Several beautiful brass telescopes by the 19th-century French maker Bardou went on the block, including a 2¼-inch refractor that fetched $2,468 and a 4-inch that sold for $4,113. Another 4-inch, marked “John A. Brashear Co.,” was a definite bargain at $1,998. But the Holmes Clark, which had been expected to bring $10,000 to $15,000, failed to reach the reserve set by its owner and was withdrawn from the sale. Another unusual item, one of the 6-inch reflectors designed by Russell W. Porter and used in the 1930s to test sites for the 200-inch Hale telescope, suffered a similar fate. Unfortunate timing may be the reason: the Skinner auction, held July 29th, coincided with this year’s popular Stellafane convention, which had drawn flocks of telescope enthusiasts to Vermont that day.
Other item categories, however, produced jaw-dropping excitement. A pristine copy of Edward Emerson Barnard’s 1927 Photographic Atlas of Selected Regions of the Milky Way sold for $7,638. A brass surveyor’s compass by the early American instrument maker David Rittenhouse brought $19,975. The auction highlight turned out to be a Kwanon 35-millimeter camera made in the 1930s, which sold for a staggering $138,000.
Does the name “Kwanon” ring a bell? The company later changed its name to “Canon,” and this prototype camera sported optics by Nippon Kogaku, the firm that introduced its own camera, the Nikon I, in 1948!