Robert Maxwell’s big naval telescope, dated 1863, from W J Cannon

Robert Maxwell’s big naval telescope, dated 1863, from W J Cannon

Stock Number: 166


A leather bound large single draw telescope, brass construction, engraved with maker and owner, dated 1863


36 inches long when open, 21 when closed



Country of manufacture

UK and Ireland

Categories: Navigational instruments, Telescopes - Refracting


Offered for sale, a slightly different telescope, probably originally sold for naval use. It is a leather bound brass bodied telescope with a single brass draw, Victorian in design, with a bell shaped eyepiece and working sunshade. Overall length is 36″ without any sunshade extension, and closed it is around 20.5″: the OD of the body is 2.5″.

The telescope is engraved as built by “W J Cannon – 177 Shadwell – London”, as the maker; and then “Made for – Robert Maxwell – 1863”. This has nothing to do with Robert Maxwell of Pergamon Press fame, who disappeared off the back of his yacht in 1991. Obviously not while using this telescope.

The telescope works well, despite some deposits at the edge between the pair of objective lenses. The external brass surfaces are either gilded or heavily varnished, keeping them free of oxidation. The objective lens cover fits onto the end of the sunshade, but the eyepiece sliding cover is missing.

The black leather cover is considered original, and has contracted about 2%, over the years. This has led to a gap near the objective, where the leather has shrunk back. Also the stitching has torn away and been replaced at the objective end, with a gap between the edges.

The focus is easy, and the field of view is quite wide for a telescope. The photos show the stitching gap, and the objective lens marks near the edge: an extra one is added showing the objective lens cap in place, I forgot to include it in the earlier shots!

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GB Telescope Collector

I first started using a telescope in the 60s, to identify aeroplanes arriving at Yeadon airport, in Yorkshire. Then I started to collect and restore vintage brass scopes in the 1990s. The collection boomed later, in the early days of the internet, rising to around 300 in number. Since then I have made a lot of friends via the internet, advising them on how to identify, date or repair their scopes. At the age of 74 I need to disperse these wonderful bits of engineering history, because they still work today as well as they did 200+ years ago! That is the fascination....Some of my collection have already been sold to collectors spread around, in the UK, USA, Ireland, Israel, France and Germany. Several have been returned to the UK descendants of the people who made them, or relatives of their previous owners, because they found the stories on my website. Now the collection needs to be dispersed more systematically. If you are looking for a specific telescope, just ask, maybe I have one! If you want better pictures of the telescopes shown here, these can be emailed. Nick Denbow, based in Alresford, Hampshire: contact via email on [email protected]

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