Search our collection
Optical observations, diversions and demonstrations. Explore how we’ve studied and played with light.
Refracting telescope with achromatic lens, made by the Dollond family
Achromatic refracting telescope for terrestrial use, with an optical lens diameter of 1.4 inches, and focal length 30 inches, by Dollond, London, 1760-1775
New Patent Jewel Kaleidoscope, 1854-1863
Kaleidoscope, 'New Patent Jewel Kaleidoscope' by the London Stereoscopic Company, 1854-1863 (B773)
Telescope by Christopher Cock
Refracting five-draw telescope made by Christopher Cock, Long Acre, London, 1673. Inscribed ‘Christopher Cock Londini 1673’. The tube is decorated in gold designs on red vellum and features a royal coat of arms.
Telescope by John Marshall
Refracting seven-draw telescope made by John Marshall, Ludgate Street, London, 1685-1695.
‘Visual glasses’ designed by Benjamin Martin
Horn and steel bow spectacles in red shagreen case (now faded). Designed by Benjamin Martin in 1756 and termed ‘Visual Glasses’. The distinctive thick-rimmed design and violet or green tinted lenses (which do not survive in this example) were ridiculed by some contemporaries but ultimately proved popular and were copied by other makers. Thus the maker of this pair is unknown. Martin used the glasses as his trademark; an image of them appears on his trade cards and receipts.
Telescope by John Yarwell.
Refracting eight-draw telescope made by John Yarwell, Ludgate Street, London, 1685-1695. Inscribed ‘'John Yarwell, Fecit’. The tube is decorated in gold designs on green vellum and features a royal coat of arms.
Handheld reading lens and case
Handheld reading lens and leather case, maker unknown, 1680-1700.
Pair of plastic National Health Service spectacles
Pair of plastic National Health Service spectacles, dispensed by Crispe the Opticians, Ruislip, c. 1950
William Herschel’s ‘infrared’ prism
Glass prism with lugs, mounted at end of brass tube with threaded flange, unsigned, London, England, 1795-1805. Used by Sir William Herschel in experiments on thermal radiation in the solar spectrum. (See note)
Box-type Camera Obscura
Box-type camera obscura, Focussing screen modern replacement, unsigned, British, 1795-1805
Telescope, 4 draw, in shagreen brass caps. "Sold b
Telescope, 4 draw, in shagreen brass caps. "Sold by Thos. Wright in Fleet Street. Instrument maker to His Majesty" written in ink on erector tube, effective aperture of o. g. = 3/4 in. 3-lens eyepiece
Copy of National Geographic magazine, November 198
Copy of National Geographic magazine, November 1985, with embosed white-light hologram on cover depicting 'Africa's Taung child, one to two million years old'.
Claude Lorrain mirror in fish-skin case
Claude Lorrain mirror in fish-skin case, unsigned, Europe, 1801-1820
wooden original type model of Pseudoscope (one prism slightly loose), signed 'Watkins & Hill, 5 Charing Cross, London', c. 1850.
Achromatic telescope, 4-draw, green shagreen with brass mounts
Achromatic telescope by Peter Dollond (?), London, c. 1780. Object glass, 1 5/8-inches, 4-draw, green shagreen with brass mounts. (One tube slightly damaged)
Crawford UV monitor type 760 by the Littlemore Sci
Crawford UV monitor type 760 by the Littlemore Sci. Eng. Co. Oxford, for measuring the ultraviolet component of light in the range 50 to 1600 microwatts per lumen, used at the National Museums and Galleries of Wales reputedly in the 1960s and early 1970s
Embossed rainbow hologram of "Babycham" fawn and l
Embossed rainbow hologram of "Babycham" fawn and logo type, forming one side of a handbag mirror, 1985
Camera obscura, box-type, with 2 3/8-inch meniscus
Camera obscura, box-type, with 2 3/8-inch meniscus lens concavo-convex of about 11-inches focal length, c. 1850.
prism part of turret type tent camera obscura, by
prism part of turret type tent camera obscura, by Newton & Co., 3 Fleet Street, London, England, mid 19th century.
Brewster's Patent Kaleidoscope by Philip Carpenter, Birmingham, England,1820
Kaleidoscope, Brewster's patent, silver plated brass, painted/shellaced tube covering, by Philip Carpenter, Birmingham, England, c.1820 with extra lens for distant objects, and 13 various object plates (one is defective), in wooden (mahogany and/or walnut?) case, velvet lined, with lock and key (see note)
Artists' aid (Claude glasses), glass pocket viewer
Artists' aid (Claude glasses), glass pocket viewer with four coloured glasses (brown, yellow, blue and violet), unknown maker, Europe, 1801-1820
Original prism by Joseph von Fraunhofer
The original prism by Joseph von Fraunhofer, Munich, with which Dr. William Hyde Wollaston discovered the dark lines in the solar spectrum, equilateral prism sides 3.0 cm length 3.5cm, some sealing wax at each end, 1801-1805.
Two-power artillery periscope
Two-power artillery periscope by C. P. Goerz, Berlin, Germany, 1917. marked 'C.P. Goerz, Berlin, nr.364' 'D.R.G.M.'; lacks leather caps for '15 x' eyepiece and for upper window
Claude Lorrain Mirror of black glass (c.1750-70),
Claude Lorrain Mirror of black glass (c.1750-70), oblong, in sharkskin case
Colour filters, (Claude Lorraine glasses)
Set of colour filters (or Claude Lorraine glasses) , early 19th century (B757)
'Fernglas 08' Galilean binoculars, in case
'Fernglas 08' Galilean binocular, numbered 92802 and 493830, by C.P. Goerz, Berlin, in original leather case.
Prospect glass (or opera or spyglass), with brass
Prospect glass (or opera or spyglass), with brass sliding caps and lignum vitae tube, c. 1750, possibly English.
Refracting terrestrial telescope by Mann & Ayscough
Refracting terrestrial telescope by Mann & Ayscough, London, c.1745. 3-draw, object glass 1/2 inch, brass mounts, sliding dustcaps at both ends, body covered in red shagreen, tubes in green vellum. Stamped in gold "Mann & Ayscough London".
prospect glass (or spyglass) by J. Dollond & Son,
prospect glass (or spyglass) by J. Dollond & Son, London, 1751-1775 (incomplete, lens cap missing, eyepiece, lens and cover both missing)
optical 'paradox' toy for seeing through opaque ob
optical 'paradox' toy for seeing through opaque objects (mahogany mount, 8 1/2-inch length overall), George Adams design, c. 1795.
John Browning’s, 1875 'Popular' single prism student spectroscope, with case
'Popular' student spectroscope, single prism, in case by John Browning, London, 1875. (See note)
Camera Lucida by Zeiss for use with microscope (Ze
Camera Lucida by Zeiss for use with microscope (Zeichen prisma) property of Sylvanus. P. Thompson
Variable power telescope, No.1, Mk 1, serial no.257
Variable power telescope, No.1, Mk 1, serial no.257, by Sir Howard Grubb & Sons Ltd., Dublin, 1919. signed 'Grubb, Dublin, 1919', diameter of tube 2 3/8 inches, objective 25 mm diameter, diaphragm cap at eyepiece end [telescope sectioned in 1958], lacks cap at object lens end.
Brewster type achromatic stereoscope
early Brewster type achromatic stereoscope by R. & J. Beck, London, England, with picture slide, titled 'Irish Scenery' (1 of 17), c. 1865.
Periscope for use in trenches, by R. & J. Beck Ltd.
Periscope for use in trenches by R. & J. Beck Ltd., 1918, Mark IX, serial no. 22289, with detachable oak handle
Small refracting telescope by Peter Dollond, Londo
Small refracting telescope by Peter Dollond, London, c. 1790. On a folding tripod stand, with screwed cap and fitted with sun filter and diaphragm wheel.
Elbowed stereoscopic rangefinder, working length 0
Elbowed stereoscopic rangefinder, working length 0.9 metres, serial number 212586, marked `blc' indicating it was made by Carl Zeiss, Militararbeitung, Jena, Germany, date 1939-45
Delactis' 8x40 binocular serial number 1430186 by
Delactis' 8x40 binocular serial number 1430186 by Carl Zeiss, Jena, in original leather case
4-draw "Target" telescope, with coated lenses and
4-draw "Target" telescope, with coated lenses and pancratic eyepiece, engraved "Dollond London", and fitted with leather covered body and lens caps. [o.g. 2 1/8 inches diameter]
English double spring folding eyeglasses with smok
English double spring folding eyeglasses with smoked glass oval lenses in an aluminium frame, c 1900 (only 15 years after aluminium became commonly available).
Adams's New Patent Portable Telescope
Non-achromatic (Galilean type) folding (9-draw) spyglass telescope with leather covered silver-plated brass tube, by George Adams the elder, 60 Fleet St., London, England, 1734-1795. Marked as ‘Adams’s New Patent Portable Telescope’, fitted with 1 7/8-inch objective lens and sliding eyepiece lens cap.
Round white 'lenticular' concave spectacle lens (f
Round white 'lenticular' concave spectacle lens (for the correction of myopia).
Multiplying glass (1840-50), small tumbler with pa
Multiplying glass (1840-50), small tumbler with pansy painted on gold ground, looking inside the tumbler, pansy is multiplied by faceted slides
Horn framed reading lens with tooled leather case
Horn framed reading lens with tooled leather case, 1680-1690
Artists' aid (Claude glass)
Artists' aid (Claude glass), glass pocket viewer with four coloured glasses (brown, blue, green and yellow), unsigned, Europe, 1801-1820
Avo light meter model 3, made by Avo Ltd., Dover,
Avo light meter model 3, made by Avo Ltd., Dover, England, patent number 640117, 0 to 500 and 0 to 2500 lux.
Telescope by Ramsden, unextended 240mm, wooden tub
Telescope by Ramsden, unextended 240mm, wooden tube cracked, eye piece cover missing
7x50 binocular with internal filters model CF41 se
7x50 binocular with internal filters model CF41 serial number 12648 by Barr & Stroud, Glasgow and London, also marked A(dmiralty) P(attern) 1900A, in repaired but original leather case