Prototype variable magnification scope by Banks


This three draw telescope is engraved as made by “Banks”, of “441 Strand, London”. It also has the letters “INVᵀ”, presumably indicating it was an inverting telescope. But it isn’t. Maybe it means an “Inverting lens” has been added to make the image the right way up! Note that the engraving is on the “left side”, ie the first letter, the B of Banks, is closest to the eyepiece. This normally indicates an early date, typically around 1800, as by 1810 the standard had changed, and the engraving was the opposite way round. The engraving also looks a little crooked, so maybe it was indeed when Banks first started making such instruments.


In a slot in the first draw, there is the capability of moving the cartridge which holds the third lens in the scope sequence (starting from the eye) backwards and forwards, to adjust the viewed size of the viewed image (the magnification, in modern parlance). This third lens is centrally mounted in this cartridge, and it does not seem to be removable. The cartridge was presumably moved by a screw or pin positioned in the slot, attached to the cartridge: this was missing, so at the moment its place is taken by a piece of a wooden cocktail stick.


Does anyone have any suggestions as to what was attached to those two holes at the end of the slot? (Bearing in mind that the whole tube has to slide into the second draw, which means there is no protrubrance allowed above the OD of the tube….)

I found this very interesting, as I have mostly used pancreatic scopes, which use a similar approach, separating the two lens cartridges by a different amount, and therefore increasing the magnification. Changing the magnification also changes the focus point, so requires a slight focal adjustment. In fact, this was how my first telescope, the N&B Petrel, worked.

But what this one does is not quite as easy to define.

Banks in the Strand.

Robert Banks, or Bancks, was working at 441 Strand from 1805 to 1830. So assuming the telescope dates within this period, it would definitely pre-date all of the pancreatic scopes I have ever seen. The earliest I have found, which works very effectively, was that produced by Spencer, Browning & Co in about 1850: – see the story about the wreck of the ‘Eagle’ in 1859 on here. This later telescope is labelled as ‘Patent Pancratic’, in the engraving. Spencer, Browning & Co worked from 1840-1870.

Banks had taken a different approach to the problem, which is maybe why Spencer, Browning managed to obtain their Patent, later. Banks introduced a moveable third lens in the first draw tube, ie one of the lens pair making the second cartridge. Spencer, Browning use the separation of the two lens cartridges ie moved the third and fourth away together, further away from the eyepiece to change the magnification.

Does this work?

The Spencer, Browning variable magnification system works brilliantly, and many modern scopes use this as standard, On the other hand, I have never seen one like this Banks model before! This Banks telescope came without the pin in the sliding section. That is essential to position the third lens correctly. It also came with a 4th lens that seemed to be a substitute lens, for one that had maybe been broken in use.

So while the telescope works, but not very well, it could be much improved with the right lens in this 4th position. Or maybe it explains why this system was not adopted more widely as a variable magnification or different style of pancratic type of telescope.

Possible redesign

If the 4th lens were to be attached at the far end of the moveable cartridge, instead of in the threads provided, it would be possible to move that back and forth: then this would be the same as the pancratic principle. However, this would be a little more difficult to work with, since the focus point would move significantly as the second cartridge is moved to change magnification. At the moment, the first draw pulls out of the second, as the lens assembly substituted for the 4th lens is not big enough to make a stop within the sleeve: maybe this thread was just used for such an end stop, , and the fourth lens did move with the sliding cartridge? I still need to test this theory with some practical lens examples.

The components of the first draw are shown below:


(The Blu-tak is to hold that lens assembly in place, it does not fit the screw-thread)


DSCN6599I should mention something to give you an idea of the telescope size. As said before, it is a three draw scope, with a mahogany body. The original screws, and there are lots of them, are all still present. There are eight screws holding the objective holder into the mahogany part!


The first and second draws have engraved arrows, pointing towards the objective. The collar on the eyepiece end of the barrel has an engraved arrow, pointing towards the eyepiece: so these are almost certainly not giving dismantling instructions, as some people have suggested.


Extended the scope is 28” long, and the objective lens housing is around 47mm OD. Closed up it would be 9” long. The eyepiece itself has a movable flap cover, which instead of a hole can position a ruby coloured glass over the eye hole, for when looking at the Sun presumably.  (See the picture up above).

The scope was bought in July 2017, expensively for current Ebay price levels, at £78. Seller was Bramblewood3. The seller did not understand the true purpose of the slot either. But it is certainly unique!



Baleen covered silvered Cutts telescope

This telescope is a totally different style to any of the others bearing the name JP Cutts that you will have seen on this website, or anywhere else! It’s actually a very nice example of the type – a four draw white metal plated telescope, with a Baleen covered barrel.


Probably not ethically or politically correct these days, Baleen is the material from the mouth of a Baleen whale, or a Bowhead whale (who have the longest strips of Baleen), the substance that creates a filtering system. The whale sucks in a lot of water and krill, then expels the mixture through the Baleen filter lengths, which hang down like a curtain from its top jaw, making a vertical blind-like curtain across the mouth, trapping the krill on the filter elements. It is a black plastic like flat strand, which is actually made of Keratin (a similar material to human fingernails).


In Victorian times the by-products of whale hunting were available, so why not use this long strip of Baleen to wrap around a telescope barrel?

The white metal coating on the four draws would seem to be a chrome coating, in that it has not tarnished the way that silver would have done, even during the time I have owned it. Very effective as a plating solution for such things.

The maker – James Sutton, actually

The engraving is “JP Cutts, Sutton and Son”, note the lack of a plural ‘Sons’, “Opticians to Her Majesty, Sheffield & London”. Whether we interpret anything from the sideways displacement of each line, I’m not sure: the “London” could have been added to the third line later.


John Sutton’s son, James, had joined the firm by 1852, and the name then changed to ‘J.P. Cutts, Sutton, & Son’. The 1854 Post Office Directory of Sheffield included “Cutts JP, Sutton & Son, Opticians to her Majesty, 39 Division Street, Sheffield, & 56 Hatton Garden, London, & 248 Pearl Street, New York”.

So this dates the telescope as after 1852.

John Priston Cutts died on 8 September 1858, at his Sheffield home. John Sutton died six months later, on 26 April 1859, aged 71. The optical business was reorganized in 1860 under the sole ownership of James Sutton, the son. He was a skilled optician, presumably having apprenticed with Cutts. James retained the business name JP Cutts, Sutton, & Son, presumably because of the Cutts reputation. Gloria Clifton fails to give any info about when this firm ceased trading: the 1891 Census returns show him still listed in Sheffield as an optical instrument manufacturer, then aged 69. The earlier 1861 census showed he employed 25 men, 6 boys and 19 women and girls: in 1881 these numbers had reduced a little, to 14 men, 8 boys and 8 women. Nevertheless, this shows James had a strong business over more than twenty years, and the firm was trading from 1852 until at least 1881.

This Telescope described

dscn5217xxThe telescope has 4 draws, and is 22” long extended. It is 6.75” when closed, so a good pocket size. OD is 1.75”, 1.625” for the barrel. There is a similarly silvered end cap over the objective, but regrettably the eyepiece cover is totally missing. It would have been a flat ended cap, with an internal thread to match the 0.9” OD thread on the outside of the first draw. If anyone has one of these spare, I’d be delighted to buy it. Having been thru all my telescopes, there is only one that seems anything near to the same size and thread, but I have to see if I can adapt it and silver plate it! It was on telescope #106, a small scope from Gowans of Dundee.

The joints between the first two draws were loose, in terms of holding the draw extended and in-line, as the telescope was handled. This seemed to be because the internal liners in the draw mounts were missing. In the other draws these liners are glued in place, between two shoulders positioned at each end. They appear to be made of thin hide/leather, and make a better low friction mount than was achieved by the previously fairly standard ‘U’ shaped cut-out flaps in such joints. The plan was to replace these, as they provide friction to hold the telescope draws in place, as well as keeping them aligned properly. It has been achieved with two pieces of thin leather, cut to fill part of the recess in the metal slider: they are not stuck in place, and make a good friction fit for the joints. I just need to remember not to remove the sliders completely!

dscn5227The final, largest draw mount, that screws into the barrel of the scope, is decorated with a form of ivy-leaf pattern around the exposed rim – as well as having a knurled edge, which all the draws exhibit.

Around the barrel, a single length of black Baleen is wound round to cover a 5.25” length, in 22 turns. The Baleen is one long strip around 0.25” wide, and ridged along its length with around 7/8 grooves. Presumably it is glued down onto the metal of the barrel, at least at each end. A quick calculation makes the length of this Baleen strip around 112″, or over 9 feet! A very large whale’s mouth.

Other data

Who would have used this telescope? Probably it is a well-turned out Gentleman’s accessory, possibly the Master or a passenger on a trading ship. I don’t think it would have been used by an Army or Cavalry officer for military duties, its a little too shiny, bright and conspicuous.

I bought it from an Ebay trader based in the South-west of England in December 2010. It has Accession Number #142, and inside the end cap it had a previous sale price scratched on the metal, which was 50 shillings (GBP 2.50) – obviously some long time before when I bought it!


Another large Berge, from 1800

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


Four draws, creating a 35″ long telescope

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


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



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


What is the future for this?

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


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

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

Spencer & Co Victorian telescope

dscn4875A well-known name in London telescope making at the end of the C18 was the partnership of Spencer, Browning & Rust, based in Wapping, near the Pool of London. They started working together from 1784, but the original founders had all died by 1819, and their respective successors continued in business, effectively separately. Spencer, Browning & Rust operated from 66 High Street, (Hermitage Bridge) in Wapping.

William Spencer, one of these founders, retired in 1815, and died in 1816: his successor, possibly one of his sons, who also may have been called William, continued in the business, and from around 1816 to maybe 1820 operated under the name “Spencer & Co”. There were so many people named ‘William Spencer’ in this time that the relationships are confusing: one of them had been apprenticed to Samuel Browning in 1801, so possibly he took over in 1815 – and was said to have continued working (under his own name) until 1839. Another partnership, Spencer, Browning & Co, was quoted to have started work at #66 in 1840, they are also quoted to have used the alternate name of Spencer & Co: the company was later known as Browning & Co.

The telescope


This telescope is a single draw, oak-barrelled model, nearly 2.5” diameter at the objective: closed it is 19” long, and open it is 34” long. The large diameter draw tube splits in the middle to give access to the second cartridge of lenses, and at the eyepiece itself there is another cartridge around 2” long.


The engraving on the drawtube says “Spencer & Co, London, Day or Night”.

This design appearance is more typical of early Victorian fashion, than the 1820 Georgian period. It is therefore considered to date from around 1840, rather than 1820. Another story on this website features a more advanced design of Spencer, Browning & Co telescope, which came from the wreck of the ‘Eagle’.

Restoration history

The telescope was acquired on Ebay, for repair, from a reseller in Bexhill-on-Sea, in March 2016. Only four of the original five lenses were present, and unusually it was the first eyepiece lens, along with the eyepiece itself, that was missing. The eyepiece lens and assembly that screws into and holds the first lens cartridge in place was replaced by a gilded eyepiece that came from an apparently US built telescope acquired in 2001, a four draw unit made by the Criterion Co of Hartford, Connecticut. This latter one was found on a Yahoo auction site, and was shipped from North Carolina.



The rather ugly steel screws previously used to hold the brass end fittings to the wooden barrel were replaced with more modern brass screws: The diameter of the brass shoulders used suggests that the telescope was designed to have these shoulders fitting over the OD of the barrel – but it was obviously felt to be too tight to fit, and the barrel has been turned down at the ends, making a poor fit on the brass shoulders.

Subsequently the barrel length has been reduced by 0.25″ at each end, allowing both shoulders to extend further onto the barrel, and fit smoothly over the wider OD of the main barrel section. This actually shows the versatility of these wooden barreled designs for naval use, they could be repaired or modified by a ship’s carpenter, repositioning the brass fittings as needed.

Accession Number #271

George Willson telescope, ~1800

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

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

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



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

How to make it work!

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

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

Slider Repair


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

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

This Willson is Accession Number 110

3-Draw Ramsden scope from 1780


This is a 220 year old telescope, made by one of the best makers in the Eighteenth Century, Jesse Ramsden, from around 1780-1790. As such it is way ahead of its time, a compact unit with three brass draws, so it would be useful at sea, but also for Officers in the Cavalry, where a smaller size was needed: plus it would have had a good set of lenses, making it optically excellent. Ramsden, who worked for Peter Dollond, was also related to the Dollond family after he married Sarah Dollond in 1766, Peter’s sister: she was the daughter of John Dollond. So he presumably could access the best suppliers, and had free use of the Dollond Patent and other technology.


The lens fittings in the first draw: only the first and fourth lenses were present.

What we can see here looks really good, but it is lacking three vital components: two lenses from the eyepiece draw tube, and the objective lenses. So there are only actually two lenses still present in this unit. Nevertheless it makes an excellent space model.

It has obviously had some hard times, with the mahogany barrel being crushed at some point, then bound together with varnish, plastic film and a sail-cloth binding. Some of these can be seen in the “Before” pictures during the restoration. The barrel was stripped of sail cloth and other things, glued back together and then polished.


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


Barrel glued, filled and repolished, with a polished brass end fitting.

Jesse Ramsden

Jesse was born in Salterhebble, Yorkshire, but worked in London for Peter Dollond, George Adams and Jeremiah Sisson, an associate of Nevil Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royal. He started business on his own account in 1763, and had many notable apprentices, including William Cary. By 1772 he was working at 199 Piccadilly, with a workshop at #196. He was appointed FRS in 1786, and won the Copley Medal in 1792. When he died in 1800 his employee Matthew Berge took over the business, working at 199 Piccadilly till 1817.

Other Berge and Ramsden telescopes feature on this website, as the best available at that time. The smaller Ramsdens in my collection were described in an early post, dated 5 February 2014. The closest to this telescope would be the large five-draw Berge (Late Ramsden) posted on 9 April 2014.



Re-polished first draw tube, showing the breaks in the tube for the lenses.

The telescope is a classic design of four eyepiece lenses and an objective pair. Before the advent of the lens cartridges the first draw was divided into four or more sections, screwed together to form one smooth OD tube. At each break a lens carrier is inserted: not only do the tube sections have different screw threads, so that they cannot be put in the wrong order, but the lens mounting threads are all different in diameter and/or thread, so that they cannot be inserted in the wrong place.

The 4th lens mount, closest to the objective, has a thread of 7/8”. This is present.

The third lens mount has a thread OD of 13/16”. This is absent.

The second lens mount has a thread OD of 1”: the tube OD is 1+1/16”. This lens is absent.

The first lens mount, at the eyepiece, has a thread OD of 13/16”, but this lens, which is present, is too large to screw into the third lens mount position.

On many of the pieces that make up this 3-draw scope, the code XV is visible, to identify the drawtubes and mounting adaptors used on the production line. Noticeably one of the mounting flanges for a draw is labelled ‘15’ in ink, ie in a modern number format, so is maybe a replacement in production.

The objective lens assembly, which is absent, would screw through the brass fitting (now ‘only-just’) into the mahogany barrel, with four grub screws: much of the barrel wood has broken away with damage and wear, so only really one grub screw is holding the fitting in place. Interestingly the brass at the other end of the barrel has the same four grub screws, and these screw into an inner brass cylindrical (1/2” long) retaining ring, inside the ID of the wood – it makes a wood sandwich between the brass fitting parts. The thread for the objective lens assembly is 1+13/16” diameter.








Overall the telescope is 27.5” long when fully open, 9+3/8” when closed. There is no sunshade or lens cap present on the objective – undoubtedly there would have been a lens cap: the eyepiece has a brass slider over the lens aperture. The barrel is 1+7/8” OD, and the draws are 1.25”, 1+3/16” and 1+1/16” OD. Most of the draws feature a location arrow, presumed to indicate the best orientation for the tubes, when the arrows are aligned.

What now?


The three brass draws, re-polished

Undoubtedly this is now an excellent space model, but it needs three lenses to work: adding these from a C19th spare telescope would not produce the quality needed for a Ramsden scope, even if they were found with the right size, strength and thread patterns. The chance of finding a good C18th lens set to fit, that would not ruin a different telescope specimen, is very small.

It’s still a good Ramsden 1780 telescope space model, and as such has a significant value!

Why do I say 1780, rather than later? First the fact that it has a split draw tube, and does not use cartridges. Second because the engraving on the first draw has the initial letters next to the eyepiece end of the telescope: this was the fashion, or standard, earlier in the 1700s, ie between say 1765 and 1790. After around 1790 the fashion changed, and the signature was on the other side of the telescope. Its not an exact date change, just an indicator – but it makes this scope probably earlier than 1790.

Accession Number #289. Acquired and then renovated in August 2016.

As delivered photos


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


The draws on the left are not repolished, as received: the right hand side shows the first draw polished, and the barrel stripped down to the wood and re-glued.


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

Peter Dollond Library scope

DSCN1279The way I define a Library telescope is that it is mounted on a stand that is intended for being positioned on a table, such that the user can sit in a chair and look through the telescope when it is pointing horizontally. The sort of scope that would be in a bay window in a library, so that the reader can look out and easily use it to investigate the activities of a passing deer or fox on the estate, or see who in the hunt is in the lead. Such telescopes are designed for terrestrial use, not naval, and not astronomical. Pretty useless really, unless you have the estate to view, but they were popular in the 18th and 19th Centuries. They also look really good on a library table.

This is a classic ornate library telescope, made and engraved by P (Peter) Dollond of The Strand, London, which leads to a date of 1760, give or take 6 years.

Description and Sizing

DSCN1284The stand is brass, with a fixed height of 17”, which puts the telescope axis at 18.5” above the table top.  The tripod legs of this stand have feet that sit on an 8” diameter circle. The brass telescope itself is attached via two knurled head screws into the lower part of the main body, which hold the telescope in a cupped bracket. Overall length is 26” extended, with an 18.5” body: this is 2.5” diameter at the objective lens, which is held in place in a copper fitting that provides the joint between the telescope body and the sunshade. The eyepiece end of the main body tapers down over 3.5” to join to the 1.25” diameter single draw. This draw caries the quoted engraving, and a line to show the typical focus point.


In the photos you will see that the eyepiece terminates in a flat ended brass fitting with a female thread onto the single draw. This fitting is my own addition, as a repair, as the telescope arrived with no lens in the eyepiece, and what appears to be a very long eyepiece fitting, with parts missing, and a damaged lens holder.

Inside the first draw a black internal sleeve, made of what appears to be aluminium, holds a standard two lens barrel, in brass, approx 5” from the eyepiece. DSCN1288Both these lenses are glued into the ends of the barrel, with black paint covering a significant part of the edges of both lenses. The two lens barrel is held in the internal aluminium tube using a single grub screw. At the eyepiece end there is no apparent method of mounting another dual lens barrel into this aluminium sleeve, but there is a shoulder to stop it entering too far into the telescope draw. It would appear that the second lens barrel would have extended towards the user further, hence the longer eyepiece construction.

The whole original eyepiece lens assembly was difficult to understand, and not of a type seen before, so a replacement sleeve with two sets of lenses in barrels (the first draw from a later Dollond scope) was inserted into this P Dollond telescope single draw (it was an interference fit) and secured in position with the flat end eyepiece cover (from a JH Steward tapered body scope). The colouring of the eyepiece is just right for the rest of the telescope, and the combination of the lenses works brilliantly.

DSCN1277The objective lens is original, and is a dual element construction, with each of the two lenses being considerably thicker than is seen in later telescopes. The optical quality of the lenses is excellent: the lack of chromatic aberration in the resulting image is noticeable!

Questions raised

DSCN1286The big question is, what did the eyepiece look like originally? The only clue is the remaining part that came with the scope, that looks of the same age. This has the remains of maybe another lens holder assembly jammed/screwed inside, with various damaged threads visible. If you know of any similar old models, please let me see pictures!

The second question is, how does the draw get extracted from the main barrel? Nothing on the main barrel unscrews, except for the objective lens holder. The first draw has a shoulder at the eyepiece end, so it cannot be removed through the main body of the scope. It seems it is not intended that it is ever to be removed.

Why is it dated 1760?

The telescope is obviously very old. The body construction is unusual, with the tapered brass main body, and the stand is very ornate, as in pre-Victorian. The lens assemblies are also unusual, complex, expensive to manufacture, and look a little “one-off”, as if built to fit, after the main outer parts had been finalised.

DSCN1289The lens is a dual element, so dates the design as probably after the publication and filing of the Dollond patent, which was in 1758: John Dollond joined his son Peter in their optical business in 1750, and slowly developed the use of achromatic lenses using the combination of the two glass types in a combination lens.

The engraving says P Dollond. According to Gloria Clifton’s Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers, Peter Dollond was working 1752-1763 at the Golden Spectacles and Sea Quadrant, near Exeter Exchange in the Strand (opposite the Savoy Hotel); and then 1761-1766 near the Exeter Exchange in the Strand; and then from 1766 onwards at 59 St Paul’s Churchyard, near St Paul’s and the Tower.  So after 1766, he was not located in the Strand.

What’s it worth?

DSCN1281To a collector like me this is brilliant. To use a telescope that was made by Peter Dollond, in one of the first applications of his patent, 250 years ago, even though the eyepiece lenses inside are from one of his Dollond successors, is a real thrill. In reality it is a renovated item, rebuilt, and so the resale value is lower than an original version. But equally it has a good story, and makes a talking point. Plus it works beautifully.

In an antique shop this would be put on sale for £2000+, but the real sale value is probably half that. Why, because if you want one, 250 years old, only a few made, where do you go to find another one?

I bought the original unrepaired P Dollond parts on Ebay in December 2014 for under £80 including carriage. Maybe it slipped under the other collectors’ radars because it was quoted as a non-working ‘Dolland’ telescope. But it shows you can still find gems like this for reasonable prices. So keep on looking! The trouble is there are more and more people looking for telescopes now, so prices are going up, I am having to change my search targets, and specialise…….sometime I am going to have to start selling, the prices are so high.

It’s currently a favourite item in the collection, listed as #226. So that’s 200 at least to sell before I part with this one.