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Francis Barker Dollond 'Pebble Lens' Compass c.1890

Price $402.00 Sale

A Francis Barker & Son ‘Pebble Lens' transparent pocket compass, dating from c.1880-1920. It is signed on the edge of the case by the well-known opticians and scientific instrument suppliers, 'Dollond, London'. Although made by Barker, this type of compass was usually retailed by other companies, such as Dollond or J. H. Steward.

This compass design featured in Barker catalogues, from the 1880s until the 1920s. In the Barker catalogue for 1885 it was described as a ‘Cyclists Compass, for use with maps etc’. It was said to be ‘Invaluable to Cyclists, Captains, Military men, and others. Being transparent, the roads on the map are easily seen and the distance calculated. The pebble lens, being best optically worked, makes it a fair sized magnifier of good power, for reading and examining any small object’. By the time the 1907 catologue was produced, this compass was being described as useful to ‘Aeronauts, Explorers, Motorists, and Yachtsmen’. In the WW1 J. H. Steward Military Instruments catalogue it was described as 'an excellent horseback compass'.

The Pebble lens compass was available in three sizes, the largest being 1.5 inches. The compass has a nickel or silver plated brass case and a finely balanced English Bar Needle. The cardinal points are hand painted in red and black, set aginst a white background. The compass comes complete with its original morocco leather fitted case. Further details of this type of compass design can be found in: Trade Mark London by Paul Crespel, and at the website.


The compass is in very good condition, full working order and finds North very well. The magnifying lenses are in very good condition. The leather case is in very good condition.

Dimensions: 33mm diameter (1.25 inches), 52mm including bow


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. 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 on to supply optical instruments for Captain Cook. 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.

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.