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Francis Barker Luminous Compass c.1875 | Compass Library

Francis Barker Luminous Pocket Compass c.1875

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A brass Hunter cased, English bar needle, Francis Barker & Son pocket compass, dating from c.1875 or earlier. The inside of the lid is clearly stamped with the pre-1875 Barker 'Trade Mark London' logo. The 'Trade Mark London' logo has the letter 'S' the right way round, identifying it as having been made before the end of 1875 (the 'S' was reversed after the death of Francis Barker in December 1875).

The compass is an early version of the 'Improved Colonial, No. 3014' compass which was made by Barker and featured in many of their catalogues from the Victorian era until the mid 1920s. Further details of this particular compass design can be found in: Trade Mark London (p.236) by Paul Crespel, and at the website. It also features in Kornelia Takac's book Compass Chronicles on p.68.

This particular compass is unusual in that it 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 in 1877 by William Balmain, and was often used in compasses during the late 19th century.


The compass is in good condition, full working order and finds North well. There is some wear to the paper compass card, and some marks to the compass needle. The original transit lock is present and fully functional. The case is in good condition, with some marks. The glass is in good condition with a couple of small scratches.

Dimensions: 45mm (excluding loop), 65mm (inc. loop)

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-SGI. They continue to produce the renowned Barker M-73, widely acknowledged to be the world's finest prismatic compass.