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!


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.

Concorde Memorial Galiled (sic) Telescope, 2003


This is quite an effective, but modern telescope, produced as a corporate gift and specially engraved by some trading house to be a tribute in memory of the Concorde airliner. It is therefore engraved with the Concorde name in the BA logo form, and etched with a Concorde silhouette.

dscn4882Just in case you thought this was a well-engineered British product, that myth is dispelled as soon as you see the title on the box is “Galiled Telescope”, so maybe it was made in space by Martians, or maybe Chinese people, who cannot spell Galileo. Inside it claims to be designed exclusively as part of the British Airways Concorde Collection, to celebrate 27 years of commercial supersonic flight. However it is a very highly polished, chrome-plated brass, with what appear to be two plastic lens cartridges in conventional positions in the first draw. Plus the focal action is a combination of pull out to full length, and then twist to gradually adjust into focus, because the first draw has some sort of preferred spiral/screw thread action (which can be over-ruled by a definite push intended to close the draw.


On the box and on the other side of the objective ring to the Concorde name logo it states the magnification x field as 25x 30mm.


The scope is a three draw, 5.5” when closed, and 13” when open fully, The objective is a fairly standard doublet: the third draw unscrews from the main barrel conventionally, and the mounting slider is retained by a plastic end cap: it is removed over the eyepiece. The slider itself is a smooth run along the draw, since the mount has a plastic liner. Even the inside surface of the barrel is chrome plated and highly polished.

What I have not managed to do is dismantle the first and second draws to get at the second lens cartridge! Modern stuff is not as straightforward in assembly as Victorian models!

Extending the market

Despite the exclusive design claim, I have also seen variants of this scope offered on Ebay, not just with a Concorde logo and tribute, but also with a version offering a tribute to the Hubble space telescope. This one was new, and cost about £48, in 2005, which was then a fairly standard price.


The manufacturer’s model number is quoted as LP-888, with the BA Warehouse Code of OP, and Product Code 1402. There has been another offered on Ebay recently labelled as made by Opticron. My Accession Number was #108.

Pocket telescope by Bate, circa 1840


This is a little telescope, but still a very effective one. When new, it had a decent sharkskin covered case, now all that remains is the bottom half: it still has the paper label from the original supply.

The label says:dscn4857

R. B. Bate

Scientific Instrument Maker

Wholesale, Retail & for Exportation

No 21 Poultry, London

The number ‘21’ is on a paper sticker, which covers the previous address, which was 17 Poultry. Internally there is no paper lining: in many other cases this can be made from old documents, which give further dating information.


Closed up, the telescope is only 5”+, so it might be described as a pocket telescope. It is in fact an effective three draw, mahogany barrel telescope, that extends to 14.75”, and has an OD of 1.3”. It is engraved “Bate, London” on the first draw.


The wooden barrel is still in beautiful condition, and has not been re-polished by me. All the screws in the end fittings are original, and still function.

The telescope works fine, ie very well, there is still an internal slider in the eyepiece to protect the top lens from dust, when stored.

Sizing: fully open 14.75”, closed size 5.25”: visible objective lens diameter is 1.125”.


dscn4860Robert Brettell Bate was at 21 Poultry from 1824 to 1847 – he died in 1847. He had associations with WC Cox and Geo Stebbing, both notable marine instrument makers from the provinces (Plymouth and Portsmouth). He also transferred one of his apprentices to William Gilbert (2) (see the previous story. His sons John and Bartholomew Bate were also working in the business.

Accession Number #265

The scope was bought from an Ebay dealer in Lydbury, Gloucester, in 2015.


A silver plated Gilbert scope, ~1800

Possibly designed to compete for the “Sporting Gentleman” market, like the Berge/Ramsden silver plated scope described earlier (July 30 2016), this is another telescope dating from 1800, but made by ‘Gilbert & Co’. The telescope itself does not give much more useful info, in the engraving, which says


Gilbert, & Co



The first thing to notice is that the engraving is on “the right hand side” of the telescope, ie the writing starts with the first letter of each line nearest to the eyepiece. This was the effective standard format from say 1760 to 1790: subsequently it seems this ‘unwritten standard’ gradually changed. From the early 1800s most of the engraving was placed on the opposite side, ie with the last letter of each line ending nearest to the eyepiece. So straight away it can be suggested that this telescope is maybe C18th.

It is likely that ‘Gilbert & Co’ was the name used by William Gilbert (1), at around 1800, when he had four of his sons working in the business with him: these were William (2), from 1795, Henry Robert from 1798, Thomas from 1801, and Charles from 1803. They worked from the Navigation Warehouse, at 148 Leadenhall Street, London, with William and Thomas subsequently setting up their own businesses as instrument makers from around 1809/1813, and later working together as partners.

There were other complex partnerships, where William Gilbert (1) worked with Gabriel Wright from 1792-1794, and again from 1802-1805, and then there were triple partnerships, in Gregory, Gilbert & Wright from 1790-93, and then Gilbert, Wright and Hooke, from 1794-1801 – all of these were in 148 Leadenhall Street. Possibly different names were used on different styles of instrument, which therefore drew on different expertise within the partners – or maybe the group of trades-people working together from this warehouse site. William Gilbert’s father John had also traded as an instrument maker and optician, working from around 1745: William was an apprentice to this John Gilbert (2), alongside Peter Dollond and Thomas Ripley, both to become famous. John himself was the son of a mathematical instrument maker, John Gilbert (1), who had worked from Tower Hill earlier, 1716 to 1749.


I have not found what the Patent quoted in fact refers to: but the pedigree shows William Gilbert was a major player in optical instruments at the end of the 1700s and early 1800s, and this telescope is arguably better than any similar Dollond.


dscn4854-smThe whole telescope says “Quality”, starting with the silver plating and decoration around the eyepiece and objective lens. Pick it up and it feels right, but the big surprise is looking through it – the magnification is about twice what you might have been expecting. The lenses in the internal cartridges look good, and must be very carefully sized. One of the draws, the third, obviously what not quite snug enough, so the slider is padded with very thin felt. The sliders themselves have the threads about an inch down in the draw, with a shoulder at the top end, to make a two point mounting for each joint, keeping them tight in line.dscn4847-sm

dscn4853-smSizing is the sort of standard for this style of three draw scope, 29.5” fully open and 9.5” closed, OD is 2”. The mahogany barrel is still polished well, so that has not needed any rework: there is one longitudinal crack. The only quirk in the design would seem to be the extra ring which acts as a 5mm spacer near the objective – this might just be a spacer to enable a focus to be made even on very close objects (20 feet), where the extension required  is close to the fully expanded length of the scope.


We have no info about any owners. It was bought on Ebay, in September 2006. What surprised me was that it came from a farmhouse in Gulval, just east of Penzance, very close to where my daughter lives! I wonder what stately home it came from!

Accession number is #118. What value would you put on it? The retail value is certainly well over £500.

2018 Comment:

I love this telescope, so it isn’t yet for sale: but there is a similar one for sale on Ebay UK for around £625, by Gilbert & Wright, so maybe even a little earlier. See the dealer “silkandsawdust1” or Ebay item #273599051869…..

Footnote: Navigation Warehouse

The building at 148 Leadenhall Street is now a suite of 92 serviced offices: it is accessed by the left hand door in the picture below.


A reference to the Navigation Warehouse at 148 records that John William Norie (1772–1843), a writer on navigation, was a Partner with Charles Wilson in publishing naval books and charts and also a dealer in nautical instruments at the “Navigation Warehouse” in Leadenhall Street at the end of the C18.

As the 2016 estate agent blurb says, the offices are “Set in the crossroads of the insurance and financial districts of London, directly opposite Leadenhall Market, and just around the corner from the Lloyd’s building and the Gherkin”.

Next door is a very sumptuous, even exotic bar (the Steam and Rye), with private dining rooms: one of these is the clock room (see below), which maybe harks back to the history of the area.



A Della Torre, London, telescope


Lovely name, Della Torre, but how come someone with an Italian sounding name was in London making telescopes in the early 1800s? Anthony Della Torre was working as an Optician in London from 1805 to 1823: he was sometimes known as ‘de la Torre’. He was located at 12 Leigh Street, in Red Lion Square, from 1805-11, and 4 Leigh Street, Red Lion Square, from 1815-23. There’s not a lot known, indeed Leigh Street has disappeared, but if the houses were actually the ones now on Red Lion Square, they were expensive addresses. However not quite in the Strand/High Holborn normal area for telescope makers and traders.


Italian immigrants to London over the last thousand years are discussed on, which points out that they were concentrated in the early 1800s in this northern part of London. Amongst their number were various instrument makers – such as Negretti, eventually founding Negretti and Zambra; and Martinelli, who made barometers. There are still many people of this name in the UK, and the USA.

The Telescope

dscn4347So the telescope dates from the very first 20 years of the 1800s: it is engraved on the first draw, “Della Torre & Co, London”. It is an elegant, narrow bodied, two draw telescope, with a mahogany barrel and lens protectors at each end. The screws that are present mostly  look original: one on the objective carrier does look like a replacement. The telescope gives a nice image with an easy focus.

The objective is again a triple lens combination, but compared to the Lincoln this time the Crown glass convex lenses that sandwich the flint glass concave lens (the central lens on the pic with the slight pinkish tint) are very clear of colour, with only the slightest green tint. All are held in place with a screw in ring, much easier to deal with than a peened structure. The objective is small in diameter, with only 18mm of visible glass, within the total telescope OD of 37mm: this is reminiscent of much older Italian (and Dollond C18th) designs. The lens carrier incorporates a sideways sliding cover to protect the objective. As you see, all the screw-threads work well.

dscn4343   dscn4342

Overall length is 49cm (19.4″) extended, and 21.4cm (8.4″) when closed. The eyepiece lenses are in two standard cartridges, but the final connection to the viewing eyepiece cap is novel, in that the shoulder is not part of the cap, it is attached to the first draw permanently.


Altogether a pleasing 200 year old telescope. It was acquisition #167 in 2012. Value now? Difficult to say, as there are very few about, and I’ve never seen another for sale. After listing this here, and receiving some enquiries, I have decided it should be sold, and the price listed on is £300.

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

Solomon 6-draw Pocket Telescope

This telescope was a nice surprise for me, as I bought it as a multi-draw with an interesting covering on the barrel, reminiscent of the baleen covering used in Victorian times. It was advertised on Ebay as a five draw pocket-sized scope in a cardboard case, lacking an objective cover.


Recovering the end-cap


French text and the lost end cap

The impression on first inspection was that the objective end of the scope had a cylindrical ring round the lens carrier brass section, with four expansion slots – the type used on a slip-over end-cap. It looked like the end-cap sliding side section was stuck on there, with no actual end-cap. Sure enough with some force the side cylindrical section pushed off the objective lens mount.

Looking inside the telescope case the end cap appeared to be stuck down at the bottom of the case. It did not take too much to push this out of the case, and it was then ‘Super-glued’ (rather than soldered) onto the side cylindrical section, to reconstruct the end-cap.

DSCN4012Also inside the case was a soft cushioned end piece, which fitted the eyepiece end of the telescope – so obviously this part of the case was meant to accept the eyepiece, rather than the objective. On the back of the cushioning the words forming the remains of some writing were in French, so along with the appearance of the scope this convinced me that the telescope was actually a French design, probably sold in England. Because it is such a small pocket telescope version, you assume it was sold to a country gent, to be carried in his pocket.

Operational problems?

The disappointment was that the telescope did not work properly, so it needed to be dismantled to see the problem. As with any multi-draw scope, say with 5 draws or more, the focusing eyepiece covers the lengths of the first two draws: so there is one cartridge in the first draw, mounted from under the eyepiece cover, plus a second cartridge carrying one lens at each end, mounted in the objective end of the second draw tube.

DSCN4020.JPGThe cartridge in the first draw was fine, but the second cartridge appeared to be at the end of the first draw. It became obvious that the telescope in fact had a sixth draw, and this draw was very stiff, possibly because it had been distorted. Withdrawing the second cartridge showed that the second, inner lens was missing. This lens was located – it was jammed up the first draw tube, held in place because its own over-sized knurled mounting ring was too big to slide easily inside the first draw, when the scope was fully collapsed. This had possibly led to the distortion of the first draw, and it does appear to be a design fault.

I now have to decide whether to file down the knurling on the lens assembly to sort out this problem. It seems a valid adjustment, and the protruding shoulder (at the right hand end of the left hand lens cartridge in the above picture) has no function. The inner lens mount of the opposing cartridge is the same as the OD of the cartridge: this one is a sliding fit inside the first draw.

Engraved on the sixth draw!

DSCN4013Even more interesting was that there was a supplier name engraved on the first draw, which was “S & B Solomons, 39 Albemarle St, London”. The Solomons were opticians and spectacle makers, and accepted London suppliers of telescopes and microscopes: it is possible that this was an imported French-made pocket telescope, brought in to provide their ‘Landed Gentry’ customers with impressive pocket-sized devices. Albemarle Street is off the Strand in Central London, and Samuel and Benjamin Solomons were operating there from 1840 to 1875, throughout the early Victorian period.


Once this lens is repositioned, the telescope works extremely well, particularly for such a small device. The OD at the objective is 1.125”, the fully open length 15.5” and the closed length only 4”.


Albermarle Street29 albermarle st

The premises of S&B Solomon are now sited next to Browns Hotel, in a fashionable part of Mayfair. The picture is from Google, with the house behind the Chelsea tractor.

What about the barrel covering?

The basic original query – as to what the barrel is covered with – remains unexplained. It looks and feels like plastic moulded basket weave. Indeed its construction appears to be that of a woven cane, treated with some black varnish or resin.


The ring covers the ends of the weave, this one held in place by the retaining flange at the end of the sixth draw.

Accession Number 286. This telescope is now for sale, fully working, priced at £185 sterling.

Shuttleworth – a classic rebuild?

Any aviation enthusiast, and particularly any aeroplane photographer, knows the name Shuttleworth for their marvellous collection and displays of vintage aircraft, at Old Warden. So when you see a telescope, labelled as manufactured by Shuttleworth, it is one not to be ignored, even when only sold for spares!

This Shuttleworth example would be a classic candidate to follow the rebuild route adopted by some old aeroplane restorers, where sometimes it might only be the nameplate screwed onto the airframe that has any link to the original item it is claimed to represent! This telescope comprises what would seem to be the original three brass draws, a mahogany barrel with the two brass ends, still screwed in place with the original screws.


The Missing Elements

Inside there is one of the two lens cartridges, but without the lenses: the other cartridge is missing, as is the eyepiece end cap. The objective lens pair are both smashed, but still held in place together: the lens holder does not unscrew because of the bent rim, caused by the impact which smashed the lenses.

To replace these five lenses and the objective carrier would seem to be a step too far, the end result would have needed to require the destruction of a decent, complete C18th telescope, and the result would be a mish-mash.

So it is to stay as a space model, a shell, but with many interesting features.

The Shuttleworth business

Henry Raynes Shuttleworth was an Optician who worked in London from 1760-1797: he had been apprenticed to John Cuff from 1746-7. Two of John Cuff’s other apprentices moved over to work for Shuttleworth, one in 1761, the other in 1769, as following bankruptcy in 1750, John Cuff’s business went downhill, ceasing completely in 1770.

From 1760 Shuttleworth was to be found at “The Sir Isaac Newton & Two Pairs of Golden Spectacles, the Old Mathematical Shop, near the West End of St Paul’s, London”. So that might explain why he did not engrave an address on his telescopes, but just put “Shuttleworth, London”. After 1774 he had an address that then sounded a little boring, in Ludgate Street, London.

From 1788, Henry Raynes’ son Henry Shuttleworth became an apprentice to his father, then taking over the business in 1797 when his father died: he continued trading as an Optician until 1811.

The design features

This telescope is a sophisticated design, following that of the two Ramsden scopes described earlier. The engraving of the name is positioned on what could be described as on the left side, ie you have to move the telescope to your left to read it, which is the old standard.

EDSCN3955ach draw has an arrow, which is taken to indicate how the tubes should be aligned to get the best performance. The air hole in the top of the third draw is to let the air compressed inside the telescope discharge easily to atmosphere.

Of most interest to me are the draw lines on the second tube, where the drawing process that formed the tube has caused a surface imperfection, from either slag impurities or from sticking of the metal to the die? Here I am guessing, maybe someone will explain?

Noticeable on the brass around the objective lens assembly iDSCN3956s a blemish on the surface, where it appears a 4-5mm diameter hole has been filled in, asa repair.

All of the retaining shoulders for the draws are labelled XII, as are the two larger draws: but the first draw, which carries the engraving, is labelled XI…!

There are no marks or letters/words of any identifiable nature on the wooden barrel. There is the normal focus line scribed round the first draw.


The telescope, when fully extended, is 22.5″ (lacking the eyepiece), and when closed is 7″. Visible objective lens diameter is 37mm, and overall max diameter 43mm.


The telescope is of a 1780-1800 design and build standard. The directories suggest Shuttleworth were spectacle makers mainly, although they are known and quoted for producing a microscope. All these little blemishes, or inconsistencies, suggest to me that the Shuttleworth operation did not produce many telescopes, maybe only one or two at a time, or maybe even they were bought in, and then engraved with the Shuttleworth name before being sold. Some of the telescope and microscope makers had no retail premises – for example this applied to John Cuff after 1758, so Cuff might well have acted as a general sub-contract manufacturer.


Accession number 285

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