Old binoculars and collecting
Collecting Old Binoculars
For anyone interested in collecting old binoculars then follow me and lets see what we can discover.
Binoculars have been around and in general useand good quantity since the 1800s. They are the bygone instruments which have been widely used for a long time now, and are still being produced today. Indeed today's instruments are as easily recognizable as those produced many years ago, especially in their design shape, although the technology regarding materials, prisms and lenses has taken great leaps forward. Having said that, even today's late 20th century binoculars are still using the 'ABBE-PORRO' principle of design first used in the late 1800s.
Now, as we have moved into the 21st century, it is still relatively easy to find such fascinating old instruments dating from the middle-late 1800s to the early-mid 1900s. And there is a fascinating history attached, as these instruments were used for pleasure and work, through peace and war. Don't forget, apart from the good times we have had two world wars and many minor wars since Queen Victoria reigned, and the military as well as the general public used these instruments in great numbers, and indeed still do.
So there you go!! Think about it as there is great scope for collecting.
The picture shows a pair of Zeiss WW11 6x50 binoculars.
Collecting Old Binoculars - Books on Old Binoculars
For anyone interested I have written several books on Collecting Old Binoculars (Self Published)
Collecting Old Binoculars
Collecting Old Ross Binoculars
Collecting Old German Binoculars
Collecting Old French Binoculars & Opera Glasses
Collecting Old North American Binoculars
You can find them on my publishers site - go direct to - http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/briseham
Old Binoculars - Wartime
During WW1 and WW11 all British binoculars that were used by the Armed Forces were stamped with the Ministry Broad Arrow.
At the time of WW1 there was a shortage of binoculars, so the military 'bought in' a lot of binoculars. These binoculars could have been French, German, or from private individuals ect, wherever they could find them.
WW1'bought in' binoculars were stamped as follows:-
S.1 High Grade Prismatic Binoculars
S.2 Second Grade Prismatic Binoculars
S.3 High Grade Galilean Binoculars
S.4 Second Grade Galilean Binoculars
S.5 Third Grade Binoculars Of Either Type
S.6 Unusual Design Binoculars
And of course they had the Ministry Broad Arrow.
Also we have the Brirish Army Markings for Prismatic Binoculars.
No 1 8 x 20 1907
No 2 Mk 1-111 6 x 30 1909
No 3 Mk 1-11 6 x 20 1911
No 4 Mk 1 6 x 30 1927
No 5 Mk 1-V 7 x 50 1935
No 6 Mk 1 4 x 24 1936
Again also marked with the Broad Arrow.
Another set of markings which are well worth mentioning are the German WW11 manufacturers codes.
The Germans decided during the war that they did not want the allies to know where their optics were manufactured ( to stop the bombing of the factories?) so they had the following codes put on their binoculars. This is just a list of some of the main codes as there were rather a lot, and they can be looked up on the internet.
Some German Manufacturers' Codes for WW11.
Beh Ernst Leitz - Wetzlar - Germany
Blc Carl Zeiss, Militarabteilung - Jena - Germany
Bmj Hensoldt & Sohne - Wetzlar - Germany
Bmt Steinheil & Sohne - Munich - Germany
Bpd Goerz - Vienna - Austria
Cag Swarovski - Wattens/Tirol - Austria
Cxn Emil Busch - Rathenow -Germany
Ddx Voigtlander & Sohne - Brunswick - Germany
Dkl Joseph Schneider - Kreutznach - Germany
Dzl Oigee - Berlin - Schoneberg - Germany
Eaw R. winkel - Gottingen - Germany
Eso G. Rodenstok - Munich - Germany
Esu Steinheil & Sohne - Munich - Germany
Eug Optische Prazisions Werke - Warsaw - Poland
Fvx Beck & Sohne - Kassel - Germany
Gwv Ernst Plank - Nurnberg - Germany
Jfp Dr Carl Leiss - Berlin - Germany
Nms Richard Holz - Berlin - Germany
Rin Carl Zeiss - Jena - Germany
The picture is of a standard pair of Galilean Binoculars issued to the German Army in 1908 - This pair is made by Spindler & Hoyer, but they were also produced by other factories - so they could be by Zeiss, Goerz etc. Many of these binoculars were used right through to WW11.
British Makers of Binoculars (A Few Old Names)
Here are a few British makers to look for - these are probably the most well known.
If you look into the history of some of these makers, you will find that many of them started out in the Optical business such as Opticians and lense makers.
Many of them would have also produced Cameras, Microscopes etc.
J.H. Steward London
Dolland & Aitchison London - From 1927
John Browning London
Ross London - Army - Navy
Kershaw Leeds - Army
Taylor-Hobson Leicester - Army
Watson London - Army
Wray London - Air Ministry
Barr & Stroud Glasgow - Royay Navy
Aitchison London - Leeds
Cox Devonport - Plymouth
Coombes Devonport - Plymouth
Here are some notes on other Binocular Marks:-
You may find engraved the Letters 'KO' (with the K on top of the O). This means that the instrument was tested at - The Kew Observatory.
The 'KO' should be followed by a number, which is the number of the Test Certificate.
This ran from - C.1878 to 1912.
Other letters you may find are 'NPL' which is the National Physical Laboratory.
The letter 'N' is followed by 'P' over 'L' and a number, for instance - '43', which would mean it was tested in 1943. C.192 - .
Then there is also the Broad Arrow.
This Arrow was used buy the British Government & Military to mark ownership.
The sign was also used as a mark of testing, so a full Broad Arrow meant the instrument was up to standard.
Searching for Old Binoculars
This is me in my search for old binoculars at an Antiques Fair.
It was done just to show people what is out there on the market - enjoy with all its faults.
There are many places you can buy Old Binoculars.
The video was at a large AntiquesFair but also you can look at :-
Ebay or other Online Auctions, Antique shops, Car Boots, Auction Houses or even Charity Shops
Old Ross Binoculars
Ross were one of the great British Binocular Makers.
Andrew Ross was the man who started it all. Born in 1798 - Died in 1859.
He eventually became an Optician and started his own business in 1830 at Wigmore Street, London.
From around 1837 - 1841 they were trading as Andrew Ross & Co.
In 1859 they were trading as - Ross & Co. The company name changed to Ross Ltd in 1897.
Around 1949 they became Barnet Ensign Ross Ltd, and soon after they changed to Ross Ensign.
Ross closed in 1975.
Their main factory in the 1900s was - The Optical Works, Clapham Common, London, SW4.
Ross continuosly manufactured binoculars from the 1830s, and over the years very many were produced for the military with WW1 & WW11 being a very good collecting area.
Old French Binoculars & Opera Glasses
Old French binoculars are of course another collectable area, but when it comes to WW1 & WW11 then I think they become even more interesting.
During WW11 the Germans started coding all their binoculars to hide their place of manufacture.
Anyway, during WW11 France was 'occupied' and so Binoculars made in France for Germany were given a code which was stamped on the binocular.
Iww. Huet et Cie, Paris France.
Iwx. Optique et Precision de Levallois, Paris France.
Lwy. Societe Optique et Mecanique de Haute Precision, Paris France.
Also during WW1 when there was a huge shortage of binoculars, the British 'bought in' Binoculars from all sorts of places including France.
So you may well come across a pair of British Army Binoculars which are actually French.
Bought in binoculars were stamped by the British Military, so you may have a pair of French Binoculars marked like this - for example
Name. Huet - Paris
Mark. Ministry Broad Arrow
Mark. S.1 (high grade prismatic binoculars)
Mark. MG ( French - Ministere de la Guerre) (Ministry of War)
Good fun looking for these binoculars and also they are easy to date.
Now this is where I think the French came into their own - Opera Glasses.
A lot of Opera Glasses were produced in the 1800s and early 1900s, but I don't think anyone made such beautiful glasses as the French.
Depending on the level of decoration and condition, some of these Opera Glasses can be quite ex[pensive.
Look out for decorations in :-
Tortoiseshell, Gold, Silver, Mother of Pearl, Bone, Ivory, Enamel etc.
Look out for these French names.
Huet Paris. Lumiere Paris. Iris Paris. Bardou Paris. Chevalier Paris. Colmont Paris. Marchand Paris.
Wartime Posters - Help!! Loan us your Binoculars
Love these posters.
During the war there were of course many posters warning about the enemy etc.
The ones I love of course are about loaning your Binoculars to the government.
There are a few of these posters about ( mainly repro!!), but they may make your collecting more interesting.
Old Adverts help with collecting
This is fun!!
Trawl around for old adverts.
Look on Ebay - search the internet - look at old publications.
It's amazing how many old adverts there are, and you will find them for very many binocular makers and sellers - British, French, German, American, etc
These adverts also help with dating the binoculars.
Maybe you have a pair of old binoculars they are advertising??
This picture is an old advert - late 1800s - for the French company Lemaire. (Very collectable Opera Glasses)
Reply to H Geddes. HI, I don't actually know anyone in London who does repairs. I hope these will help. www.opticalrepairs.com -
www.actionoptics.co.uk - www.quicktest.co.uk - www.intrasights.co.uk