Abraham three draw telescope

Jacob Abraham of Bath is a renowned maker of telescopes, and up until this year I had never been successful in acquiring a sample of his work. He was active between 1809 and 1842, and was sought out as a supplier by the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Wellington in that time period.  This model is a three draw unit with a mahogany barrel.

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Admittedly the photos and description on Ebay may have put other buyers off, as all the screws into the wooden barrel were missing, so it was an assembly of loose bits, and the third draw seemed to have an extra brass ring around the circumference.

Close investigation suggested it had had quite a hard working life! But once cleaned up, with the wooden barrel polished and modern screws used to hold the two end pieces into the wood (using 3/8” long screws, cut down to about 5mm), the unit is optically very good. It seems the barrel has been shortened at some point, presumably because the original screws had been pulled out of the wood too often, and there was nothing left to screw into. This then made the largest draw too long to fit into the barrel when closing the scope together, ie it hit the back of the objective lens. So to stop this potential damage the owner, or his staff, soldered a ring of copper (very neatly) around this last draw, which prevents it being pushed fully home into the barrel.

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The added copper ring round the third draw, and new screws in the barrel.

A questionable eyepiece?

The engraving on the first draw is shown below, as well as the soldering holding the eyepiece cap in position.

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As well as this mod on the third draw, the eyepiece cap has been soldered onto the end of the first draw. This cap is not necessarily the original, it may have been added to replace another cap damaged and/or lost. The shape of the cap, in terms of the tapering on the rear side, is just not what was fashionable or normal in the early 1800s. This was also the dubious aspect of a telescope discussed in an earlier story, the 8-draw Ramsden, where a correspondent pointed out that this was a fashionable shape in the  late 1800s, particularly with manufacturers in France.

DSC05531This soldered joint also means the first lens cartridge now seems to be permanently anchored in place, it does not appear to be removable any more.

Total length extended is just over 26”, and 8.75” when closed. The barrel OD is 1.75”. The draw tubes are actually in good condition, with only a few dents, in contrast to the other trauma the telescope has seen. The knurled ring on the fitting to the barrel does appear to have lost a segment of about 10 degrees, but still works fine. The missing segment can be seen on the photo above,  showing the copper ring.

Conclusion

It is still an effective telescope, and from Abraham in Bath, as the engraving says. This is also a useful size for use in today’s world.

It is worth mentioning that there were other instrument makers by the name of Abraham in other towns. For example Abraham Abraham in Liverpool, Abraham Elisha Abraham in Exeter, G & C Abraham in Sheffield, and John Aburgham Abraham also in Liverpool. This Jacob Abraham started in St Andrew’s Terrace in Bath 1809-1811. From 1830-1842 he was at 7 Bartlett Street, Bath, but also opened an office in Cheltenham. From 1833-37 this office moved to be adjoining Mr Thompson’s Pump Room in Bath, presumably to catch all the gentry taking the waters. He also developed partnerships with other instrument sellers, to presumably sell Abraham units, from bases in Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester.

Accession number #312.

What’s it worth now? Probably £60-100.

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JP Cutts single draw Naval telescope

Another popular telescope maker already featured on this website is JP Cutts, where two models of his have been described: these were a two draw and a three draw, both with wooden barrels. The two draw was interesting, in that it had an oak barrel, and was signed as JP Cutts & Sons, plus the second line of the engraving saying “Opticians to Her Majesty” (Queen Victoria). This one was sold last year on Ebay, fairly quickly. The three draw unit was obviously earlier, as it had no reference to the appointment to “Her Majesty”, and just mentions “JP Cutts” and no ‘Sons’ – but it quotes the JP Cutts being based in London, which Gloria Clifton dates as after 1836.

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This telescope is a single draw with an oak barrel, a design that suggests it is earlier in date maybe, but the format was a popular design for shipboard use. The engraving first line says “JP Cutts & Sons”, which marks it as from a later date, as his sons are quoted to have joined the business in around 1841-45. The second line of the engraving again quotes the “Opticians to Her Majesty” line, so again, it must be dated as after Victoria’s Coronation in June 1838. Possibly only a short time after, as the word ‘Her’ is obviously squeezed into a smaller space than would have been desirable, possibly replacing the word ‘His’. But having seen many other JP Cutts telescopes, I have never seen the engraving using any different (better) spacing.

JP Cutts History

dscn5095I recently found a new account of the JP Cutts history. This advises that John Priston Cutts was born in Leeds in February 1787: one of the reasons JP Cutts interests me is that he was Yorkshire based, a fellow Yorkshireman. He was apprenticed as an optical craftsman with the Sheffield company of Proctor and Beilby: this firm also had factory addresses in Birmingham, and operated in both places around 1804 [Two brothers named Beilby were later reported working in Bristol around 1810-1820]. In his later advertising Cutts suggests that he started his business in 1804 (ie aged 17): this was either the start or end of his apprenticeship.

The earliest known business address for JP Cutts is in an 1822 Sheffield Directory, at 58 Norfolk Street, Sheffield. Around 1828, he moved the business to Division Street, Sheffield, and it remained there until his death. In addition to optical instruments, Cutts manufactured metal implements such as razors, knives, powder flasks, and liquor flasks.

Cutts opened a branch shop / warehouse in London, probably in about 1836. That year he entered a trademark as a spectacle case manufacturer, with an address of 3 Crane Court, Fleet Street. That venture appears to have been very short-lived, as an 1839 advertisement stated “Late warehouse in London, removed to Sheffield”. He was also said to have had a branch office in New York, briefly.

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During the 1830s, Cutts became associated with James Chesterman (1792-1867). Chesterman invented a number of devices, including the spring tape measure and a self-winding window blind. An 1837 directory of Sheffield listed “Cutts John Preston, optical, mathl. and philosl. instrument mfr. and sole mfr. of Chesterman’s patent self-acting window blind and map rollers, tape measures, etc. Division St”, and “Chesterman Jas. patentee and mfr. of the newly invented spring tape measures, spring map and window blind rollers, and spring hinges and door closers; at I.P. Cutts’, Division st.” The formal partnership of Cutts, Chesterman and Co. was in existence by 1855, when they exhibited “measuring tapes”, at that year’s Paris Exposition. Another partner, James Bedington (ca. 1811-1890), later joined to form Cutts, Chesterman, and Bedington. That company dissolved in 1859, after Cutts’ death. Chesterman took over the former business, and remained in Sheffield for many decades: Bedington moved to Birmingham.

This account does not refer to another partnership mentioned in Gloria Clifton’s reference book, that of JP Cutts, Sutton and Son, which was active around 1851, in Sheffield and in Hatton Garden, London: they introduced the Trade Mark ‘TRY MF’. It would be good to know what this meant as at first I thought this read ‘Try me’ – indeed the Royal Museums at Greenwich have a unit showing the Trade Mark anchor and they suggest this reads ‘TRY ME’ underneath, but I’m not convinced, it looks like TRY MF to me: their reference is NAV1486 – any suggestions welcomed! I need to polish up the Cutts & Sutton 4-draw telescope, my Accession number #272, which bears this marking, to see what that says – as soon as I can find it that is!

Later comment (Oct 2017): Inspection of various other Cutts scopes, plus one branded “Newton, Halifax” today, shows the TM distinctly shows “TRY MF” as the wording under the Anchor symbol. So the Royal Museum has got that wrong! But it’s always possible the engraving tool or person had it wrong, and perpetuated the mistake – see the previous comments made below…….

Royal Museums at Greenwich have responded to my query, and they reckon the ‘F’ is a fault in the engraving process on the metalwork. In addition they have found an entry placed by the company in the 1870 publication The Handbook to the Manufacturers and Exporters of Great Britain’ that showed the trade mark printed, where it definitely says “TRY ME”, in between two horizontal lines, under the anchor symbol used as part of the Trademark. This was in an article that provided a comprehensive review of the whole history of this company, including their microscopes.

This telescope

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Closed up the telescope is 20” long: fully extended it is 36”. The OD is 2.5”, the clear visible diameter of the objective is 1.5”. The wooden main barrel appears to be of oak, and is in good condition. The overall condition is excellent: the brass is beautiful, and the eyepiece is complete with a protective slide over the lens, which sticks out of the bell shaped eyepiece housing when the scope is in use. The only potentially missing item would be an objective lens cap/cover, although the (steel) screws at the objective end holding the lens assembly in place have been replaced with brass screws. At the other end of the barrel the brass collar is held on with what look like copper pins.

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The single draw is split in the middle to allow access to the second cartridge containing the two lenses closest to the objective. The end of the single draw is used to create an orifice that is typically used restrict the light passing down the edges of the barrel from the objective lens. The eyepiece cartridge has the other two lenses. All the screw threads unscrew and run easily.

The engraving on the first draw reads:

JP Cutts & Sonsdscn5089

Opticians to Her Majesty

Sheffield

….where the word ‘Her’ is in a slightly smaller font size.

The telescope weight is significant – it probably needs to be supported on the rigging, as it weighs approximately 1.1kg (2.4 lbs or 39 ounces). Presumably on sailing ships the lookouts who climbed the masts did not have to carry telescopes as big as these!

How well does it work?

The telescope focuses easily, and can even be used with spectacles in place! Easily means there is plenty of movement of the draw in and out to move through the point of best focus. The magnification is around 10x, not a high magnification compared to some, but a good wide field of view, for a telescope, makes up for that.

Background data

The scope was bought from A.Miller, a stallholder at the London Scientific Instruments Fair, in October 1999. He seemed to specialise in renovating telescopes that potentially could display beautifully polished wooden barrels, but this one was awaiting treatment, ie not yet renovated. It is Accession number #56.

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!

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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.

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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!

Construction

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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!

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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!

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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.

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.

Construction

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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

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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 Della Torre, London, telescope

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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.

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Italian immigrants to London over the last thousand years are discussed on www.italophiles.com, 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 do look original: two of the three holding the objective carrier are missing. It 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.

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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.

Conclusion

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 Ebay is £300.

1860 Presentation Dollond – For US Sale

A correspondent in the Milwaukee/Chicago area has an interesting Dollond telescope for sale, which dates from at least 1860. This is a classic single draw, large “Day or Night” naval unit, measuring 39” open, and 21” closed, with a sliding lens cover on the eyepiece. The sunshade is still present on the objective end.

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Presentation Engraving

The draw is engraved with the normal “Dollond London” and “Day or Night”, but also has an elaborate explanation as to why it was presented to Captain G.V. Argles. This reads:

Presented

to

Captain G V Argles

of I G S N Co’s steamer “Agra”

for services rendered to the

Ganges Co steamer MIRZAPORE

while aground in the Chokah Channel off Kaunsul

October 1860

Singh McCardy

Manager

Ganges S N Co Ltd

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This is a fairly typical reason for a presentation to a ship’s Captain, from another ship that was either foundering or in difficulties, when he offered and provided assistance. The exact place is difficult to locate now, as the area is no longer part of India, but is in Bangladesh, and many town and place names in India have been changed or the spelling adjusted.

20160925_205931It has been possible to determine that “IGSN” is the India General Steam Navigation Company (established 1844), and similarly “Ganges SN Co” is probably the Ganges Steam Navigation Company. References also show that there were many steam boats travelling up the Ganges, typically from Calcutta (now Kolkata) to Benares (now known as Varanasi, 600km NW of Calcutta in Northern India): these boats would need to stop to load more coal maybe three times during this journey. In 1849 there were 15 privately owned steamers travelling this route, three of which were 1000 ton P&O liners. The Indian Government, who supplied the coal to the intermediate coaling points, itself used ten riverboats. In fact one of the coaling stops was at a location/town called ‘Mirzapur’, close to Benares.

20160925_202125The only reference found relating to ‘Chokah’, was for the town of Choka, near Patna, on this route up the Ganges (238 miles from Calcutta), where the channel was said only to be passable by steam boats from July to October. So this could have been where the Mirzapore steamer came to grief: it is significant that the date on the telescope is for October that year!

Enquiries, please, via this website.

Photos of the telescope

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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.

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Recovering the end-cap

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

A pristine Dolland, still in a tin

s1600This is a classic telescope as sold in an Ebay sale of antiques, a Dolland three draw leather covered brass telescope. Run of the mill, lots about, not a high value product, mass produced in the early 1800s.

So why did I buy it, at a very inflated price compared to any others? Because this one is different.

s-l1600Readers of this site will be aware that the name Dolland possibly became a generic name for telescopes with an achromatic objective lens, giving the better performance of the telescopes originally patented by Dollond in the 1760s. So Dolland telescopes became cheap copies of the Dollond standard. However, while this telescope might be a lower cost version of the real thing, it has been kept in an air-tight tin (metal) case for over 150 years, I would guess.

The telescope is pristine, it has no corrosion to the brass, and the leather is looking healthy, and with no stretch to the stitches. What is more the edges of the sliders on the objective and the eyepiece feel sharp, they have not been worn smooth by use or wear. It looks like the telescope has never been used. No old polish secreted in the corners either.

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Dimensions are: opened length 34.5″ without sunshade extended, or 37″ total: 12″ closed. Overall diameter 2+3/8″, container diameter 2.5″. Came from a house clearance in Bury St Edmunds.

So perhaps it should be put in a glass case in a Museum? I may be one of the few people who have looked thru it, and it works really well: the lenses have no dust and have never been cleaned, they have never needed it.

s-l1600 (5)The screw threads are not as good as they could be, ie not as good as the Dollond versions, but this is what characterises the Dolland units. The tube walls are probably thinner than the Dollonds, so will not be as robust in use, but in this example are looking good!

There is no way I am going to touch it further, except for trying to wipe off some recent fingermarks: it is to stay bottled up. Even the photos used here are from the Ebay sale page. One day there will be some Museum that needs such a brilliant specimen!

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Accession number 281.

Royal Mail Steam Packet Company pocket telescope

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Not my normal style of telescope, it’s a very small pocket scope, but there are a few redeeming features. First it has six draws, second it is bound in Baleen around the barrel, and third it has a crest on the barrel, in gold on a leather over-binding.

DSCN1649The crest here has the motto “Per Mare Ubique”, which from schoolboy Latin means “Everywhere by the Sea(s)”. This is the motto used by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, which operated from 1839 to 1932. They took over the famous White Star Line in 1927, then ran into financial troubles, including some scandals apparently! So that is not a modern problem at all. In 1840 the RM Steam Packet Company undertook to run a twice monthly mail service to the West Indies, using steam powered vessels, rather than sailing ships. These ran from either Southampton or Falmouth.

baleen plate and stripsThe Baleen binding, seen on numbers of 19th Century telescopes, is the filter material from a Baleen whale’s mouth, which is like a tendon, and made of keratin rather than bone – which is fingernail material: but it resembles a strong plastic, using a modern description. The whales use it as a filter material, to pick out the plankton etc from the water they suck in and then discharge through their Baleen screens. All the Baleen bindings I have seen have been black, but when pictured in a Baleen whale’s mouth (otherwise known as the “Right” whale) they do appear to be white. Baleen seems to be the normal material commonly referred to as whalebone in ladies Victorian corsets. The best description found is on http://elfshotgallery.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/bonding-with-baleen.html, whch is where the photo was shown.

DSCN1654The telescope is small: closed it is 3.5” long, open 14.5” long, and 1.375” in diameter at its largest. All the five standard lenses are present the first four in two separate assemblies: these and the draws are all labelled “VII”. The final picture shows it as the small telescope next to the more standard sized multi-draw telescope from Carpenter. There is no separate maker’s name on the RM Company telescope, but presumably it was used by a ship’s officer at some time before 1932.

I found this little telescope (Item ref 237) on Ebay, and it’s the only one I have ever seen like that. It is now offered for sale at £400 Sterling.

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For more information on the Carpenter telescope, please see https://telescopecollector.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/carpenter-8-draw-telescope/

A tale of three telescopes from around 1800

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These three telescopes all date from around the turn of the C19th, in other words 1800. I don’t think they can be dated better than that, but there are discussion points that can be used to suggest they are earlier.

  1. A Dollond, from well before 1800

DSC01628aThe first, the smallest and maybe the oldest is a single draw in a French polished wooden – that could be mahogany – round barrel, about an inch and a quarter diameter. The original polishing was badly damaged, so I re-polished it, and the result was really good. Closed it is 10.25” long, the main barrel being 9.5” long. The draw tube itself, without the eyepiece end, is 9” long, so occupies the whole barrel when closed up. Approx 5.5” of this draw is extended at the focus point, and there is a line scribed on the draw to show where to pull it out and stop. Maybe this was needed, because there is no end stop, the draw pulls right out: this is a characteristic of older telescopes, ie before 1800.

Five lenses in the first draw

DSC01624aTwo further aspects of the inscribed line: the focus has a fairly wide tolerance, so it can be easily set up by eye against the marked line. Second, the draw is fairly tight in the barrel (still, after 220 years), so the lack of an end stop does not let the brass section slip out when holding the telescope. There are then four further lines obvious on the draw tube, and these are all screw threads joining short tube sections. So four such break points leads to having four lenses along the body, plus various apertures to restrict the light paths allowed through. Then, under the shaped eyepiece there is a fifth lens, so I need to find out whether this was common, and when five lenses were used – it is possible this leads to an earlier than 1800 date.

DSC01625aThe eyepiece itself has a groove across the top, which would have taken a brass cover, held in place by a small screw that located in the cut-out visible. I guess this was over-engineering, as many of the users of such a telescope would have found this piece of metal sticking out either hit them in the eye when the ship lurched to one side, or maybe was flipped out of the groove when knocked at any time. Actually I’ve never seen one of these flaps in place on any telescope!

The Objective lens assembly

At the objective end the lens cover is the more conventional slide, which is still in place, but shows signs of damage, as most of these do. Such slides are always difficult to polish – unfortunate here, because the objective cover slide, rather than the first draw, carries the maker’s name. Here it is easily read as “Dollond, London”. Seeing this enabled me to identify some “scratches” seen on a similar slide, on another telescope, as a rubbed-out Dollond signature.

DSC01629aDiffering from other telescope designs, the sliding cover does not unscrew and leave the lens in place: if you unscrew the sliding cover assembly, it brings the objective lensassembly (pair?) away with it. The diameter of the glass available to collect the light is 15mm, or around 0.625”, which is very narrow, compared to later ship’s telescopes, which might have had 2” objectives to collect as much light as possible. But to do this they relied on the Dollond patented objective lens combination of crown and flint glasses.

Then, the most frustrating thing with any telescope of this age, the screws holding the brass pieces to the wood are incredibly small, and I have not found a suitable modern source. There are three screws needed at each end of the wooden barrel, and this scope has two of them, the original ones, present at each end.

The Objective lens

This scope was bought in 1997 from the London Scientific Instrument Fair, from Swindon based Tim Collins, who had a Portobello Road stall in London as well: it is my reference 39. He suggested it dated from around 1760. The Dollond patent on the objective lens combination was dated 1758. This objective is lapped into the brass, so cannot be inspected, but is not that thick: it has a convex face facing the outside world and a flat face on the rear side. If you look in the distance there is no colour fringing evident, but looking at the sky and angling to see the edge, maybe this does look yellowed. So maybe the design is using a narrow diameter objective, and small apertures in the lens assembly, to avoid the problems of chromatic aberration at the edges of the view.

  1. Eight sided small telescope

DSC01638aIt took a long time to acquire the next telescope in this family. I just wanted another eight sided one, as typical of the scopes that were used on older sailing ships! That was my impression. Anyway this one came from Ebay as a “Buy it now” in March 2013, for £230, and is number 182. It was quoted as circa 1790. The first comment has to be that this telescope has no name, so it’s a copy of someone else’s design. So its maybe later in date than the design might indicate. Plus maybe two of the screws into the wooden main barrel are original, and there is a dent in the main draw where a new screw has been inserted that was too long – it’s a problem I have met too!

DSC01643aThe barrel appears to be made of oak, shaped from a single piece and then polished. Closed the telescope is 13.5” long, fully open its 22.75”. Again there is a mark on the first draw to show where the main focal point is located: but the brass draw does not pull out of the body, there is a stop provided. The first draw has two splits along its length to insert lenses, plus a third close to the eyepiece.

DSC01633aThere is then an eyepiece lens almost proud of the rear end of the telescope, totally unprotected, and there is no evidence of an earlier cover being attached here to protect it. So it is a more conventional 4 lens system in the first draw.

DSC01640aThe objective lens, however, does have a standard slide for protection. Unscrewing the slide removes the whole lens assembly, which is of two lenses, both very thick: in contrast to other later standard models where the outward facing convex (crown glass) lens is very thin.

This telescope has double the magnification of the Dollond quoted above. It works well, although the draw tube is stiff.

  1. A larger, 10-sided rebuild project

DSC01644aAdded here as a work-in-progress item is another larger scope that is ten sided. I bought it as a wreck on Ebay in September 2012, for around £100: it is number 165. It was bought as a renovation project, as there was no objective lens, and no name. Within a month, never seen before on Ebay, there was a brass objective lens carrier advertised, Dollond named, no lens, in a size that would have fitted fine. Regrettably the winning bid was over £100, just for the brass assembly! I failed to go that high.

DSC01655aSo the pictures here are for record to see where it gets to when treated with TLC. It looks like it was originally French polished and is oak. The main barrel has split, so there is a brass strap to hold it together. It is 18.25” long, and the screws in the one end fitted are not original. The brass draw pulls straight out, and has splits to create a 5 lens construction.

DSC01653aBut there are only three splits in the tube, plus one eyepiece lens: the second tube split has a lens carrier with two lenses, one at each end. When focussed to the mark, the total length of the telescope is approx 29”.

DSC01649aLacking a proper objective carrier, the interim plan is to use an objective doublet from a (trashed/squashed) Dollond WW1 Scout Regiment scope as the objective, right size/focal length, to show the old girl working (See top picture).  Believe me it works, but the focus point has changed a lot, it is much shorter. The magnification is around that of the 1760 scope quoted above, ie not very much, and there is currently some barrel distortion. Possibly the five lenses are in the wrong order, or the wrong way round! There’s a few combinations to try there, as the Dollond lens worked fine in its original, bashed structure.

These Telescopes are For Sale

All of these are for sale, to someone who wants to take them further. Possibly the lenses from the wreck, number 3, might help with a current re-build project on a Ramsden scope! Then it can be polished and cleaned, to make it interesting. So without a working solution it is only worth around £600: a new objective lens carrier without the lens would be around £200 – I’ve only ever seen one sold as a spare..  The other two telescopes, complete, are valued at £1200 each.