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Victorian Wooden Pocket Compass c.1880 | Compass Library

Victorian Wooden Cased Pocket Compass c.1880

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A rare Victorian mahogany cased compass, possibly made by Francis Barker c.1880. Although there are no maker's marks on the compass, the 'hidden' hinges are characteristic Barker design features. The wooden case is quite unusual in that it has a sliding brass button clasp. The elegant and minimalist card design is also very unusual, with just a star at the North point and letters at the other cardinal points. The compass has a English bar needle, jewelled pivot, aluminium card, and a transit lock operated when the lid is closed. A similar mahogany compass (with a standard clasp) can be seen in the 1907 Barker catalogue, reproduced on p.407 of Paul Crepsel's excellent book Trade Mark London, which can be viewed at

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.


The compass is in very good, original condition and full working order. It finds north very well. The hand-painted alluminium compass card is in very good condition. There is a transit lock operated by a small pin which locks the needle when the lid is closed. The wooden case is in very good condition, with a lovely patina, 'hidden' hinges, and a sliding button clasp.

Dimensions: 75mm x 75mm x 23mm