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James Parkes of Birmingham, Wooden Box Compass

James Parkes Early Victorian Wooden Box Compass c.1850

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A rare early Victorian mahogany cased compass by the well known Birmingham scientific instrument maker, James Parkes. James Parkes was a manufacturer of telescopes who founded his company in 1839.  He was succeeded by his son and the company was renamed James Parkes & Son. Both companies traded from 5, St. Mary’s Row, Birmingham. Parkes's very distinctive trademark was a human left eye shown open together with an eyebrow. The company exhibited their scientific instruments, including a variety of pocket compasses, at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London. In their 1859 catalogue the company were described as 'Instrument Makers to the Board of Trade'. The company was still operating in 1908, under the ownership of Samuel Hickling Parkes.


The compass is in good, original condition and full working order. It finds north very well. The hand-drawn compass card is in very good condition. There is an automatic transit lock operated by a small pin which locks the needle when the lid is closed.  The compass needle has lost some of its original blued finish. The wooden case is in good condition, with a lovely patina, strong hinges and locking clasp.

Dimensions: 75mm x 75mm x 20mm