Large, tapered telescope by Baker


This large telescope has a long leather-covered metal barrel, with a single brass 6” long focusing tube. The draw tube has several dents and dings, but slides in fairly smoothly: possibly helped by the felt lining in the mounting sleeve. At the eyepiece end it is engraved with



244 High Holborn


Inside the single draw there are the conventional two cartridges, each holding a pair of lenses. Each cartridge and the draw tube is labelled with a scratched ‘XI’, presumably to identify the set in the workshop.


The tapered barrel

DSCN4036smallThe barrel has an attractive taper, which goes from 2” OD at the objective end, down to 1.25” OD at the eyepiece end: this is clad in thick brown leather, solidly laced along the length. Whilst it is not too heavy, the tapered tube has a narrow straight tube of maybe half the total taper length inside at the eyepiece end.

Charles Baker worked at 244 High Holborn, London, from 1851–1858: but the Baker business was at this same address, quoted as 244 High Holborn, London WC, from 1859-1878, and 1881-1909. No other names are quoted in this business by Gloria Clifton’s Directory of Scientific Instrument Manufacturers, but by 1895 they were agents for Zeiss and Leitz. So the age of the telescope is difficult to pin down, it is certainly Victorian! The solid construction and good quality of materials maybe suggest mid-Victorian.

The sunshade…?

DSCN4040 x

The barrel is finished off at each end with a reasonable length of polished brass: at the objective end this should be a sunshade, which you would expect to slide forwards, over the actual lens element. It seems that the bashes to the end of the sunshade, and maybe some sticky cleaning materials or varnish used in the past, have stuck the sunshade in its storage position. So at the moment this part is non-functioning.

Accession Number #284, acquired from Ebay in July 2016.


JP Cutts & Sons Victorian telescope

This is a medium sized telescope in excellent condition from a good maker, with a unique and interesting engraving. A two-draw brass telescope with an oak wooden barrel, not just a veneer on a brass barrel.


The engraving tells that the maker is J P Cutts and Sons, in Sheffield. They were therefore quite a way from the sea, but maybe close to suppliers of good drawn tube. So it was maybe intended for sporting use, rather than naval use – we can only speculate.

But the engraving also says that the makers were “Opticians to Her Majesty”, which implies to Queen Victoria, because JP Cutts worked from Sheffield from 1822-1841, based in Division Street from 1828 to 1841. They became JP Cutts, Sons, and Sutton in 1851, so this might imply that this telescope was made before 1851. The engraving is interesting, in that the “Her” looks to be a different script than the rest of the engraved letters, so the scope might be dated only just after Victoria’s Coronation, say in 1841, marginally into the Victorian era, and certainly before 1851. So it is over 165 years old.




There are only minor dings and imperfections to the draws, but the instrument works as it should. More important when looking at old telescopes, all the screws into the barrel are original, they don’t look like they have ever been unscrewed. All the lenses are in original condition, in my opinion.

Under the sunshade over the objective there at first look to be four air exhaust holes, to aid the telescope action, but in fact these are the recessed screws holding the objective assembly to the barrel.  In fact the barrel extends well forward towards the objective, giving more strength to the objective mount. Maybe air exhaust holes are not needed in medium-sized telescopes.



The telescope length, when fully opened, is 20.5”: closed down it is 7.5”, so it is medium sized, rather than a pocket telescope. The wooden barrel, which appears to be oak, is in good condition, and 72mm is visible. The sunshade is 70mm externally, and the largest diameter of the scope body is 42mm.

Further Reading

A full description of the J.P. Cutts business, with further examples of their telescopes and microscopes, is given by Brian Stevenson on the webpage There Stevenson points out that the company later introduced a Trade Mark, including an anchor, using the “TRY ME” brand. He also notes that often the ‘J’ would be written as an ‘I’, although his full names were John Priston Cutts, and confirms the period of JPCutts & Sons as being around 1840-45.

Subsequently, after buying several others with this Trade Mark, I can say definitely that the Trade Mark should say “TRY MF”. This is what appears when the engraving is distinct and readily readable! It has also been seen on a Newton of Halifax branded scope, presumably a J.P.Cutts reseller.

This Telescope has been sold

Acquired earlier this year, this is not my personal preferred style of telescope, so in August 2016 it was advertised for sale on Ebay, for GBP80, UK delivery postage paid. It was then sold within a week.


Accession number 282.

Davis Victorian Scientist’s Optical Set

This was one of the rich Victorian gentleman’s “must have” items!

The first draw in position as part of the telescope!

The first draw in position as part of the telescope!

In those days the landowning aristocracy spent their time “Doing Science”, and the things they needed were a microscope to really understand the small bits of nature, and maybe also a telescope to see the larger animals that moved a bit too fast for them to catch up. So around 1850 the thing to have was a scientific set, which was thankfully provided by the instrument makers of the day – the ones who had identified a good marketing plan anyway.

The complete scientific set, and box

The complete scientific set, and box

This boxed set was made by B. Davis, of 430 Euston Road, London, as is engraved on the first draw of the telescope. The rest of the set, apart from the box, comprises a microscope stand, some specimen slides to look at, plus an eyepiece with a ruby glass lens, to reduce glare, presumably from an arc light focused on the mirror under the slide. There was also a little glass roofed brass sided enclosure, presumably to enclose a fly or bug or something in the right place under the microscope,to be observed in a trapped area.

A flea on one slide

A flea on one slide

There are several pre-prepared glass microscope slides with the set, which look to be French, and that probably means they were added later. They are labelled, as S**d Po* – Grass  (Seed Pod – Grass); Cuticle Onion; Scale – Perch; S**rch – W*ea* (Starch – Wheat?); Seed Carrier – Aster; Sole Scale (also Scaille de Sole). Two others are home-made slides, one is labelled as a “Small spider’s leg”, the other is unidentified, but looks like a flea!

DSCN2543sThe idea behind this scientific set is that the first draw of any telescope, with typically four eyepiece lenses, is actually a microscope: when acting as the first draw of the telescope, it allows the observer to see the small image of the remote object created by the objective lens, positioned just in front of the end of this microscope, but upside down. The eyepiece lenses turn this image the other way up and magnify it.

But when this first draw is used separately, screwed into another holder in a vertical position, it creates a microscope in a frame, that is positioned above a specimen slide to be inspected. By using the same mounting threads, in the microscope frame and the telescope body, it all fits together and has a dual purpose…..

The Maker, B Davis

So this became a great little scientific set to sell to the man with time on his hands, and interest in the developments being made in botany and science and astronomy etc, all at once. The problem really is that these boxes get broken up, and the bits get separated, so it is really good to find a set still with all its components intact. They were manufactured in Victorian times, B Davis was said (in Gloria Clifton’s Directory) to have been an Optician, who attended the London Mechanics Institute from 1830-32, and then lived at 1 Lower Terrace, Lower Road, Islington, London.

DSCN2552xThere are records of an Isaac Davis at Lower Terrace, Lower Road Islington from 1832-38, and then with his brother Marcus here until 1842: they had also traded as Davis 33 New Bond Street from 1820-38. But there are also records that show Lower Road was at times called Essex Street, and could indeed have been renamed as an extension of Euston Road, given that the roads around the newly growing railway stations were probably being developed. Since the Clifton Directory covers only the period to up to 1851, possibly this set was produced by B Davis after that date, when the road name had changed.

The complete boxed set: the box is missing one of the side panels.

The complete boxed set: the box is missing one of the side panels.

Postscript: The Winter 2015 Tesseract catalogue features a combined microscope/telescope set like this, but in better condition, and earlier, made by W&S Jones in maybe 1790. The microscope specimen carrier is better quality, and the whole thing is in better condition. But that one would cost you $9500. Maybe I should rethink the value of this little set too…or clean it up a bit more, restick the box together!

Thos Rubergall, for “Duke of Clarence”


Unfortunately, the engraving on this telescope does not mean that it was owned by the Duke of Clarence (later to become William IV), it just says that Thomas Rubergall in his professional business had been an appointed “Optician to H.R.H. the Duke of Clarence”. Actually, the address then quoted underneath is 24 Coventry Street, London, a location that Gloria Clifton’s book suggests he moved into in 1840, through to 1851.

DSC00189aRubergall had in fact been making optical instruments etc since 1800, but by 1805 he had moved to prestigious premises, in different premises in Coventry Street. William, the youngest son of George III, was appointed Duke of Clarence in 1789, when he was aged 24 and became active in the Royal Navy, mainly in the Caribbean. Effectively the Dukedom ceased when William was crowned William IV in 1830: he then died in 1837, aged 72. But Rubergall had kept his patronage after the Coronation, as he was listed as an appointed supplier to William IV. So the words on the telescope introduce some confusion as to when it was created – the answer must be “around 1830”.

Duke of Clarence

220px-WilliamIVWhileLordHighAdmiralThe Duke was an enthusiastic sailor, and was commanding Royal Naval ships from 1786, under Lord Nelson. He left the Royal Navy in 1790, and was annoyed that he was never asked to take command again in the naval battles of around 1800. Eventually, he was made Lord High Admiral of the fleet from 1827-28, when he was asked to step down after taking a squadron out to sea for 10 days without having notified anyone as to what he was doing or where he was going.  His nickname as William IV was “The Sailor King”. The copy of the print by William James Ward here shows him as Lord High Admiral, with a telescope, but not this style!

His personal life was a little complicated, having fathered ten illegitimate children with an Irish actress called Dorothea Jordan, with whom he cohabited from 1791 to 1811.

The telescope

DSC00195aThe telescope itself is a single (short) draw style, with a leather clad brass body. The external metal fittings at each end are copper or bronze, with the actual threaded parts mainly in brass – most of these threads still work perfectly. All the copper/bronze parts were at one time silver plated: maybe with enthusiastic cleaning over 200 years by servants in a prestigious house, all the plating has worn away on normally exposed surfaces. Notably the screws holding the bezels at each end of the main barrel are original and tiny.

The construction inside is a standard approach of five lenses, one objective which is a two element lens, and two cartridges at either end of the single draw, each containing two lenses. Diameter max is 1.875”, the length is 25” open, 19.5” closed.

What’s it for?

Magnification is not that great, maybe 10x or 12x. Possibly the telescope was as much to assist poor eyesight as to supply a magnified detailed image.

It is certainly intended for naval use, in my view, just from the design and size.

DSC00200aThe main use is to show itself off as a high quality expensive instrument, hence the size, both length and diameter, good leather, and silver plated metal fittings, with the royal appointment quotation in ‘copper plate’ writing near the eyepiece. Given that, it was surprising there was no owner’s name or mark evident: it was at this point that I found a crest and name embossed onto the leather of the barrel, half way down, on the opposite side to the stitching. It can just be read as “Louisa”, with a crown above it. The Crown is gilded, and the name at one time was also picked out with gold letters.

At least between 1829 and 1831, Lord Belfast owned a 129 ton yacht, a racing cutter, called ‘Louisa’, and this is referred to in the Royal Lymington Yacht Club’s archives of history. Their interest was because a racing cutter called “Alarm”, of around 200 tons, one of the largest of its type, was built at Lymington (Inman’s Yard). Alarm beat Lord Belfast’s Louisa in the 1831 King’s Cup Race, but lost a 1000 Guinea match race to Louisa later that year: then Lord Belfast acquired a new yacht in 1833, “Waterwitch”, for future races. What happened to ‘Louisa’ is unknown, he tried to sell it to the Navy. The picture shows the ‘Alarm’ winning the 1831 race ahead of ‘Louisa’.

Alarm-the-first-of-the-great-cuttersIt seems likely this telescope was in use aboard Lord Belfast’s Louisa in around 1830-32, adding some further information about the date. Possibly Gloria Clifton’s book has is not right about the date of moving operations to #24, and it was earlier? The Science museum website suggests he traded from 24 Coventry Street from 1826 onwards, which would solve the problem!

Size: 1.875” diameter, 25” long fully open, 19.5” closed.

Condition – and how well was it made?

Externally it looks well made, and it still works properly, everything screws up properly, but the one criticism might be that the retention of the single draw in the bezel at the eyepiece end of the barrel is not strong enough – it may just be that the internal slider has been damaged inside, where a break in the brass is visible, but the outer diameter of the draw is a little too small for the hole it goes through. Despite layers of soft felting in there to make the draw smooth, the joint still wobbles a little too much, which can make the image seen through the telescope move around a little. Later versions of telescopes have a two point suspension, by moving the thread away from the outer end of the bezel, giving less room for a lateral wobble at this point.

DSC00196aThe leather is original, but the longitudinal stitching is splitting, and I can’t see an easy way of repairing that. It has lasted nearly 200 years around a copper alloy metal barrel, which has some green oxide from the effects of seawater spray, so it has served its time.

The objective lenses themselves will not unscrew from the end assembly, so I cannot really confirm that the lens is just a doublet: presumably this is from bangs on the end, since the glass is right at the extremity, and could easily be damaged or the housing knocked. There was undoubtedly a lens cap on here at some time, certainly when it was made, but this is missing.

Sales Value?

That depends on how impressed any purchaser might be with the pedigree! I bought this telescope on Ebay in November 2003, and bid as much as what I thought it was worth, and that I could afford. I vaguely remember that there were two significantly higher bidders, but eventually the seller contacted me to see if I would still be willing to pay my bid, as the other two had retracted their bids, or changed their minds! When it arrived I too was a little concerned at the state of it, but it cleaned up quite well, and has become quite interesting as more has been discovered – even today!

A purchaser at the Royal Lymington Yacht Club, or any other similar or associated yacht club, would maybe appreciate this telescope for this history, and it would be worth the £1500 they would need to pay! It is now time to sell this one to somewhere it will be appreciated.

Acquisition #79.