FREE DELIVERY on all UK orders | Unconditional guarantee on every item
Francis Barker Luminous Singer's Compass c.1875

Francis Barker Luminous Singer's Compass c.1875

Price €0,00 Sale

A fine example of a Francis Barker Singer's Patent-type luminous compass, dating from c.1875. The paper compass card is hand drawn in the classic Singer's design, and marked with Barker's 'Trade Mark London' logo. The brass case is stamped with the pre-1875 Barker logo. The compass has luminous paint markers at the four cardinal points. This type of luminous paint, most probably an early version of 'Balmain's Luminous Paint' was a compound of calcium sulphide. The paint was made luminous by exposure to sunlight or by burning a strip of magnesium ribbon near the compass card. It was patented in England by William Balmain, and was often used in compasses during the last quarter of the 19th century. The compass has a jewelled pivot, brass hunter case and transit lock operated whern the lid is closed. The case retains much of its original oxidised or bronzed finish, and the base is stamped with Barker's distinctive 'Trade Mark London' maker's mark, with the letter 'S' the right way round, denoting that it was made before 1875. There are also faint outlines inside the lid from the oval instruction label and paper sighting line which would originally have been glued to the interior of the lid.

Francis Barker & Son: were established in London in 1848, as a maker of compasses and scientific instruments. Francis Barker produced a very wide range of compass designs over the years, supplying major retailers such as Negretti & Zambra, J. Lizars, C. W. Dixey, Dollond, and many others. The company prospered until 1932, when it was taken over and became F. Barker & Son (1932). After WW2 the company changed hands several times and the name is now carried by Pyser-Optics. They continue to produce the renowned Barker M-73, widely acknowledged to be the world's finest prismatic compass. Further details of Barker compasses can be found at, and also in Paul Crepsel's excellent book Trade Mark London (available to view online).

Samuel Berry Singer (1796 - c.1875) was a master mariner from Southampton when he patented his unique design in July 1861. Its high contrast design was intended to be much easier to read in low light than conventional compasses of the time. His design was widely adopted by scientific instrument makers, but Singer himnself did not benefit greatly from his invention, the patent lapsed in 1868, and he ended his days living in poverty in Kincardine on the Firth of Forth. Versions of his design continued to be made until the First World War.


In very good condition and full working order. The compass finds North very well and the transit lock works well, locking the card when the lid is closed. The compass card and glass are in very good condition. The case is in very good condition, with just some wear to the original bronzed finish.

Dimensions: 60mm (85mm including loop)