The antique telescope was purchased in large quantities by sailors, the military and astronomers. However due to the fragile glass optics and the brass tubes that were easy to dent, not a large amount of these telescopes are to be found today.
Most often these telescopes were used by mariners and had complicated optics to show the image right side up, unlike the scopes used for astronomy which have an inverted image. The hand held telescope, also called a spyglass was focused by moving the tubes back and forth to change the length to get a clear image. A telescope with 3 or 4 sections was much more compact and easy to store, but a little delicate. For durability the mariners chose the 2 section spyglass known as the single draw telescope.
Most often made from brass with a leather or wood covering the antique telescope can also be found made from silver plate or nickel silver. A solid wood barrel with brass tube would be a rare find and indicates a very early model. Rose wood was a common wood used to decorate the telescope body.
During the 1800’s makers included their name on the tubes in a quite elaborate script. This was changed to a simple block print in the 1900’s, just something to look for when searching for a collectible telescope. One of the more common names to watch for is Dollond of London, because of the high quality of these instruments a good many of them can still be found. Another well known maker was Bardou, Paris a leading maker of fine quality scopes. Representing America in field of fine telescope building was the company of Alvan Clark and Son’s from the 1850’s through the 1920’s.
The spyglass was often used under severe weather conditions and dirty field work, after all it was a tool to be used, but also a delicate instrument and subject to damage. The most common damage would be scratched or broken optics which can not be repaired. Dents and scratches on the tubes can sometimes be fixed with a little work.. Depending on your needs, just how good of shape the telescope needs to be is up the buyer. If the intended use is for just a nautical decoration the condition is not so critical.
The search for the antique telescope as with any nautical collectible to me is a large potion of the fun of collecting. I can spend hours in a small antique store and talking to other collectors or browsing the internet museums in my hunt for information on nautical collectibles. In today’s world the internet is a great way to locate your collectibles or information on collecting. The amount of info and shopping sites is still quite amazing to me as I am somewhat new to the world of computers, but I have found the internet to be a wonderful resource in my endless search for collectibles.