Auctioneers and Appraisers

Astronomical 4-inch Refracting Telescope by Alvan Clark & Sons






Clocks, Watches & Scientific Instruments - 2345
Date / Time :
July 29, 2006 10:00AM


Astronomical 4-inch Refracting Telescope by Alvan Clark & Sons, engraved on the body-cap Alvan Clark & Sons, Cambridgeport, Mass., 1891, with 52-inch lg. lacquered-brass tube, rack-and-pinion focusing with threaded eyepiece extension and eyepiece with dust-slide, total lg. 77 in., in brass collar with wingnut to altazimuth mount, on oak tripod with reverse baluster-turned head and brass plaque of Thomas Hall, Optical and Electrical Supplies, 19 Bromfield St., Boston, in original fitted case.

Provenance: From information supplied by a former owner, this previously unrecorded Alvan Clark telescope was a gift to the American poet and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1891. Upon his death in 1894, the telescope was bequeathed to his son, later the U.S. Supreme Court Judge, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Upon his death in 1935, the instrument was passed to It was a gift (but he didn't know from whom) in 1891 to Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes (Sr.) who died in 1894 and left it to his son (Jr.) who later became U.S. Supreme Cout Justice. Upon his death in 1935, the telescope passed to his nephew Edwin Holmes (president of the Fine Arts Society in Boston), and then to his nephew Charles Beaman, who used the instrument occasionally on Burnt Island. It was eventually sold at auction by Sotheby's in 2002.

Note: Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and educated at Andover and Harvard, Holmes was a prominent 19th century thinker and writer, who is credited as being the inspiration behind his friend Arthur Conan Doyle's detective, Sherlock Holmes. The fictional detective and the writer both shared combined interests in science and medicine, and Wendell Holmes was also a keen collector of stereoscopic photography. He patented and popularized the successful Holmes-Bates hand-held stereoscope, commenting on the subject of optics, that "the only way to be sure of getting a good instrument is to try a number of them, but it may be well to know which are worth trying".
Estimate $10,000-15,000


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