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Dollond Night Marching Compass c.1880 | Compass Library

Dollond Night Marching Compass c.1880-1900

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A Dollond Night Marching type pocket compass, dating from c.1880-1900.  It may well have been intended for military use, as an officer's compass. The compass features an aluminium card with a large hand-painted North-South arrow, painted centre, and jewelled pivot. The card may have been painted with a luminous compound (most probably ‘Balmain’s Luminous Paint’), which was activated by exposure to very bright light, often created by burning a strip of magnesium ribbon. There is a sighting window in the lid and an additional sighting point in the loop. The compass has an oxidised brass case, a transit lock, and a manual brake. Compasses of this type are known to have been manufactured by Francis Barker before 1875, and it is quite likely that this example was made by Barker and retailed by Dollond, who would have engraved their own details on the lid. The compass is signed on the lid by 'Dollond, London’.

Dollond and Company, (optical and scientific instrument maker): In 1750 Peter Dollond opened a small optical business in Vine Street, Hatton Garden, London, under his father's guidance. By 1752 The business was sufficiently successful that John Dollond, Peter's father, gave up silk weaving and went into partnership with his son in the optical business. In 1758 John Dollond obtained a patent on a compound lens for refracting telescopes. These lenses were described as achromatic, a term said to have been coined by Dr John Bevis. Although there was a dispute as to who had first invented the achromatic lens, Dollond certainly devised a quicker and simpler method of correcting the spherical aberration of lenses, as well as a method of measuring the lenses so that batches could be matched and achromatic doublet lenses reliably produced, thereby bringing the achromatic lens to market. In 1759 J. Dollond and Son opened a shop in the Strand. In 1761 John Dollond was appointed optician to George III and the Duke of York. In 1766 Peter went into partnership with his younger brother, John. They went onto supply optical instruments for Captain Cook and for Hadley. In 1781 Peter Dollond began making bifocal spectacles. John Dollond died in 1804 and Peter Dollond took his nephew George Huggins into partnership; Huggins changed his name by licence to Dollond. The trading name of the business remained P. and J. Dollond. In 1819 George took over the company. In 1820 Peter and George were jointly made opticians to George IV. During the 1800s Dollond's sold the Camera Lucida, a drawing aid patented in 1806 by William Hyde Wollaston and manufactured by the Dollonds; and the Camera Obscura.

In 1851 Dollond's were awarded a medal at the Great Exhibition for instruments for recording meteorological information on a strip of paper. In 1852 The younger George succeeded to the family business on his uncle's death; following the family tradition, he too adopted the surname Dollond. In 1866, when the second George Dollond died, the firm was taken over by his son, William (1834–1893). By 1871 William Dollond had become too ill to continue working and he sold the firm to J. R. Chant, a former employee, who retained the trading name of Dollond. During the early 20th century Dollonds sold film cameras, and in 1927 the firm was acquired by James Aitchison to become Dollond and Aitchison, after which it concentrated increasingly on prescription spectacles.


In very good original condition, and good working order. The compass finds north well. The oxidised finish of the case is in almost perfect condition. Unusually, the compass retains its original rubber friction ring on the base of the case. The compass card and glass are in very good condition. The transit lock and manual brake are working well. The lid fits perfectly and the hinge is strong.

Dimensions: 55mm diameter (80mm inc. loop)