Abraham three draw telescope

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

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

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

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

A questionable eyepiece?

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Accession number #312.

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

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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.

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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:

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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.

History

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.

Watkins & Hill “Customs” scope

This telescope has all the features that you would seek for in a vintage instrument. Apart from that it is a classic design of three draw, mahogany barrel telescope, medium sized at 23” long extended, and complete with leather case – and it works well.

The first major good feature is that the maker is engraved on the first draw as Watkins & Hill, located at 5 Charing Cross, London – with the engraving being “Crofs”, in the old style of script. This Francis Watkins was the grandson of the Francis Watkins who partnered with John Dollond in taking out the original patent on the achromatic doublet, and indeed his Grandfather had run his business from these same premises, at 5 Charing Cross. In partnership with William Hill they operated from 1822 until 1856, when the business was taken over by the Elliott Brothers.

There is another engraving on the first draw, and also on the brass sleeve at the end of the wooden barrel, which is “CUSTOMS 1827”. Not only does this tell us that the telescope was made in 1827, it does indicate that it was bought by the Customs authorities for issue to their officials, presumably for use in ports or lookout towers. So just this engraving confirms the date and the first use made of the telescope.

Smaller features

The telescope has some further interesting features, first all the screws into the wooden barrel are the original screws, very neat and flush with the brass sleeves. Second the first draw has a mark around the brass to indicate the focal point for distance viewing, to assist the different users. Finally, as an antique it is good that all the screw threads run freely, so the lenses are easy to clean. The exception to this is that one of the lenses in the second cartridge, at the end of the first draw, seems to be cross threaded, and is not going to move. A possible reason for this is that while all the draws are labelled with an assembly ID of “II”, this cartridge is labelled “VI”, so possibly this has been accidentally swapped from another telescope, during a Customs cleaning session. Nevertheless the assembly works fine.

When closed the scope is 7.5” long, and it is 1.5” OD. The slider that would close the eyepiece has been removed. The mahogany of the wooden barrel is still well polished, and has a lovely colour.

Recent history

Bought on Ebay in 2017, this scope was offered earlier on Ebay but the buyer failed to pay up. On the second round I managed to win the scope – at over 20% more than the previous winning bid! It came from the estate of an antiques dealer in Nairn, Scotland, and he had owned it for at least 30 years. So possibly the scope was used by the Customs in Scotland somewhere!

Watkins & Hill

This firm was a well established supplier of good quality telescopes, and worked “By Appointment to” the Dukes of York and Clarence in the early 1800s. They were also suppliers to the East India Company and to London University. At some time they  worked in co-operation with Negretti & Zambra, according to Gloria Clifton.

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Telescope with the possibly original case

Accession number 314, bought October 2017.

Prototype variable magnification scope by Banks

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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.

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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:

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

Description

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.

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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!

 

Medium sized Ramsden 3 draw telescope

This telescope is a  product from a major telescope maker from the 1790s. So, bought on Ebay, it came looking sad and unloved, held together with masking tape. But with everything in place, more or less: maybe not in the right places however.

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As received, c/w masking tape and grime

Taking it to pieces, the first draw, the eyepiece, did not work as an inverting microscope, which is always a bad sign. Then the view through the unit was rather how I imagine tunnel vision to be, a view down a long narrow tube. No real field of view available.

The name Ramsden

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The engraved first draw, after polishing

However, the telescope is a Ramsden, made maybe 1790, engraved properly (on the left side, as was the standard in 1790), and is complete with the objective lens cap. The objective lens is clean and complete, the barrel in good condition. Inside, the lenses in the first draw looked a lot the worse for interference, one stuck in the threads, and with gripper marks round one of the brass lens mounts as evidence of a lot of previous stress. It also appeared that they had been shuffled, so did not work well optically. Indeed the first draw worked as a microscope only when reversed. Then one lens was found to be jammed into the cartridge with an unusually positioned aperture assembly pressed inside the cartridge.

On removing this aperture, an unsupported unmounted lens is found: it is the necessary to start to sort them out. In this scope unusually the threads all seem to be much the same size, for the lens mounts, so that makes it easier to get them mixed up. Later the manufacturers “keyed” the lens threads to make things easily located. It transpired, after hours of trying, that this bare lens must have been a substitute for a broken one, and it was just not right. The lenses and cartridges, with their integral apertures, were returned to what seems to be the correct orientation and position by comparing the design with three other Ramsden scopes in the collection. I then realised that this one is almost identical to #51, a Ramsden bought many years ago, and reported on this website already. That report, and others, also gives the history of Ramsden in the 1790s.

Eventually the lens was replaced by a slightly smaller lens and mount from a J Webb similar scope (#263), and the whole thing fell into operation properly.  There were two ‘John Webb’ instrument makers reported by Gloria Clifton, one from 1792, and his son from 1800-1847. This telescope was labelled 408 Oxford Street, which is where Clifton says the son was based – for a short period – in 1808. Telescope #263 has other separate problems, such as a broken objective lens, so a temporary loan of this number 2 lens to the Ramsden is not a restriction. However the search continues for a suitable leens and holder that might fit the Ramsden thread, as the J Webb lens is small and only wedged in position.

Renovation

The brass polished up well, with Brasso. The main barrel is mahogany, and the old French polish scraped off easily to reveal the wood, which has a couple of longitudinal cracks, but nothing serious. This is scheduled for repolishing. The objective holder has one small screw missing, which needs to be replaced. The objective lens end-cap is present, and in good condition.  As yet the eyepiece sliding lens cover is still stuck firmly in the open position.

The pictures that follow show images before the renovation, as it was received.

 

 

Then these pics are after polishing, but before any French polish added on the barrel.

 

 

In the last picture the second lens cartridge from the bottom of the first draw can be seen: the lens facing the eye is the one that has been attacked with some form of plier grip. Also on the right, the slider on the first draw is seen, where the thread is adjacent to the knurled shoulder. Better made telescopes a few years later would have had the threaded section at the opposite end of the slider.

The telescope has ended up a fairly well made, neat and effective telescope, with really good optics, as you would expect from Ramsden.

Owners and applications?

We do not know any of this. This smaller size unit (7.5″ compacted, and 22″ extended) could have been used by a cavalry officer, or on board a sailing ship, or indeed just by a country house owner. It has not been bashed about, and appears undamaged apart from the one broken internal lens, which has had to be replaced. Overall diameter is about 1.8″ at the largest part over the objective.

Equally we have no knowledge of the ownership of the scope even recently. The Ebay seller lived in Barnard Castle in County Durham: a lot of sailors came from the northeast – Capt Cook came from Middlesbrough after all.

Thompson of Yarmouth 3 Draw

Thompson of Yarmouth. Not a name that has been echoing round the walls of Observatories or Navigators clubs for 200 years, but I found this telescope interesting, so bought it.

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Why buy this one?

Because it’s a classic three draw with a mahogany barrel and an end cap, plus a decent authentic (ie original) case, and the original screws are present on the barrel mountings. Plus it came from Great Yarmouth, where my three (maiden) Great Aunts lived, (all daughters of a WW1 Norfolk farmer, born around 1900) – but they did not date quite as far back as the telescope, as Gloria Clifton says Simon Thompson was working there in (Old) Broad Row from 1804-16 and 1830-44. So these dates tally with the style and design of the scope, and it looks a good quality item. Plus the Ebay write-up said that it works, which it certainly does, and works well.

Another reason was that it was very low cost! £24 including postage.

Inspection and cleaning#

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On arrival it looked fairly dull, and looking rust-coloured on the largest draw. It cleaned up surprisingly easily, as the pictures show, and everything was present inside – AOK in terms of lenses and other bits. It is not that used/dented, and is nicely finished. Going back to Clifton, she mentions that Thompson was a compass maker, brazier, and a telescope tube maker, as well as an Optician/optical instrument supplier. So presumably he supplied other telescope makers with tubes, and so had plenty of contacts to source the lens sets from. Not that I am aware of many other active optical instrument manufacturers in East Anglia.

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The case as well

The case is interesting: it is certainly a paper/card tube, with leather end caps well sewn onto leather wrapped around the end of the tube. The interesting part is the covering over the paper tube, which looks like a brown fish-skin of some form. Under the cap (a slightly larger tube) the inner part of the case under the cap is lined with a paper covering having some form of coloured pattern, but it is difficult to define what this is.

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History

The seller says the telescope was a present to him from his Grandmother: presumably it was passed to her from a male relative who was a seafarer, either as a profession or as a hobby, in late Victorian times maybe. But no real history is known.

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Dimensional data

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The barrel widest diameter is 1.9”. It is 9.5” closed, and 29” when fully extended. The case is 2.25” OD and 10” long. Accession Number #302, April 2017.

Bought for spare parts…

Just another mid-size two-draw telescope, bought from Ebay for spares, mainly (I thought) for the eyepiece cap, or the objective lens holder. It looked filthy and old, but had all its lenses, and a nice mahogany barrel: plus the screws looked original, holding the brass to the barrel.

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When it arrived, (as is usual) the eyepiece cap thread was totally wrong, it was too big to fit the Baleen covered Cutts telescope. The objective lens holder was too small to be any use on a 10-sided telescope restoration project, so I had failed yet again. But actually the telescope was quite nice. Only labelled “Achromatic, London”, on the sliding cover to the objective lens, it is not easy to date, it could be anywhere between 1880 and 1930.

DSCN5369It has an old design of objective mounting, and neat brass ends to the barrel. Conventional design inside, with two twin lens cartridges. One slight fault: those neat screws at the end of the second draw are actually (as ever) too long, and scrape on the slider holding the draw, when the latter is unscrewed. So they were filed down internally, to clear the brass holder.

How about a clean-up?

An afternoon polishing with Brasso had some excellent results! The black tarnishing of the draws soon fell away, and the whole telescope was transformed. Even the barrel ends are now shining.

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There were two surprises. First, on the back face of the slider positioned over the objective lens, there is a price written on there, of 14/0, ie 14 shillings, or £0.70 after decimalisation. Presumably it was sold in a second hand shop at some time after its first owner passed it on. That price would maybe have been reasonable in the 1930s.

DSCN5371The second surprise was that the second draw is fitted with a spacer so as to not let the draw out to as long as it could be – obviously the objective lens used was not as long in the focus as had been expected. No matter, at least it had been noticed, and with the spacer it now does not seem to be necessary to push the tubes in too far to gain a focus.

Some before and after pictures in relation to the polishing are shown below.

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Summary

Using the telescope, it is actually very effective, which is the main requirement after all, once you have a clean instrument. Good focus, good view and magnification. Total length open is 18.5”, closed is about 8.5”. Objective is 42mm dia, but the optically used diameter of the lens is more like 1”.

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Bought February 2017 from an Ebay seller in Felixstowe. Accession Number #299.

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”.

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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

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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.

Dimensions

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.

Performance

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.

Background

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.

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

JP Cutts History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This telescope

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

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

The engraving on the first draw reads:

JP Cutts & Sonsdscn5089

Opticians to Her Majesty

Sheffield

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

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

How well does it work?

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

Background data

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

Another large Berge, from 1800

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

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Four draws, creating a 35″ long telescope

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

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

Construction

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

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What is the future for this?

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

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

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