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The Collection


This is a collection of historical telescopes acquired by a retired engineer/scientist, whose primary objective was to assemble and restore, as needed for functionality, a wide range of telescopes made primarily in the 1700s and 1800s. This was the two-century zenith of amateur and professional craftsmanship and observation side-by-side. The purpose or goal for the collection was twofold: to enjoy and appreciate the craftsmanship of the old masters and their apprentices and in some cases to restore beauty and functionality, and to observe the commonality and distinctiveness of design and manufacturing methods. It was also of importance to enter into an activity where the investment would be retained, if not gain, in value. Both objectives were met and exceeded beyond expectations. All of this required getting to know the premiere makers, the value of their instruments, and their quality of production. Finding and buying carefully at and below value, as well as buying restorable value, all required time and effort, essentially a self-taught art form full of surprises both good and bad. There are roughly two schools of thought regarding restoration: "don't" is European, and "maybe" is American. The telescopes within this collection are a nice mix of untouched, and carefully restored so as not to inflict further damage while retaining originality where there is historical guidance. The collection has nearly equal representation of floor standing, tabletop and handheld refracting and reflecting telescopes. The collection is well documented, cross-referenced and indexed as well as professionally photographed. The author hopes it will be of value to science historians, to museum curators, and to antique telescope dealers and collectors.

Distinguishing Features

This is a large assemblage of fine historical instruments, nearly 90% of which were made during the 18th and 19th centuries predominantly by British makers, combined with other outstanding and rare instruments by makers in Austria, China, France, Germany, Holland, Japan and the United States of America. The distinguishing features of the collection are its wide range of makers (70), its high percentage of rare telescopes, its high quality (all are museum quality), and its broad inclusion of types of telescopes with nearly equal representation of floor standing (36), library or tabletop (37), and handheld telescopes (38). Other distinguishing features include: Only eight of the telescopes in the collection are unsigned; only five by makers unknown. All of the telescopes are complete and functional both mechanically and optically except for one or two. Thirty-six telescopes have mahogany or walnut optical tubes, often tapered, and in some cases, in two piece screw-together configurations. Fifty-eight telescopes within the collection have storage cases.

Author / Collector

Edward D. Wolf, B.S., Ph.D., is a professor emeritus, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Cornell University, is a Life Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., and was born and raised on a wheat and cattle farm near the town of Quinter in northwestern Kansas. He received his B.S. in chemistry at McPherson College, and earned his Ph.D. in physical chemistry at Iowa State University. He did postdoctoral studies at Princeton University prior to joining the aerospace industry for fifteen years in southern California, first at Atomics International/North American Science Center where he did research on field emission electron microscopy and thermionic energy conversion. He then spent 13 years at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu where he led an effort in scanning electron beam diagnostics and microfabrication (both key enablers later for nanotechnology). He became a senior scientist of the Hughes Aircraft Company and section head of electron beam surface physics and was awarded Fellow of the IEEE for his work in this area of engineering. In 1978 Cornell University offered him a full professorship with tenure and the first directorship of what has now become the Cornell Nanoscale Facility (CNF). Ten of his thirteen years at Cornell were as director of the fledgling CNF. Professor Wolf was a visiting fellow commoner at Trinity College, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, in 1986-1987, and a guest scientist at Ion Microfabrication Systems as well as a Guest Professor at Technical University of Vienna during part of 1987. Dr. Wolf is the co-inventor of the Biolistic Gene Gun and was the co-founder of Biolistics, Inc. Dr. Wolf served as a director of Novelx from 2003 until its acquisition by Agilent Technologies in 2010. He has been a member of the Antique Telescope Society (ATS) since 2002.

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