'The Westminster Enlarger'; by Taylor, Taylor and Hobson TT & H Ltd, London: in Mahogany, Gilt metal & Tole with Conforming Lens by Cooke. No. 1152.


Origin: English
Period: Victorian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1895
Compact length: 30 inches
Extended length: 40.5 inches
Maximum width: 17 inches
Maximum Height: 18 inches

The telescopic under carriage on a plinth with bracket feet extending to 103 x 45 cms. This enlarger would have been the Rolls Royce of its kind at the time, and the majesty of the piece certainly still holds true to date. Not to be confused with a magic lantern, the Westminster Enlarger produces enlarged prints from glass negatives.The body is of tole, and the fixtures including the nuts are crafted in gilt metal.

Whilst the mahogany carriage is in good clean condition for its age, small patches of the tole metal case show some wear where the lacquer has worn thin. All the nuts perform, as one would hope, with the focusing track running smoothly, thus extending the base to over a full forty inches. The sleeve slots in comfortably and the glass remains intact. Additionally, the tilting of the plinth is still fully operational. The outer tube and draw tube are both mechanically sound, whilst not allowing for some aesthetic wear to the exterior consummate with age to spoil the whole. There is no light source and the cap top is missing. The glass plate within the door is of a red hue and the door's latch is still present. Furthermore, the bellows are in sound condition with only one or two small areas of loss.

The marks upon the lens read: WESTMINSTER: TAYLOR TAYLOR AND HOBSON LEICESTER AND LONDON, No.1152, THE WESTMINSTER ENLARGER. On the other side of the lens it is marked with COOKE LENS. H.D.TAYLORS PATENT *, SERIES III, 41x31, Eq FOCUS 5.06  INCHES.* The very first lenses made were brass and included the inscription "H.D. Taylor's patents." – which this very lens possesses.The plaque upon the front stage plate case reads; THE WESTMINSTER PHOTOGRAPHIC EXCHANGE LTD, 111 OXFORD STREET and 119 VICTORIA STREET- LONDON.

This is an important and rare piece from a pioneer of its class. With a few adjustments it could be used as it once was, or rather sat proudly upon a dresser to act as a whimsical reminder of photographical innovation in the late nineteenth century.

Historical Footnote:As optical manager of T. Cooke & Sons of York, makers of astronomical telescopes, H. Dennis Taylor attempted to eliminate the optical distortion or aberration at the outer edge of lenses. In 1893 he designed and patented the revolutionary, and now famous, triplet design (British patent no. 1991). The Cooke Triplet concept was a simple and elegant solution to design issues that plagued lens designers of the era.  Dennis Taylor was understandably excited about his development, and on 7th September, 1893 wrote a letter to Taylor, Taylor & Hobson, enclosing a photo of York Minster taken with "a trial lens constructed on my new principle, having a equivalent focal length of 7 1/4 inches.Having no desire to enter the photographic lens business, T. Cooke & Sons offered the manufacturing rights to Taylor, Taylor & Hobson of Leicester, optical instrument makers who had a reputation for producing quality optical products since 1886 when William Taylor founded the company in Leicester with his brother, Thomas Smithies Taylor. William Taylor's philosophy: "Don't do what everyone else can do; go out for something new," coined in 1886 holds true at Cooke Optics today.The first Cooke photographic lens was made by TT&H in 1894 based on Dennis Taylor's Cooke Triplet patent of 1893. TT&H went on to produce subsequent lens designs by Dennis Taylor through Series V. The licensing agreement stated that the lenses would be sold under the trade name "Cooke". In 1895, the Cooke lens was awarded the only medal of the "Royal Photographic Society given for improvements in lenses within recent times.

"Of the lens by Cooke:A triple anastigmatic combination containing remarkable new features, constructed and patented by H. D. Taylor, was issued in 1895 by Messrs Taylor, Taylor & Hobson under the name of the " Cooke Lens," and later by Messrs Voigtlander as the " Triple Anastigmat." It consists of three single lenses, two of them positive crossed lenses of crown glass with high refraction and low dispersion, with their most convex sides outwards, and between them, in front of the diaphragm, a single biconcave of light flint (fig. 39). All these lenses are designed to be free from diaphragm corrections, while the focal power of the negative lens is made as closely equal to the combined focal powers of the two positive lenses as may be.