Webb similar scope (#263), and the whole thing fell into operation properly.  There were two ‘John Webb’ instrument makers reported by Gloria Clifton, one from 1792, and his son from 1800-1847. Telescope #263 was engraved as from 408 Oxford Street, which is where Clifton says the son was based – for a short period – in 1808. Telescope #263 has other separate problems, such as a broken objective lens, so the transfer of this number 2 lens to the Ramsden is not a restriction. However the search continues for a suitable lens and holder that might fit the Ramsden thread, as the J Webb lens is small and only wedged in position.


The brass polished up well, with Brasso. The main barrel is mahogany, and the old French polish scraped off easily to reveal the wood, which has a couple of longitudinal cracks, but nothing serious. This is scheduled for repolishing. The objective holder has one small screw missing, which needs to be replaced. The objective lens end-cap is present, and in good condition.  As yet the eyepiece sliding lens cover is still stuck firmly in the open position.

The pictures that follow show images before the renovation, as it was received.




Then these pics are after polishing, but before any French polish added on the barrel.




In the last picture the second lens cartridge from the bottom of the first draw can be seen: the lens facing the eye is the one that has been attacked with some form of plier grip. Also on the right, the slider on the first draw is seen, where the thread is adjacent to the knurled shoulder. Better made telescopes a few years later would have had the threaded section at the opposite end of the slider.

The telescope has ended up a fairly well made, neat and effective telescope, with really good optics, as you would expect from Ramsden.

Owners and applications?

We do not know any of this. This smaller size unit (7.5″ compacted, and 22″ extended) could have been used by a cavalry officer, or on board a sailing ship, or indeed just by a country house owner. It has not been bashed about, and appears undamaged apart from the one broken internal lens, which has had to be replaced. Overall diameter is about 1.8″ at the largest part over the objective.

Equally we have no knowledge of the ownership of the scope even recently. The Ebay seller lived in Barnard Castle in County Durham: a lot of sailors came from the northeast – Capt Cook came from Middlesbrough after all!

Single draw large wooden scope by Berge

There are several telescopes made by Matthew Berge already described on this website, and they give the detail of his background and business. In summary, he was an employee of Jesse Ramsden, one of the major telescope makers around the end of the 1700s, who had married into the Dollond family. Berge took over the business when Ramsden died in 1800, and subsequently labelled his telescopes as “Berge London, late Ramsden”.


So this telescope dates from 1800, or up to ten years later. Because it is a single draw, wooden barrel, you might tend to think that it is an older design, and was maybe being superseded by the 3 or 4 or 5 draw brass units he produced so effectively. Possibly the all-brass units were popular with the Army, ie the Cavalry officers, when maybe they could


Wooden barrel, mahogany, 2.25″ OD  

rest them on a tree or rock, to survey the scene: plus they preferred a short unit when it was closed down – easier to pack onto a saddle. But naval officers, and ship’s officers, continued to prefer and use the long single barrelled units for most of the nineteenth Century. Wooden barrel designs also have the advantage that they are light in weight, in the barrel, so a long telescope is easier to hold steady on a distant target, as the weight of the unit is balanced, around the pivot point of the second hand in the middle of the scope.


dscn5208Closed up the telescope is 26.5” long, and extended the length is 38”. The single draw, which is made from 1.75” OD brass tubing, has a joint very close to the mounting flange on the end of the barrel section. Inside this break, the lens cartridge is very long, compared to others, and has a mounting shoulder separated from the mounting thread by over 3” – so is very stably and accurately aligned.


Brilliant! A really big image, giving a wide angle of view, but still a good magnification. Used at close range in the garden it gives an image with apparent depth, like a binocular would.

Bits missing

dscn5205Trouble is, there are some bits that are missing. Most obvious is the eyepiece cover, probably a bell shaped cover, that screwed onto the outside of the single draw, on the thread there. The function was to position the eye of the user about an inch from the lens at the eyepiece end. The lack of this cover is not a problem if you prefer to wear your spectacles when looking thru the scope, it actually helps a lot. But the eye still needs to be positioned on the centre line of the scope tubes.

dscn5207Second, presumably there was an objective lens cap, used to protect that lens, but that cap is missing. The shoulder where it would have fitted is clearly identifiable.


Bought on Ebay in October 2005. Accession number #112.

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 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.

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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.

A Ramsden 8-draw telescope

This is a telescope referred to me by a correspondent in Vienna, Austria, to whom it was given as a birthday present from a friend. The background history was that it belonged to the friend’s Grandfather, but it had not been used for at least 50 years.


The Grandfather had travelled frequently from London, where he lived, to South Africa, where he had had a business in Pretoria. This takes the ownership back to maybe the late 1800s, 1880-1900, so not quite as far back as when the telescope was made. After cleaning for 5 hours, using Brasso equivalent on the brass, and cream on the leather covering, this beautiful telescope emerged, with the name Ramsden, London, engraved on the first draw.

Quite reasonably the question arose as to whether this was indeed from Ramsden, who died in 1800, so he asked for a review of the design to see if it was genuine. Some of the extensive photos supplied of the unit are shown here.

Ramsden and small telescopes


Ramsden made 3-draw telescopes, and even one example of a 4-draw was presented on EBay recently. If this 8-draw multi-draw scope is genuinely a Ramsden it will be one of the earliest multi-draws produced. For a Dollond or any other maker from that time, it would be difficult to prove that it pre-dates 1800, as many of them continued trading using the same names well into the 1800s. The question is as to whether there was the capability available in the brass tube industry to draw tubes of the many diameters needed to make such a unit, back in the 1790s.

img_2244The second question would be as to whether there might be a demand – nowadays we would say a market – for such a design, when many of the scopes were used on-board ships. There, on board, there was plenty of space, and the small (pocket?) size (when collapsed) would not be needed. Ramsden, and Berge who followed him, also served the market for the country gentleman, who wanted a smaller, easy to carry telescope: see the “Gentleman’s silver telescope” on this website, and the Ramsden 3-draw units. There was also a market with cavalry officers, who needed units they could easily either carry in a small leather tube, or pack onto a horse. Watkins produced such scopes, as we see in the story about Captain Gerrard on this site, who used it later in the C19th, or also see the Bianchi 3-draw scope used by Lt Rolfe in the Peninsular War (1807). So it seems the demand would have been there.

This Design

img_2251The details of the design are just what would be expected from Ramsden, and are very high quality: I would say beautiful but that would make it subjective. The connectors between the draws are built with the threads recessed into the receiving draw by around an inch, and with a shoulder under the end of the receiving draw tube, to increase/improve the rigidity of the optical axis of the scope. The thread length used is also longer than average.  This approach is also used on the examples of multi-draw telescopes produced (later) by Cary, Abraham, Cox and Carpenter, that I have in my own collection. It was not used on any of the 3 or 4-draw telescopes produced by Ramsden or Berge that I have seen.

img_2252The internal lens cartridges and lens mounts are well constructed, and all the threads on this example are easily unscrewed: even the objective lens pair and its mounting. It has an objective lens cap, for protection, but no sunshade: this is similar to the other designs of smaller scopes, and the multi-draws quoted above.

The Ramsden signature is on the first draw, with the letters starting at the objective end of the scope, which might indicate a later build date, around 1890-1900, as earlier the lettering might have been reversed (ie written on the other side of the draw): the Ramsden and Berge telescopes I have studied have the signature in the same orientation as this one, so are all presumed later models.

The knurling on the connectors – which can be used as hand-holds to extend the draws, but the wider diameter is also needed so that the draws are not pushed into the next larger tube – is very well defined, not showing any bashes or dings: indeed the whole scope is remarkably free from dings. In the photo the knurling looks quite sizeable, but remember this is a relatively small diameter scope.

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The photos above show the objective lens pair and mount components.

The barrel is brass, covered with black leather. When closed the telescope is only 15cms long (approx. 6”), but once fully opened the total length is 73cms (nearly 29”), giving a high magnification capability. The quality of the image, and the magnification, is quoted as very good.

The Hiccup on the 4th draw?

ring_adjMy colleague who has this telescope considers the 4th draw to be different in construction, but I regret I can’t understand what function the difference might have, or whether it is real. There is a separate photo of this draw, it is possibly a shorter length, reduced by 12-15mm at least, with a separate (mounting?) ring on the end of the connector. It might be that this element (draw) had a problem in production, and the extra ring was needed to ensure the correct mounting position/alignment of the tubes? Or did it just reduce the full extended length to make the focus easier to locate?

Questions or Comments?

If you have any comments that might help our study of this telescope these would be welcomed. It is suggested that this is one of the first and earliest brass 8-draw or multi-draw designs of telescope, produced by Ramsden in the late 1790s!

Subsequent correspondence has been fairly sceptical, from the point of view of the multi-draw design and tube availability not dating back to the 1790s. However one significant feature that I missed is the shaping of the eyepiece. This triangular style is not a shape that was used in the 1790s, when they were flat sided, or bell shaped. One comment was that this was more likely to be a French in design, from the late 1800s.

I would think the only further test (so far not possible) would be to check the optical quality of the scope, to see whether this aspect aspires to the normal high standard from Ramsden.

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, 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.








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 the cracks re-glued.


A Berge/Ramsden Gentleman’s telescope

DSCN3898How do you describe such a magnificent telescope?

It is made of three silvered draws, pulling out of a black enameled barrel.
It just oozes elegance, but then on closer inspection you see the detailed machine engraving around the eyepiece and the objective lens holder, and it escalates to a Georgian drawing room display item, alongside the classic black enamelled cane walking stick with silver point and handle!
DSC04729I assume the decorations at either end are  machine engraved, but for 1800, that must have been pretty skilled: it reminds me of the silver serviette rings used by my grand-parents, or their parents maybe.

Note one of the chips out of the enamel on the barrel, the only sign of any wear!

Engraved information

The engraving on the first draw is a nightmare to analyse.
DSCN3902Jesse Ramsden worked at 196 Piccadilly from 1792 till his death in 1800.He was the son of an innkeeper from Salterhebble, in Yorkshire, but married Sarah Dollond, sister of Peter Dollond, in 1766.He was the leading instrument maker of his day, ie 1790-1800 at least, if not before. Matthew Berge was one of his employees, and he took over the business when Ramsden died. So maybe the telescope was work in progress when Ramsden died. The engraving is offset, almost not of the quality of the rest of the telescope. It says
But the two words on each line are not aligned, not even the same type-size. It looks like the original engraving was the low key ‘LONDON RAMSDEN’, and then Berge added the other two words when Jesse Ramsden died and he took over. That would date the telescope at almost exactly 1800.
Slightly confusing therefore, the initial letters, ‘B’ and ‘L’, are next to the eyepiece, which is typical only of earlier telescopes, ie 1790 and earlier, as later in the decade the accepted standard was to put the engraving on the opposite side of the telescope, with the end of the line nearest to the eyepiece. Ramsden in his latter years had placed his signature in this way, so this one is a little unusual. Obviously you can postulate that it was built earlier, but was expensive and did not sell for many years, until Berge took over after Ramsden died, when he had a clear-out of old stock?
So I would still date this scope at least as leaving the Berge/Ramsden establishment at almost exactly 1800.

How does it perform?

This is a beautifully presented scope, and its optics are up to the amazing standard you would expect from the Ramsden stable. It is powerful, easy to focus, and has a wide field of view when used next to the eye. It is not meant to be used with glasses, the extra distance reduces the field.
The condition is excellent, everything unscrews easily, the lenses are all perfect. The engineering design concept shows brilliant touches: for example the second cartridge for example is screwed into place on the eyepiece end of the cartridge, making it held in optical alignment much more closely than the conventional design. After 216 years, the only criticism is that the objective lens doublet is peened into the mount, so there is no way to clean between the lenses. It was the standard approach in those days, to stop people messing around with the doublet I suppose. But luckily it is not necessary to clean in there at the moment.
The enamel on the brass barrel is very unusual, looks excellent, but has suffered some dings where the enamel has chipped off. This is the only area where 200 years of hand use is evident.
DSC04733The silvered eyepiece has been difficult to clean/polish perfectly, but I will keep trying. There is no shutter, which I consider is aok. There is no objective lens cap – it’s not lost, the design suggests, with a ridge around the far end of the holder, that there was no lens cap supplied.
I’m going to use this one as my standard ‘go-to’ telescope for spotting aeroplanes over here: previously I used the 8-sided 4 foot Dollond of the 1760s, but that one now needs some reinforcement. This telescope is more powerful, maybe has a narrower field of view, but is as easy to use, because it is not too long, and is light in weight.

Dimensions and value

The telescope dimensions are: the closed length is 7″; open it is 20.75″; outer diameter is 43mm; the visible objective lens diameter is 37mm.
I bought this telescope on Ebay in Summer 2016, as the only bidder, at the starting price. I consider with the name, the condition, the quality and after cleaning, on Ebay it would now make £250. If it were at the Scientific Instruments Exhibition, or a retail environment, the marked price would be somewhere between £750 and £1250. I would not be able to afford that, so I’m delighted to be the custodian for a few years at least.
Accession number 283

Matthew Berge 5 draw, late Ramsden


This is a time warp telescope. The design is of the type you might expect to see from Troughton and Simms, or Negretti and Zambra, or Dollond, around the turn of the Century – that is, going into the 20th Century, around 1900. What makes this one really unusual, is that it dates from the end of the 19th Century, around 1800, when the majority of telescopes, if of this size, were of the long wooden barrel design with a single draw. If they were three or four draw brass units, they were not as big, i.e. they were smaller in diameter and shorter (see the examples quoted on this site from Jesse Ramsden).

DSC00213aWhat makes this one different is that it comes from “Berge, late Ramsden”. Jesse Ramsden was arguably the best telescope maker in the 18th Century, and while he did not invent the Dollond patented dual element objective lens, he did have enough common sense to marry Peter Dollond’s sister, Sarah, so presumably had a good relationship with Peter. While Ramsden worked in the period 1760-1800, Matthew Berge worked for him during that time, not as an apprentice but as a skilled employee, and became his natural successor: when Ramsden retired to Brighton due to ill health, Berge ran the business. When Ramsden died, in 1800 Berge took over, styling himself as “Berge, Late Ramsden”. He worked under his own name from 1802 to 1817, in London, at 199 Piccadilly, so possibly the transition period 1800-1802 was a period where he might have styled himself as ‘Berge, late Ramsden’, but this is just a guess at a narrowed time zone.

What makes this telescope really different?

It is the care and thought behind the engineering design. Added on top of a five draw construction, each 6” long, which was very advanced for the time. Each draw has an overlap and mounting sleeve to the larger one behind of about 2”, which gives the draws stability, holding the optical axis solid. This is also helped by the small differences in diameters of the draws. The only failure is in the first draw, where there is some play evident, mainly because the diameter difference is larger to allow the lens assembly to be screwed in with a knurled ring at the end, obviously the knurled ring diameter could have been bigger.

DSC00216aThen each draw has an air eject hole, to equalise pressure when closing or opening the scope. Other telescopes have done this, but this telescope in addition has a location arrow that enables each draw to be positioned consistently in the original orientation when the scope is opened, just in case there is a difference when the lenses are rotated with respect to one another. These marks are visible on the photo here.


The telescope is very long – you can’t hold the wood when looking through it, the stretch is too far. So it needs a ship’s rigging to hold it in place maybe. But also this might explain why the wooden barrel is relatively bashed about: the wood is only around 4mm thick, and in restoring it to operation there were about 5 or 6 longitudinal splits that had to be glued back together. The wood is also very brittle, after 200 years! The objective assembly has been pulled out of the wooden barrel, by damage or dropping it, several times, and I have yet to drill new holes for the grub screws.

What’s missing? What was it used for?

The telescope has an eyepiece flap cover, but no objective lens cap. It is designed to take the latter, but it has obviously got lost. Probably over the side of a ship. It was probably intended for high magnification, long range use on a ship at sea: it is too heavy and long for use on a country estate, or on a horse, in the cavalry. It cannot focus on relatively close objects, which would need the eyepiece pulled back further than it can travel, so would not appeal to a man on a country estate looking at birds or foxes etc. There are no owner’s marks to give any clues as to who used it.

A different view on the telescope and its modern associations is given on the other story about iPad lenses, see https://telescopecollector.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/liquid-lenses-for-ipads-and-mobile-phones/.

Where did it come from?

DSC00215aIt came from an Ebay auction, but I don’t really remember how long ago and for how much. Maybe it was in 2012, and maybe it cost £120-150, because that is about my normal limit – obviously no-one else saw it on Ebay or I would not have won it. The diameter is 2.125”, and overall length 42” open, 10.25” closed. I have numbered it as #203. It was bought because it is a really big scope, by a really good maker, in good condition.

It has two style characteristics of late 1700/early 1800 telescopes: (1) a flat eyepiece construction, and (2) the engraving is on the right hand side of the first draw, ie, the B of Berge is closest to the eyepiece end. This changed in 1810-1820 latest.

I consider it unique for its time, in size, magnification, and quality, plus it is by a good maker who did not produce that many telescopes – so it is not easy to put a value on it! I have another Berge, which is conventional single draw wooden design, and cannot recollect seeing another with his name on, on offer on Ebay. [Note added 2017: As the stock list shows, I have now seen several others on Ebay over the past three years, and bought three of them!]

Renovation involved polishing the brass, gluing up the cracked barrel, and also reseating the five grub screws in the brass objective  assembly, which had all been pushed out of the wood. When screwed down, in fact, the draw nearest the barrel actually hits these grub screws, pushing them out of the mahogany. Just a slight hiccup there….

This telescope almost poses more questions than it answers! But it is really beautiful, and easy to use, despite the length!

Accession Number #203.

Jesse Ramsden: 3-draw mahogany models

Jesse Ramsden, born 1735, died 1800, was acknowledged as the leading instrument maker of his day. Born in Salterhebble, Yorkshire, the son of an innkeeper, he was educated at the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Heath, Yorks, and worked in London initially apprenticed to Mark Burton, then working for Peter Dollond, then on his own account from 1762, competing with Peter Dollond, both of them working in the Strand. In 1766 he married Sarah Dollond, Peter’s sister, and continued working in London, later in Piccadilly, employing Matthew Berge, whose brother possibly was John Berge, and worked for Peter Dollond. In 1786 he was made an FRS, and awarded the Copley Medal in 1792.

So presumably Jesse Ramsden had no problems in being allowed to use his brother-in-law’s patent covering crown and flint objective lenses!

Quality instruments and designs, for whom?

DSC03874Ramsden was a mathematical instrument maker, so presumably was able to optimise the optical design of his telescopes. If Dollond was producing the Rover/Jaguar multiple model lines of the telescope trade, Ramsden went for the Ferrari models. His telescopes were perfect optically, and very good magnification. Plus they were made well, in my opinion. For example the lenses are not sandwiched in position under screw-threads, they are lapped into position in the brass body of the carrier, so they stay where they are placed.

Remember also that Ramsden was working from 1762 to 1800, with limited availability of larger tubes to make the separate draws. He concentrated on smaller diameter telescopes, but they competed well with larger models because of the quality. Also maybe by making more compact units he addressed the needs of Cavalry and Army officers, who needed to carry their equipment. Alternately he might have targeted the Lords and land-owners who wanted one of these modern devices – and the sharkskin/fishskin cases with the two telescopes I have collected with his name on, suggest a less rugged application than a horse riding military man – he would prefer a leather case.

Two examples

The first example is a 3-draw mahogany body telescope, total length 21.5”, objective OD 1.675” with a 1.375” optical diameter. Closed up this is 7” long, with the case 7.75” and 1.875” OD. I reckon it’s very light at 325gms, so easy to use.

DSC03872The mahogany body is really mahogany, but fairly thin walled. This telescope has no eyepiece cover, it is missing, and it should have an objective cap, but this is also missing.

Engraved name

On the first draw, the engraving says “JRamsden London” in script. But this engraving is written with the J next to the eyepiece, ie almost as you would read it after using it left handed. This was the style in the late 1700s, but changed to be standardised the other way round, around 1800.

The eyepiece is flat ended, with a rim round the outer edge, the style used in the late 1700s, before the “Victorian” bell-end eyepiece.

The shark-skin case

DSC03879The case is brilliant. Lined with a thin wooden sleeve, which inevitably is damaged at the top, it is lined with parchment to presumable stick the base circle onto the sides. Then the shark or fish skin covering is stretched around the outside.

Goodness knows what paper/parchment they had available in these times, but these liners seem to be usually legal documents, maybe receipts or agreements. Not particularly relevant to the telescope until you realise that there is a date on these documents, and in this case it says the cocument was “Sworn before the XXXX [unreadable: could be “S Malett” or “S Halett”] at Chichester on 22nd day of March 1796”.

The text of the document is slightly challenging, to read, inside the tube as it is. What can be read is as follows. “….of the short cut tobacco, shag tobacco // Spanish, and returns of Tobacco under the weight of four pound // sold, sent out or consumed in quantities under four pound // the ____ day of ___to the ___ day of ___ // and also a full and true Account of the Quantities of // Snuff, Scotch Snuff, Brown Scotch Snuff, and Foreign Snuff. // Sent [actually written fent] out or consumed in quantities under Two Pounds Weight // above period of time, to the best of my knowledge and belief // GOD // sworn before me [continues as above]” *

*The // signifies a line break, not necessarily at the end of the page.

DSC03881aSo this telescope can be dated as after 1796, but before 1800, when Jesse died. A few years before, he had moved his home to Brighton, and entrusted the business to Matthew Berge: this was because of his ill health, probably brought on by overwork.

The business progression

Matthew Berge took over Jesse Ramsden’s business after 1800, and signed his telescopes as “Berge, late Ramsden”, as quoted in the earlier story about iPad lenses on this website.

This model

DSC03878What’s it worth? This model was bought on Ebay in October 2010. It was one of those Ebay auctions where there was only one other bidder, and I was amazed to get it for £108. The supplier was called Lovejoy425 from Blyth in Northumberland. Accession number is 136.

The other model

This one was bought much earlier, at the Scientific Instruments Fair in London in October 1998. It was from Humbleyard Fine Art, of Long Melford, Suffolk. Price was £265!

This one is just the same as the one above, except 0.75” longer. It has an objective cap and an eyepiece cover in place, so is complete. The engraving just says “Ramsden London”, rather than JRamsden, but is still left handed.

The actual eyepiece hole is smaller, in the end cap, 5mm, as opposed to 8mm, and the flat end does not have such a large diameter rim, ie it does not protrude as far from the body of the first draw: it is still knurled, so the rim is still easy to pull out and extend the scope. This I think indicates an earlier construction date. There are no other clues to the date of this one, so say around 1790.

This one was accession number 51.

What are they worth?

What they are really worth is debatable, but if anyone actually seeks a Ramsden Ferrari, the price is irrelevant. Whether there is very much difference in price between them is also debatable, except the older of the two, with eyepiece and end cap is more complete – but the case for this one (also a little larger) is missing the base disc. So both should be worth £400-500.