Jason Clarke Antiques

Early Victorian Two Draw Telescope by Smith & Beck London


For sale, a two draw hand held telescope by Smith & Beck of 6 Coleman Street, London.

A neat and very manageable early Victorian telescope measuring 62cms extended and 26cms closed, it has a one and a half inch objective lens with original brass lens cap. The tapered brass barrel also retains its original tan leather covering and the eyepiece has its sliding dust cover.

Somewhat uncommon to find early examples of telescopes by this famous instrument making company and given the short exisence as “Smith & Beck” a very simple one to date within a reasonably small perameter.

The earliest history of the company can be traced back to around 1839 when James Smith set up as a microscope manufacturer. His entering into business was as a result of his close association with Joseph Jackson Lister and Charles Tulley, the former being responsible for the development of achromatic lenses for use in microscopy. Smith had previously manufactured brass work for Lister’s early experiments and was encouraged by him. The Beck brothers were nephews of Lister and Smith initially took on Richard Beck as an apprentice, finally culminating in the formation of a partnership between the two men (Smith & Beck) in 1847. The other brother Joseph Beck had himself been apprenticed at the renowned company of Troughton & Simms and moved to Smith & Beck in 1851, he finally joined the partnership fully in 1857 whereafter the firm became Smith, Beck & Beck. Smith retired in 1865 and the firm was renamed to R&J Beck trading from 31 Cornhill, London. The company continued long after all the partners had died and were a significant manufacturer of optical equipment during both World Wars. 

This example is easily attributed to the company’s early period owing to the short lived trading dates of Smith & Beck from 1847 until 1857.

Circa 1850

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