Rowland of Bristol Multi-draw


This is a delightfully compact six-draw telescope by Rowland of Bristol. Fully extended it is just over 23”, but compressed it only measures 5.25” in length, and 1.5” in diameter. So very easy to carry around in the pocket. The draws are brass, as is the barrel, which has polished brass shoulders, and then a central section which appears to have been coated with a red enamel/paint coating at some time past – much of this has chipped off.

DSC05739The only visible engraving is on the first draw, which says simply “Rowland Bristol”, so does not give any specific date information, in relation to the several generations of Rowland instrument makers in Bristol.

Richard Rowland operated from 50, the Quay in Bristol from 1792 to 1811, when the business changed name to (Richard) Rowland & Sons from 1812-1819. Then the business became “Edward & Thomas Rowland”, the two sons, at the same address (now called Broad Quay) from 1820-1840. Edward Rowland subsequently became the sole owner from 1842-51. The simple ‘Rowland’ of the engraving could honestly have been used in most of these periods, depending on how they wished to be known.

Telescope Design


Multi-draw telescopes like this, in my opinion, did not appear until around 1820. There was the problem of obtaining supplies of the successively larger tubes needed, both for the draws themselves, but also for the sliders linking them. In addition, the standard four element eyepiece used two cartridges, which needed positioning with quite a large separation. This often meant that the first two draws were both used to support the cartridges, and usually the cartridge at the far end of the second draw had to compress inside the first draw tube, when the scope was folded up. The focus was also achieved by using the second draw moving into the third draw – leading to extra confusion for the user at times.

DSC05746This multi-draw has another, unique approach. The draws are relatively long, such that the second cartridge needs to be positioned half way along the second draw, for optimum performance. So the second cartridge is small enough to fit inside the first draw, except for the rear (ie objective end) lens mount ring. This ring is large enough to be caught by an internal shoulder in the second draw, half way along, which pulls the lens cartridge along into the middle of the second draw, when the scope is opened up. Ingenious!


The sliding arrangement inside the second draw, to position the lens cartridge


DSC05745There are a couple of issues with the cosmetic condition: there is some damage to the eyepiece end of the second draw, which has a couple of dents. These can be seen in the photo opposite. Then the barrel paintwork is severely chipped, ie most of it is missing. It would benefit from a leather sleeve: hopefully a picture will follow with such a leather cover.

There is no end cap to protect the objective – this probably existed at some point.  The eyepiece has a rotating cover to seal the viewing window.

Accession number 278.

Re-covered barrel:

Black leather covering later added to the barrel.




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.

img_2256   img_2248

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.

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”.


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.

Royal Mail Steam Packet Company pocket telescope


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, 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.


For more information on the Carpenter telescope, please see

Carpenter 8-draw telescope

Carpenter telescope fully extended

Carpenter telescope fully extended

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


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

Engraving on the eyepiece.

Engraving on the eyepiece.

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

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


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

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

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

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

Carpenter of London

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

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

Probable use

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

Where does it fit

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

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

Holiday use

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

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

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

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

What is it worth today?

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