Jason Clarke Antiques

Early Nineteenth Century Library Telescope on Stand by Thomas Harris & Son London


For sale an early Nineteenth Century mahogany cased library telescope on stand by Thomas Harris & Son, London.

This usefully sized example has a main barrel measuring 78cms in length with a two and a quarter inch objective lens. It has a detachable eyetube which extends the telescope to 100cms on the horizontal. Focus is achieved by means of a rack and pinion mechanism operated to the side by means of a brass knurled adjuster. The barrel is engraved to the London makers, Thomas Harris & Son and it retains both its objective lens cap and has an additional eyetube cap to be fitted when the main tube is detached and in transit, a detail befitting of its quality.

The telescope is mounted upon a brass claw foot tripod which folds neatly into a fitted mahogany case which also includes an additional sunfilter eyepiece. The case has a working lock and key.

The company of Thomas Harris & Son existed throughout the length of the Nineteenth Century although its origins date back to the end of the Eighteenth Century with the founder Thomas Harris Senior. Owing to the early demise of his tallow chandler Father, Harris was apprenticed to the London instrument maker, George Linnel in 1771 and with the reasonable assumption that he was aged about thirteen at this point, Harris was likely to have been born in circa 1758. His schooling would have been completed by the end of the 1770’s and although he remained in the trade, his activities for the reaminder of the Eighteenth Century remain fairly uncertain but it’s likely that he became a jobbing instrument maker, manufacturing instruments or parts of instruments for more famous makers.

Thomas was evidently successful enough to have started out on his own account by the turn of the Century. This short early phase of trading was very quickly succeeded in 1802 by the change of name to Thomas Harris & Son which incorporated Thomas Harris Junior into the business and both were incorporated into the Spectacle Makers Guild and the Loriners Guild respectively in 1804. The company’s increasing success was sadly tainted by tradegy just four years later with Thomas Junior being killed whilst on active duty as a Bloomsbury volunteer during a fire at The Covent Garden Theatre. Nevertheless, the business continued to prosper and his younger son William Harris joined the business in time to see the company being awarded a Royal Apppointment in 1819 to The Prince Regent and to George IV upon his succession a year later.

At the end of the 1820’s, the company succeeded in taking over the business of the famous instrument maker Thomas Blunt (of Nairne & Blunt fame) with new premises at 22 Cornhill to complement the existing one at Great Russell Street. The split in premises also saw a split in the Father and Son partnership with William retaining the Cornhill premises in his own right. William’s future was thereafter fraught with disappointment. He suffered a bankruptcy in 1830 and although he managed to retain the business with a move to King William Street, he died thirteen years later in 1843 leaving his wife to seek charity from the Spectacle Maker’s Guild. His son was named William Dollond Harris which suggests some affinity with the hugely famous Dollond family but the exact nature of this relationship remains unclear.

Thomas Senior continued to trade until his death in 1831 at the age of seventy three and the records suggest that a Thomas P Harris continued to trade under the original company name and thereafter it remained under various iterations of family ownership until the end of the Century.

A fine example from a very prominent Nineteenth Century maker.

Circa 1820

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