$475 US ( 395 GBP) + postage

A fine 6 inch, mahogany compass by John Ford c.1820


150 x 150 x 27 mm.



Country of manufacture

UK and Ireland

Categories: Navigational instruments, Surveying Instruments & Mining, Engineering antiques, Office Antiques


An undocumented, Georgian pocket compass with 32 cardinal point paper dial, silvered outer ring (both engine divided into one degree increments from 0-360 degrees) by John Ford c.1820. The paper dial has purposely been altered ( by ink scraper) to eliminate an initial and part of the address. By careful examination ( and some filling in of the blanks), it could have read “J * & J. FORD, Maker in the Strand, LONDON”. Early construction, with a blued compass needle with chiseled, brass pivot point. There is also NO slot in the outer ring for a bar to lift the needle, although there is a hole for the pin to do so. The original glass is held in place by a smooth copper ring (not the usual turned brass keeper). The 150 x 150 mm. mahogany case is flawless with early C-hooks and nailed brass hinges. The paper dial is very legible ( except for the deletions) with only minor spotting (typical of early inking). 

Clifton cites references to a John Ford (I or II) working at the premises of his former master, William Cook from 1851-55. This is where the mystery deepens as John Ford apprenticed to William Cook (1799-1819) of Shadwell High Street, London in 1818. In that 30 year gap, there is no record of a John Ford working in the Strand but apparently he (or his son?-the other obscured J) came back to roost at the former makers premises by mid-century. There was a William Ford working in Tooley Street in 1839 but the deleted letter does NOT appear to be a “W”. Other than the erasure, this compass is in fine, overall condition for the age. The obscured signature could be explained by change of address or partnership (or both) or death of a son, who may have apprenticed to his father ? A lot of speculation on my part but an obvious, untold story and gap in the historical records. I did NOT research the family records through tax roles or church baptisms. 

Ask the Dealer

Item enquiry

To enquire about this item, complete the form bellow to send a message to the Dealer

Enter Email
Confirm Email

Dealer information

CA ScientificaOpticae

Scientifica Opticae

Mark Hacking (Scientifica Opticae Inc.) has been an avid collector/dealer for over 30 years. A former Science teacher, he has an innate love for anything natural or mechanical. Specializing in optical (microscopes, telescopes), surveying, medical, weighing and drawing instruments, he is an active participant of the Scientific Instrument Fair in London. Living in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, with his wife and two children; Mark looks forward to meeting as many fellow collectors as possible, and has a worldwide following on eBay (Sciopti).

Shipping information
Payment methods
Terms & conditions