Historical Telescopes in the Netherlands

(and where to see them)


Early depiction of a ‘Dutch telescope’ from the “Emblemata of zinne-werck” (Middelburg, 1624) of the poet and statesman Johan de Brune (1588-1658). The print was engraved by Adriaen van de Venne, who, together with his brother Jan Pieters van de Venne, printed books not far from the original optical workshop of Hans Lipperhey.
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This web page is organized as follows:


As far as document sources on the early history of the telescope can be trusted, the earliest serviceable telescopes that could magnify more than a few times appear to have been first made in the Netherlands during the first years of the seventeenth century. Here, as abroad, these early telescopes found very rapid deployment not only by mariners and military officers but by astronomers as well. Within only a few years after its invention, the telescope had become the most important tool of the astronomer.

In the Netherlands, the science of astronomy has always been pursued with great enthusiasm by amateurs and professionals alike, and it is therefore not surprising that in such a small country many early and historic telescopes can still be found in the collections of museums, observatories and in the hands of private collectors.

As a guide for visitors to the Netherlands with an interest in the history and the development of the telescope, the following web page lists museums and observatories in the Netherlands that preserve historic telescopes and lenses up to circa 1900. Where possible, links have been provided to web pages of individual museums and observatories (if available, in English, otherwise in Dutch) that provide addresses and opening hours. Small maps have also been provided with the location of the museum/observatory indicated by a blue dot.

It should be noted that most observatories are not open to the public on a daily basis and one should therefore make an appointment with a staff member if one wishes to view the instruments. Telescopes and lenses listed in museum collections are based on catalogues and information supplied by museum curators and include both those that are on display as those that are stored in the depots.


Netherlands Maritime Museum

Houses the largest collection of maritime instruments in the Netherlands, including:

  • Simple refractors by Joseph Howe and Jacob Lommers.
  • Gregorian reflector by James Short.
  • Achromatic refractors by Dollond, Jan & Harmanus van Deijl, Krap & Van den Brink, P.J. Kipp & Zonen, J. Molteni & Co., R. Imme and Radiguet.
  • Mariner’s telescopes by L.J. Harri and others.

For more information on these telescopes and other objects in the collections of Dutch maritime museums, go to Maritiem Digitaal.

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Delft University of Technology: Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences

Preserves a large collection of geodetical and related instruments adjacent to the faculty library, including:

  • Gregorian reflector by Bauke Eisma van der Bildt.
  • Achromatic telescopes by P.J. Kipp & Zonen.
  • Numerous geodetical instruments with small sighting telescopes.
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Koninklijk Eise Eisinga Planetarium

Site of the famous planetarium of the wool carder and self-taught astronomer and instrument maker Eise Jeltes Eisinga (1744-1828). The planetarium museum includes:

  • Gregorian reflectors by George Adams, Wytse F. Foppes, Jan Pieters van der Bildt, Johannes van der Bildt, Lubbertus van der Bildt, Bauke Eisma van der Bildt, Sibrand Taekes van der Vliet, Sieds Jehannes Rienks and Roelofs Hommema.

Visitors of the Eise Eisinga Planetarium should also visit the nearby Museum ’t Coopmanshûs on the Voorstraat that has a magnificent orrery by Thomas Wright & Benjamin Cole acquired by the Academy of Franeker in 1785.


  • H. Terpstra, Friesche Sterrekonst: Geschiedenis van de Friese sterrenkunde en aanverwante wetenschappen door de eeuwen heen (T. Wever, Franeker, 1981).
  • J.M. de Ridder, “Eise Eisinga and his Planetarium”, Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, 5 (2002), 65-87.
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Teylers Museum

Preserves several telescopes in its unique collection of 18th- and 19th-century scientific instruments, including:

  • Newtonian reflector by Frederick William Herschel. Gregorian reflectors by Peter & John Dollond and Jan Pieters van der Bildt.
  • Heliometer lens by Peter & John Dollond.
  • Achromatic refractors by Peter & John Dollond and Jan & Harmanus van Deijl.
  • Binocular telescope by Jan & Harmanus van Deijl.
  • Portable equatorial telescope by Jesse Ramsden.
  • Large heliograph (an instrument for photographing the Sun) with tube and optics by John Henry Dallmeyer on a mounting by Hendrik Olland. Used for the Dutch Venus-Transit expedition to Réunion (Indian Ocean) in December 1874 and the Dutch Solar-Eclipse Expedition to Sumatra of May 1901.
  • Mariner’s telescopes by Robert Mills and P.J. Kipp & Zonen.


  • G. L’E. Turner, “Descriptive Catalogue of Van Marum’s Scientific Instruments in Teyler’s Museum”, in: Martinus van Marum: Life and Work: Vol. 4 (H.D. Tjeenk Willink for the Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen, Haarlem, 1973), part 2, pp. 287-298.
  • R.H. van Gent, De reizende astronoom: Nederlandse sterrenkundige expedities naar de Oost en de West (Museum Boerhaave, Leiden, 1993 [= Mededeling uit het Rijksmuseum voor de Geschiedenis van de Natuurwetenschappen, nr. 256])
  • G. L’E. Turner, The Practice of Science in the Nineteenth Century: Teaching and Research Apparatus in the Teyler Museum (Teyler’s Museum, Haarlem, 1996), pp. 177-178 & 198-199.
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Explorion (Limburgs Science Centrum)

Public observatory (founded in 1976), formerly known as “Sterrenwacht Schrieversheide”, houses a large refractor from the former St. Ignatius College of Valkenburg.

This Jesuit college, founded in 1894 by German Jesuits who had been exiled from their homeland by the ‘Jesuitengesetz’ of 1872, had an observatory of which the main instrument was the large refractor by Georg Nicholas Saegmuller (Washington).

The telescope, equipped with an object glass (Ø = 22.7 cm, f = 280 cm) by John Clacey (Washington) and an aluminium tube, was exhibited at the World’s Columbian Fair of 1893 in Chicago and was set up in Valkenburg in 1896. The telescope was mainly used for variable star observations by the fathers Joseph Hisgen and Michael August Esch.

During WW II the telescope was hidden away in a nearby seminary in Maastricht where for more than thirty years it lay forgotten and neglected in the attic until it was acquired by the Sterrenwacht Schrieversheide.


  • H.J.M. Keulen, “Van Jezuïetencollege tot Academie voor Bewustzijnsontwikkeling”, Historische en Heemkundige Studies in en rond het Geuldal: Jaarboek 1996 (Valkenburg aan de Geul, 1996), pp. 185-224.
  • A. Udías, Searching the Heavens and the Earth: The History of Jesuit Observatories (Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht/Boston/London, 2003 [= Astrophysics and Space Science Library, nr. 286), pp. 94-96 & 207-208.
  • R.H. van Gent, “Jesuit Astronomy in the Netherlands: Studies on Variable Stars and Babylonian Mathematical Astronomy at the St. Ignatius College in Valkenburg (Limburg)”, in preparation.
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Museum Boerhaave

Houses the largest public collection of historical telescopes in the Netherlands, including:

  • Unique collection of Huygens lenses and other Huygens memorabilia. Also lenses by Nicholas Hartsoeker and Arnold Marcel.
  • Simple refractors by Petrus van Musschenbroek, Blasio Burlini and Reballio & Son.
  • Newtonian reflectors by George Hearne, Edward Scarlett, James Short, George Adams, Peter Dollond and John Browning (mirror by George Henry With).
  • Gregorian reflectors by Gerrit Cremer, George Sterrop, Wytze F. Foppes, Jan Pieters van der Bildt, Johannes van der Bildt, Lubbertus van der Bildt, Bauke Eisma van der Bildt, Antonio Reballio and Sieds Jehannes Rienks.
  • Heliometer lenses by Dollond and others.
  • Achromatic refractors by John & Peter Dollond, Benjamin Martin, Jan & Hermanus van Deijl, Richard Rust, Jan van den Velde, Thomas Harris & Son, Thomas Jones, Jan Marten Kleman, Joseph von Fraunhofer, Joseph von Utzschneider, Traugott Leberecht von Ertel, Johann Georg & Arnold Repsold, Jan Willem Giltay & Petrus Jacobus Kipp, Carl August von Steinheil, Georg & Sigmund Merz and Molteni & Co.
  • Comet seeker by Joseph von Fraunhofer.
  • Dialytic telescopes by Georg Simon Plößl.
  • Meridian telescope by Jonathan Sisson and meridian circle by Pistor & Martins (1861).

For more information on these telescopes and other objects in the collection, go to the online database.


  • E. Engberts, Descriptive Catalogue of Telescopes in the Rijksmuseum voor de Geschiedenis der Natuurwetenschappen (National Museum of the History of Science), Leiden (Netherlands) (Rijksmuseum voor de Geschiedenis der Natuurwetenschappen, Leiden, 1970 [= Communications from the National Museum of the History of Science, nr. 138]).
  • A.C. van Helden & R.H. van Gent, The Huygens Collection (Museum Boerhaave, Leiden, 1995 [= Mededeling uit het Rijksmuseum voor de Geschiedenis van de Natuurwetenschappen, nr. 262]).
  • A.C. van Helden & R.H. van Gent, “The Lens Production by Christiaan and Constantijn Huygens”, Annals of Science, 56 (1999), 69-79.
  • H. Hooijmaijers, “De omzwervingen van een telescoop”, Gewina: Tijdschrift voor de Geschiedenis der Geneeskunde, Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Techniek, 26 (2003), 40-49.
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Old Observatory

Site of the Leiden Observatory from 1860 to 1974. Most of the observatory’s historic instruments are now in the collection of Museum Boerhaave. The larger telescopes are still in the building, including:

  • Refractor by Merz (Ø = 15 cm, f = 240 cm) on a German mounting (1838).
  • Refractor with object glass by Alvan Graham Clark (Ø = 26.6 cm, f = 392.6 cm) on a Repsold mounting (1885).
  • Photographic refractor by the brothers Henry Gautier (Ø = 34.0 cm, f = 524 cm) on an English mounting (1897).
  • Reflector by John Browning (mirror by George Henry With).


  • W. de Sitter, Short History of the Observatory of the University at Leiden 1633-1933 (Joh. Enschedé, Haarlem, s.a. [1933]).
  • G. van Herk, H. Kleibrink & W. Bijleveld, De Leidse Sterrewacht: Vier eeuwen wacht bij dag en bij nacht (Waanders/De Kler, Zwolle, 1983).
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New Observatory

During the winter and spring seasons the large mid-18th century telescope built of Jacobus van der Wall is on display in the entrance hall of the J.H. Oort Building.

This Gregorian reflector was built around 1750 by the Amsterdam instrument maker Adam Steitz for the wealthy Amsterdam merchant Jacobus van der Wall. After Van der Wall’s death in 1782, the telescope was bequeathed to the Leiden Observatory.

During the summer and autumn seasons the telescope is on display in Museum Boerhaave.


  • H.J. Zuidervaart, “ ‘Zo’n mooie machine, waarvan de kwaliteit door alle astronomen wordt erkend’: Een biografie van een vrijwel niet gebruikte telescoop”, Gewina: Tijdschrift voor de Geschiedenis der Geneeskunde, Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Techniek, 26 (2003), 148-165.
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Zeeuws Museum

The collection includes:

  • Early telescope claimed to be from Sacharias Janssen, but probably dating from the 18th century.


  • P. Harting, “Oude optische werktuigen, toegeschreven aan Zacharias Janssen, en eene beroemde lens van Christiaan Huygens teruggevonden”, Album der Natuur (1867), 257-281.
  • B. Ernst, “Een standbeeld voor Sacharias Janssen”, Zeeuws Tijdschrift, 25 (1975), nr. 2, 29-36.
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Maritime Museum

The collection includes:

  • Mariner’s telescopes by Dollond, Crichton, Chadburn Brothers, L.J. Harri and others.

For more information on these telescopes and other objects in the collections of Dutch maritime museums, go to Maritiem Digitaal.

Click on the image for more detail

The Hague


The collection includes the following telescopes:

  • Achromatic refractors by W. & S. Jones, L. Newman and Thomas Harris & Son.
  • Gregorian reflectors by Dollond and Bauke Eisma van der Bildt.
  • Portable meridian telescope by Spencer c.s. (London).
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University Museum

Contains several historical telescopes from the collections of the Utrecht Observatory and the Physics Laboratory, including:

  • The earliest known Huygens lens, dated 3 February 1655, with which Christiaan Huygens discovered the largest satellite of Saturn. Also other lenses by Constantijn Huygens and Nicholas Hartsoeker.
  • Simple refractors by George Adams, Dolland, Stegman, Sieds Jehannes Rienks & Arjen Roelofs and Spencer, Browning & Rust.
  • Reflectors by George Adams, James Mann, Jan Pieters van der Bildt, Johannes van der Bildt, Lubbertus van der Bildt, Bauke Eisma van der Bildt, Jan Roosenboom, Sieds Jehannes Rienks & Arjen Roelofs, H. Schröder and others.
  • Achromatic refractors by Dollond, Jesse Ramsden, Herbage, Jan & Harmanus van Deijl, Lerebours & Secrétan, Reinfelder & Hertel, Albert, Benjamin Salom & Co. and Carl August Steinheil.
  • Universal instruments by Eduard Wenckebach and Repsold.
  • Meridian telescopes by Jonathan Sisson, William Simms and Troughton.
  • Binocular telescopes by Dollond, C.E. Bleeker and Emil Busch.


  • P.H. van Cittert, “Een Historische Lens”, De Natuur, 49 (1929), 76-78.
  • C. de Jager, “Sonnenborgh”: De Utrechtse Sterrewacht en haar geschiedenis 1642–1853–1977 (Sterrenwacht Utrecht, s.a. [1977]).
  • J.C. Deiman, “Het instrumentarium van de Utrechtse Sterrenwacht”, Tijdschrift voor de Geschiedenis der Geneeskunde, Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Techniek, 10 (1987), 174-189.
  • C. de Jager, H.G. van Bueren & M. Kuperus, Bolwerk van de Sterren (Bekking, Amersfoort, 1993).
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Museum Sterrenwacht Sonnenborgh

Site of the Astronomical Institute of Utrecht from 1853 to 1987. The following large telescopes are still in the building:

  • Meridian telescope by William Simms (1824).
  • Refractor (Ø = 11.5 cm, f = 193 cm) by Joseph von Fraunhofer & Joseph von Utzschneider (1826), equipped with a Lyot H-alpha filter in 1952.
  • Large refractor with wooden(!) tube by the Steinheil firm (1863); the original object glass was replaced in 1888 by one from the Merz firm (Ø = 26.1 cm, f = 319 cm).
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Further Literature

This web page would not have been possible without the help of Lex Blommers (Werkgroep Leidse Sterrewacht), Jan Deiman (Utrecht University Museum), Peter Louwman (Wassenaar), Willem Mörzer Bruyns (Netherlands Maritime Museum, Amsterdam), Peter Wisse (Museon, The Hague) and Huib Zuidervaart (Leiden).

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Web page last updated on 13 May 2008

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