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The Japan400 Telescope

We were commissioned by Japan400 to make a polished brass presentation telescope as a gift from the people of present-day Great Britain to the people of Japan, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the gift of a telescope in 1613 by King James I of England to the ruler of Japan.

That original telescope, in silver gilt, has been lost; the present-day polished brass telescope is a modern astronomical instrument in the traditional British style.

Photograph: Ian Poyser.

Japan400 is a committee of academics and businessmen from both Japan and the United Kingdom who have worked to produce events to celebrate 400 years of trade, cultural exchange and scientific cooperation between Japan and Great Britain, which began in 1613 with the gift of a telescope from King James I of England to the Shogun of Japan and the Shogun’s reciprocal gift of two suits of armour and silk screens.

This commemorative telescope was officially presented to the people of Japan on the 9th September 2013 at the Tower of London, 400 years exactly since the original gift was presented to the Shogun in 1613.

The presentation was made in front of one of the suits of Japanese armour that the Shogun sent to King James I as a reciprocal gift.

The telescope was presented by the Marquess of Salisbury, who is the direct descendant of the Earl of Salisbury who was adviser to King James I.

The telescope was accepted by Mr Akira Matsura, whose ancestor was the feudal lord who welcomed the English in 1613.

In the photograph taken at the Armouries Museum at the Tower of London, Mr Matsura and the Marquess of Salisbury look into the Presentation Telescope in front of the original suit of Japanese armour, sent by the Shogun.

Photograph: Derek A C Davies. It is reproduced here by kind permission of Derek A C Davies and by kind permission of the Japan400 committee.

More information about Japan400 and the original telescope can be found in two splendid articles:

J400 The Return of Japan’s Lost telescope after 400 Years by Sean Curtin

A telescopic gift to Japan by Neil English. Astronomy Now, June 2014, pp 74-75.


About Us

We make superb brass refracting telescopes in the traditional style. As you go through this web site you will see pictures of the types of telescope that we make. They are all individually made to suit our customers' wishes and are designed to look wonderful, as well giving excellent optical performance. We have set ourselves the challenge of continuing the fine tradition begun by makers such as Cooke, Dollond and Watson.

We make accessories for telescopes.
Brass Eyepiece As you will see further on, we mostly work in brass. We make brass finder telescopes and matching brackets, as well as brass Plossl eyepieces. We make specialist eyepiece adapters and special star diagonals. We can make you a star diagonal that inverts the image completely, turning your astronomical telescope into a terrestrial instrument, or we can make you a star diagonal in which the image is still a true astronomical image, i.e. upside down and back to front.
We supply GCSE Astronomy Kits.
GCSE Astronomy Kut

We supply a kit of three lenses for those people who need to build a small telescope as part of their coursework.

The lenses are an achromatic doublet for the objective lens and two, planoconvex lenses to make a Ramsden eyepiece.


We supply optical components.
We can supply objective lenses for large refractors and we have a huge stock of smaller lenses, so that you can make yourself a finder telescope, for example, or eyepieces. Our larger lenses are all brand new, but the smaller lenses are often of military origin and of very high quality.

We make telescope tripods
Our tripods are made of hardwood (oak or mahogany, for example) and brass. They are designed to suit the style of our own brass refractors. We can provide either altazimuth or equatorial heads. These tripods are large and are suitable for refracting telescopes
We supply ex Government optical components.

We have some brand-new military eyepieces that are superb. If you like experimenting, we have all sorts of goodies such as x-y tables, military theodolites, filters, front-surface small mirrorsand a range of tube and materials. All of these are shown on this web site


Military Theodolite


A little about us

Our telescope making business started in 1981, in the city of Rochester, in Kent. It was originally known as I. R. Poyser (Engineering). We made small astronomical telescopes using 76mm diameter lenses with a focal length of 480mm.Those f/6.3 refracting telescopes were particularly popular at the time.

We also sold optical components such as lenses and prisms to those enthusiasts who liked making their own instrumentation. We acquired a good reputation as suppliers of ex government optical devices, such as tank periscopes, gun sights and anything that could be used for astronomy. We extended our range of telescopes to include 76mm refractors with a 1000mm focal length and for a while we made some rather beautiful 'officer of the watch' telescopes. They were two or three draw nautical telescopes that had polished, engraved brass drawtubes and were bound in dark red, 'antique' leather.

We moved to new premises in Dale Road, in Rochester, which some of you may remember. The business flourished and we made the 'Rochester' range of brass refracting telescopes. The lens cells of the telescopes, 76mm or 100mm, were in polished brass, as were the engraved back-plates and drawtubes, while the main tubes of the telescopes were made of aluminium alloy, stove-enamelled in a lustrous dark blue. (The firm of enamellers operated from the back of a garage, miles out in the Kent countryside!) During those fifteen years in Dale Road the name of the company changed to simply I. R. POYSER.

In 2002 we moved to Mid Wales, to the beautiful hamlet of Ystrad Meurig, where we now make our superb brass refracting telescopes and, if you require, our impressive oak and brass tripods to go with them.

We still make specialist telescope components for customers. We are proud to say that we have made some brass components for the 720mm refractor at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and its 6" guide 'scope. We make our brass Plossl eyepieces and we still supply optical components such as lenses, mirrors and prisms. We have a thriving trade in ex government eyepieces and we supply GCSE lens kits to those students who are studying the GCSE Astronomy course.

Thank you for taking the time to read a little of our story. It is quite astonishing that it has been almost a quarter of a century since it all started.

Enjoy our website and, if you are new to astronomy, we hope it will encourage you in your own journey to the stars.

Ian Poyser.


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