Medium sized Dollond from 1810

This is a 3-draw Dollond with a wooden barrel, a medium sized telescope around 20” long when extended. It was acquired in August 2017, as ref #313, and is frankly the same as two previous purchases, those with Accession numbers #193 and #98.


Dollond #313 (bottom) and #98 (top)


The design is classic for a medium sized scope, very similar to the early Ramsdens or the Watkins & Hill described on the last page – although earlier than that one, dating from between 1810 and 1820. The major difference in the Dollond is that the lens mounting positions in the first draw are at either end of the draw, and then at two places where the draw is split to allow access to these lenses. The photo shows the lens mounting positions along the first draw:


At the top are the two mechanical fittings. The first draw is made from the three bits of tube, shown in the middle row. The four lenses are shown as the bottom row, they go inside the ends of the tubing sections.

The reason this design is attractive enough to buy three models is that the Dollond optics are superb. Regrettably for Dollond, the mechanical construction is not so robust: the draw tubes are relatively thin, so examples can have damaged tubes that are difficult to move, and the joints between the tubes are not soldered in place as well as is achieved in later Dollond models, or other supplier’s units. The scope ref #98 had these poor joints, and no eyepiece cap. So it is basically used as a source of spare lenses. Ref #193 was complete, although one draw was stiff and the mahogany had a crack along the length, but it worked beautifully: this one was given away.

Why buy this third model?

Ref #313 was bought to replace #193, and is complete with end cap and slider in the eyepiece, and with original screws in the barrel. The mahogany barrel has a thick layer of French polish over the original polish, and looks almost black. It does have one mechanical problem, the shoulder of the slider on the second draw is only a press fit in place.

DSC05551 mounting ringIt is interesting to note that the design of this slider and shoulder was a Dollond Patent as well, described first in around 1780 apparently! It follows good mechanical principles, and positions the mounting thread around 1” inside the tube that is the next larger on the scope. At the flange ring against the tube end, there is a shoulder making a tight fit inside the larger tube, giving the joint two separated mounting points – and so there is less likelihood of a wobble developing at the joint.


DSC05595 closeRegrettably no info is available. The scope was bought from a dealer in Littlehampton, West Sussex, in August 2017 – an Ebay Buy-it-Now item that was suddenly withdrawn, so I chased it. Presumably there was a failed sale, or other interest.

Accession number 313.


Single draw large wooden scope by Berge

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


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


Wooden barrel, mahogany, 2.25″ OD  

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


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


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

Bits missing

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

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


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

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.


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.


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


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.


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


….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.


A 3-Draw JP Cutts Telescope


This is a fairly conventional three draw, mahogany barrel telescope, of a good size from a well-known maker. John Preston Cutts was known to have been working between 1822 and 1841, but he claimed that the business had been established in 1804. He received a Royal Appointment to supply to Queen Victoria, so telescopes engraved to that effect (such as #282, described earlier) must have been built after 1837 therefore.

The business started in Sheffield, Near St Paul’s Church at 58 Norfolk Street, and then after 1828 he was at Division Street, Sheffield. In Sheffield he worked alongside James Chesterman, a mathematical instrument maker, who made linear measures (rulers). This telescope is clearly engraved as “JP Cutts, London” in a real Victorian scroll: his premises in London were at 3 Crown Court, Fleet Street, from 1836 onwards.


Later, the business traded as JP Cutts, Sons & Sutton, from both Sheffield and Hatton Garden in London: trading under this name was recorded in 1851. Not many of the actual dates relating to this business seem to be known exactly!


dscn4911-smThe OD of the main barrel is almost 1.9”, with the visible lens OD of the objective 1.6”. This assembly has been subjected to a ‘major trauma’, ie a big bang on the side, which has distorted the mounting ring and cracked the side of one of the lenses. This crack does not have any visible effect on the view through the scope.

On receipt, the brass fitting on the other end of the mahogany barrel lacked any retaining screws: these have been replaced with small modern brass round-headed screws, which still had to be cut in half to reduce the penetration. The barrel has one longitudinal crack, but is still stable.

The three draws all extend smoothly, and are remarkably clear of dents and dings. Total length extended is 28.5”: closed it is 9.5” long. The eyepiece is a flat ended, square design, typical of the very early and the late C19th: in the middle to early years of the century the bulbous or bell shaped design was fashionable.


What was it used for?

The telescope is the right size for use from on board ship, or for use by an Army Scout or Officer in the C19th. It is maybe a little too bulky and large for use by a country Gentleman for spotting deer or hare or foxes on the moors, he would probably prefer more of a pocket scope. In fact we have no information about any owners, this is just speculation.


A nice telescope that works well, probably made in the mid 1830s, say 1836 or 37, and sold thru the JP Cutts new offices in London. The telescope was bought on Ebay from a supplier in Littlehampton, in January 2012. It is my Accession Number #158.


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


A Ripley of Wapping 1775 naval telescope


This telescope continues the pattern of late 1700s mahogany barrel three draw telescopes set by the earlier stories on the Gilbert & Co and the George Willson models. But while Gilbert & Co were operating from Leadenhall Street, and George Willson from Wardrobe Place, Doctors Common, which is between St Pauls and the River, these two show the gradual move of the nautical instrument supply business West, into the heart of London, ending up with the Victorian manufacturing and shops in Fleet Street and Piccadilly in the 1800s. Earlier, in the 1700s, ships chandlers, and suppliers to the merchant travellers, were based closer to the Pool of London – which stretched from London Bridge to Rotherhithe. London bridge effectively was the furthest up river that tall-masted ships could reach. Wapping was the prime location for such business, and this telescope was made by Thomas Ripley, who was based in The Hermitage, Wapping, from 1765 to 1790.

Thomas Ripley

Thomas Ripley was an apprentice to John Gilbert, the optical instrument maker, in 1755, alongside Gilbert’s son William. In 1763 he joined the Guild of Grocers, but then branched out into Mathematical and Optical instruments. After 1790 his business became Ripley and Son, with his son James, until 1805. This telescope however is marked clearly, engraved as made by “Thos. Ripley, (of the) Hermitage, London”. He worked from 364 Hermitage throughout his business life, under the sign of the “Globe, Quadrant and Spectacles”. Needless to say, the engraving is on the right side, ie the initial letters start next to the eyepiece.


The engraving on the first tube: plus this is a Troughton flat faced eyepiece

The telescope

So dating this model is difficult: it was made somewhere between 1765 and 1790. It uses the dual element objective, as per the Dollond patent, in a swaged mount. It uses two separate cartridges, for the eyepiece elements at either end of the first draw. It works beautifully, with a high magnification. There is no objective lens cap now, although once it probably had one.


The telescope with the eyepiece as supplied!

As supplied to me, via Ebay, the actual eyepiece looks wrong, totally. The end cap is of the wrong style for the 1700s: it has an internal thread, designed presumably to take a lens in its mounting, plus an external thread, which is typically used to screw into a bell type eyepiece lens housing, as fashionable in the Georgian/early Victorian period. So this would appear to be a later addition, where the internal thread just happens to fit the screw thread of the eyepiece, and it has been used to replace a lost original eyepiece cover. But this leaves the ugly external thread exposed, visible, and not used.


With the Watkins eyepiece


With the Troughton eyepiece

The extra photos here show the telescope with a flat faced eyepiece, which I consider is the right style for this period: one is taken from a Watkins scope, and one from a later Troughton and Simms scope, both of which fit, but only just well enough to show how it would look (ignoring the different patina of the brass).

Overall dimensions are: closed 9.25”; open 29.5”; OD 1.9”, Objective visible dia 1.5”.

Accession Number is #150, acquired 2011 from an Ebay trader in Dumfries & Galloway.

For this excellent 250 year old telescope, the current resale value in an antique dealer would be in excess of £500.

The Pool of London

Wikipedia explains the significance of the Pool of London, and importation of goods for duty payment via the official “Legal Quays”: the photos below are from Wikipedia.


Imports from France, 1757, to the “Legal Quays”near the Tower, by Louis Boitard


Pool of London, 1841, by W Parrott, looking East past Tower Hill – from London Bridge?


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


A tapered Dollond, from 1770

This is a really beautiful old Dollond, with a long tapered mahogany body. It is estimated to be around 250 years old, i.e dating from maybe 1770, and designed for use on a sailing ship: as you would expect from such an era of Dollond supply, the image is great and the focus is very easy. The single draw tube contains all the four eyepiece lenses, at the ends, and at the two joints in the tube itself. There is no end stop, so this draw pulls straight out, if it were to be pulled too far.


Unpolished, as received: two joints in the draw, labelled Dollond, with bash marks!

The draw tube does have some signs of previous trauma, having been bashed on something, or someone!

The telescope came from the grandson of a Naval officer who owned and used it in WW1, presumably on a Royal Navy ship, or maybe a merchant ship: we do not know his name to trace where he actually served. Unless he was a high rank naval officer with his own cabin etc, he would not have been allowed to take such a large item on board a WW1 Royal Naval vessel – so it is more likely he was in the merchant navy.

As can be seen from the pictures below, showing before and after photos of the brass cleaning, the leather sleeve on the wooden barrel has done its job, and protected the barrel, but has suffered significantly in doing so.


Telescope as received


After polishing the brass end fittings!

The big question to ask, is whether Dollond would have supplied this scope with the leather cover, ie with the mahogany body bare. It looks like Dollond would not have had a leather cover: maybe this was added to protect the barrel, as there do look to be several cracks in the wood, under the leather.

So the decision is whether to cut the leather off and re-polish the wood, after gluing up any/all of the cracks! It would just look so much better.


The scope is exceptional in its unwieldy-ness. Maybe that is why it has been bashed about in its time. But there is a lot of room on the deck of an old fashioned C18 sailing ship! The barrel itself is 36” long, so even closed up tight the overall length is 38”. When opened up to focus the scope, the length is maybe 47”. Maximum OD is around 2.5”.

Inside the barrel there is an orifice, to restrict the outer fringes of light from the objective: the orifice is relatively close to the objective, around 10” inside the taper. It is interesting that the leather cladding has a circumferential crease, or shows up a ridge round the barrel, at this same distance from the objective, almost indicating a joint. The internal bore is evenly tapered, all the way, presumably using a wood boring tool, or chisel.

Accession Number 297, acquired December 2016.


The different brass discolouration was caused by the close fitting mount slider, while the draw was permanently closed in storage

Removing the leather

Great news: the barrel red mahogany is beautiful: it has some cracks, one of which is open, – it can easily be glued – but other old glue lines that protrude, etc, are coming off with sanding. One area of slight separation between layers can be dealt with…. The leather came off as if it were a loose skin!

Currently (21/12) the barrel is wrapped with rubber bands to hold the cracks in place, while the glue sets, then there will be yet more sanding and eventually French polishing. Suitably sanded, the mahogany now (23/12) has two coats of polish, and is looking good. The old rusty screws (that were too big for the holes, see the top photo) will be replaced with brass ones at least.

Looking good


This is a couple of coats of French polish into completion, and the telescope is looking good. At least I am of the opinion that this is better than equipped with the battered leather cover.


The screws will be replaced with small brass ones shortly, when the polishing is completed. The main barrel is shown below!


Now at last the various coats of French polish have dried and the whole thing is polished and assembled again, with new screws!




A 6 foot Dollond from 1820s

Note: This telescope was put up for Auction at Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers in Maryland on 27th October 2017, estimated at only $500! Here is the Auctioneers description:

detail corner scope“Dollond 4-inch Brass Refracting Telescope, London, c. 1825, Bywater & Co., 58-in. main tube, ocular collar engraved “Dollond London/Sold thru Bywater & Co. Liverpool,” mounting collar, and dual tapered column mount.

Provenance: Descended in the family of Captain Theodore Corner and used at Corner’s Wharf in Baltimore by the shipping firm James Corner & Son’s in the mid 19th century. Family research accompanies the lot.
Estimate $400-500″

The condition report was not as positive, as it suggested one unspecified lens was missing. Inevitably this explained the low estimate of value, and the scope sold for around the $400 suggested.


The original text for the Telescopecollector story was as follows:

Another interesting and traceable telescope has been described by a correspondent in Maryland, USA, who has just resurrected it from her brother’s basement after 30 years in storage. It is an approx 6 foot long Dollond, which fairly unusually can be dated to the 1820s, using the minimal supplier info engraved on the flange on the eyepiece end of the main barrel.


This is a composite image, the tubes are NOT bent!

The engraving on the telescope says “DOLLOND * LONDON”, at the top, in capitals, and then underneath it adds “Sold Thru Bywater & Co, Liverpool”. Gloria Clifton’s Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers suggests John Bywater & Co was the trading name used by this firm between 1822 and 1831 only. They traded from premises at various addresses in Pool Lane, Liverpool, in this period, and also from 42 Seymour Street from 1825-27. Further, Clifton confirms that during this period he was known to have sold telescopes made by Dollond: this comment was not made in relation to previous or subsequent identities used by this firm. In 1831 the company became known as Bywater, Dawson & Co. So the telescope appears to date from the 1820s.

img_0477-small    img_0518-small

This telescope belonged to the correspondent’s great-great-grandfather, Ted (or Theodore) Corner, born 1826, and one of ten children of Sarah and James Corner: Ted became a ship’s Captain in the company James Corner & Sons, who were trading from Baltimore in the 1840s through to the 1860s.

Telescope description

The main barrel is 5 feet long: the objective lens diameter is 4” (100mm). The single draw has a total length of 26”, and is approx. 1.625” diameter. This has another engraving, stating “Sold by Bywater & Co, Liverpool”. The second lens pair in the eyepiece tube is situated about 12-14” down the tube. These lenses are in a long cartridge, which itself is a tube around 4.5” long. This screws into the split joint in the single draw. The eyepiece unscrews from the near end of this draw and contains one lens, the second lens of this pair is mounted inside this tube. The telescope has been cleaned and assembled, but because of the size and weight (and the lack of a suitable ship and/or crew), it has not been possible to prove whether the assembled telescope functions correctly.


Around the main barrel there is a clamp ring, whose position looks to be adjustable, but would appear to be associated with a similar large screw hole in the barrel. The clamp ring and the hole in the barrel look to be adaptations for mounting the telescope on-board ship. The stand, consisting of two prongs, has a top plate, which attaches to this screw hole: it is presumed that the threaded pins at the bottom of the two prongs that make up the stand would attach to a wooden or other stanchion provided as a part of the ship structure. The mounting plate allows sideways rotational movement. A separate attachment point on the barrel is provided, presumably for a handle or rod to control the elevation of the scope, rotating round the axis of the mounting screws located onto the stanchion (See the top photo, next to, and on the left of the clamp).

img_0514-small   img_0473-smaller

It is surprising to me that such a large telescope (ie 6 feet long and deck mounted) was used on-board a Clipper like the Carrier Dove, but this certainly seems probable.

James Corner & Sons

Based in Baltimore, James Corner & Sons employed all six sons of James Corner at various times, but possibly Ted’s main role was as a captain of one or other of their ships. These included the Carrier Dove, the barque Huntington, bought by Ted Corner in 1854 and used as late as 1860, the Maria, and, all in 1859, the North Carolina, the Birchhead and the bark Seneca.

Most of their trading activity involved voyages from Baltimore to Valparaiso, near Santiago in central Chile, via Cape Horn. Normal cargoes on the way out were pig iron, or in one case at least, a locomotive steam engine was delivered to San Francisco for the young railway there. The return journeys usually involved a cargo of guano, from the droppings of seabirds, seals, or cave-dwelling bats in Chile/Peru: this was valuable as a fertiliser. (Similar freight was possibly carried by James Bichard on the East Croft in 1895, from San Salvador, see the story published on on 25 Aug 2014).

Ted Corner’s Voyages

Ted Corner started his sailing career in 1846, when the Baltimore Historical Society quote that he opened first transatlantic packet line, from Baltimore to Liverpool. Maybe he purchased the telescope (possibly second hand) on one of these voyages? Or the telescope might even have been bought by his father James, on an earlier voyage to Liverpool, to fit with the 1822-31 dating of the first sale of the telescope.

300px-carrierdoveclipperOne of Ted Corner’s later, regular ships was the Carrier Dove. It seems this was a relatively famous medium Clipper, 1694 tons, launched from Baltimore in 1855: on her maiden voyage to San Fransisco under Captain Corner, Carrier Dove was dis-masted in a hurricane just eight days out from New York. Nevertheless, she made it to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil by November 9, in 55 days, and then remained in Rio for two months for repairs. In 1856 Captain Corner was in Australia: presumably travelling from there to Peru, in 1857 he sailed the Carrier Dove from the Chincha Islands, off Peru, to Liverpool, with 1094 tons of guano: it was delivered to Anthony Gibbs & Sons.

Carrier Dove was fast, in 1858, presumably on the return journey, Captain Corner sailed from Liverpool (UK) to Melbourne Australia in 78 days, and then on to Valparaiso in Chile in a near record 30 or 32 days (Wikipedia).


The Carrier Dove, from the Noble Maritime Museum

A painting of the Carrier Dove exists in the Noble Maritime Museum, in Staten Island, New York. Later, in 1876, when no longer a part of the James Corner fleet, Carrier Dove was wrecked three miles off Tybee Island, Georgia, en route from Liverpool. See for extensive further info.

Further information

For anyone interested in further information about Ted Corner and his Baltimore Company, or in researching this telescope further, please make contact with the owner via this website.


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.