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Photo by Thomas Hahn

It has been a long journey from the purchase of the first telescope, Dr. Henry Paul's Bardou (FRA2), in 2001 until today. However, according to some this passage of only about 15 years is but a short time for most collections of scientific instruments, and perhaps so.  However, with the concern for careful acquisition, many long hours of restoration and documentation, the creation of this website, and now finally the completion of the collection book - all of which were required to bring the collection to this point of presentation, I am pleased to see its completion.


It is also pleasing to see two recent publications appear, which refer to four telescopes within the Wolf Telescopes Collection.  As the collection evolved and became more substantial with a much wider range of different makers and telescope types, so too did the goal and historical value of the collection evolve and mature.  The collection, as a whole and as individual telescopes, is beginning to be fertile ground for comparison and discovery.  Up until now the website has been semi-private with a relatively few people aware of its existence.  With the publication of the collection book as well as updating and making the website generally accessible, it is hoped that the collection will become an important resource for further study and discovery in the area of historical telescopes.

The first publication is by Professor Tsuko Nakamura, Tokyo, Japan:
Tsuko Nakamura, 2015. A review on Japanese telescopes before the first half of the 18th century (in Japanese), Journal of History of Science, Japan ("Kagakusi Kenkyu"), vol. 54, no. 274, 53-59.  This paper discusses the technical succession and the importance of the Mori Nizaemon Masatomi telescope, Wolf Collection ID#HRA28. The maker, Masatomi has so far been unknown, but is likely to be the father of Masakatsu, a well-documented Mori Nizaemon maker from Nagasaki during the first quarter of the 18th century for the Eighth Shogun of Japan.

The second publication is by Dr. William Tobin, Vannes, France:
William Tobin, 2016. Evolution of the Foucault-Secretan Reflecting Telescope, Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage. This comprehensive paper includes more than 90 Figures with ample and informative notes and discussions about the Leon Foucault and Marc Secretan interactions as the silver-coated glass mirror was introduced to the reflecting telescope community at mid-19th Century thereby replacing the old speculum alloy mirror.  Two of the Foucault-Secretan Newtonian reflecting telescopes within the collection, Wolf Collection ID#TRE16 and TRE17, and a later similarly configured Secretan telescope, Wolf Collection ID#FRE1, are included in Dr. Tobin's insightful discussion.

William Tobin


Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, 19(2), 106-184 (2016)


The telescopes in this collection and throughout the world tell a colorful story of our extremely brief human journey from the first dim telescopic view through badly formed and poorly polished striated glass with entrained air bubbles to the recent discovery of the brightest supernova ever.  This 400-year encapsulation of telescopic time was played out in our home on February 5, 2016 in a meeting with Dr. Marvin Bolt, Curator of Science and Technology, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY, the world’s expert in pre-1650 telescopes and Dr. Prof. Subo Dong, Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Peking University, Beijing, China, the team leader who just published in the January 14th issue of Science their discovery of the most luminous supernova ever seen, ASASSN-15lh.  Dr. Dong's purpose of visit was to assess the Wolf Telescopes collection for possible acquisition on behalf of the Beijing Planetarium.  Dr. Bolt was present as a professional friend of Dr. Jin Zhu, Director of the Beijing Planetarium, to explain and discuss the intricacies of old historical telescopes and their makers.  What a captivating, exciting, and enjoyable day of learning for my wife and me.  

We are pleased to announce that this collection has been acquired and is now part of the holdings of the Beijing Planetarium in Beijing, China. It is anticipated that the collection will be on display in the Beijing Ancient Observatory. The observatory was built in 1442 during the Ming dynasty and is one of the oldest observatories in the world. It is operated as a museum in affiliation with the Beijing Planetarium

Our civilization is privileged and honored, even obligated, to continue this journey of cosmic discovery and understanding on the shoulders of scientists and scholars such as Drs. Dong and Bolt as well as others who have gone on before. I hope my telescope collection, book and website have captured an accurate representation of a few historical telescopic instruments and their makers who contributed early to our understanding of the universe and to the evolution of the vast array of “eyes” now looking out into the universe, including those of Hubble.  What an incredible journey past and utterly unfathomable future!

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