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02 P. & J. Dollond Price List, c. 1775

image of P. & J. Dollond Price List, c. 1775

The high-street opticians Dollond and Aitchison trace their origins to the scientific instrument firm founded by Peter Dollond in 1750. The company remained under family control for 120 years and eventually merged with Aitchison & Co in 1927.

Two years after he first established the business, Peter Dollond took his father John into partnership and it was John Dollond’s subsequent development of achromatic telescope lenses that established the workshop’s early reputation. By combining crown glass with flint glass the Dollonds were able to make lenses that overcame the colour problems of chromatic aberration that afflicted previous refracting telescopes.

A patent was taken out to secure the commercial advantage of these new lenses, and was unsuccessfully challenged by a group of London opticians and instrument makers. When they nevertheless continued to make their own achromatic telescopes without licence, Peter Dollond pursued several of them through the courts.

This rare surviving price list suggests just how important the new lenses were to the identity of the business. In a listing that covers the full contemporary spectrum of optical, mathematical and philosophical instruments, it is achromatic telescopes which both start the list and dominate it. The smallest and cheapest was one foot long and cost £1 1s; the most complex and expensive was “A new universal Equatorial Instrument adapted to the Seventeen Inch Achromatic Telescope” at £84.


Collection: Stuart Talbot, Germany

Objects lent by Stuart Talbot, Germany:

19. Invoice issued by P. & J. Dollond, London, 1777

51. Two Trade Flyers, by W. & S. Jones, London, c. 1804

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