The famous English firm of William Watson existed [with a succession of titles] from 1837, and produced microscopes from 1876: these had and still have a special place in the affections of most workers with the instrument. The company was at the forefront of firms which produced models which were good to use, very long-lasting, and attractive in appearance. They never gained the reputation of such as Powell & Lealand or Ross, but they continued in business until 1970, and it was not entirely their own fault that they were then too undercapitalized to continue even longer.
When working on my Notes on Modern Microscope Manufacturers ten years ago, I tried very hard to include all that I could about them, to supplement my more general knowledge gained over forty years. The firm sold a vast range of instruments: they didnít actually make all of them, of course, but they did make the microscopes.
I found that there is a wonderful run of their bound sales catalogues in Barnet Museum, in North London, with some other documentation, deposited there because that was where the factory and offices were sited from 1957, when they finally left High Holborn in London. There seemed to be only one surviving delivery book, which was still in private hands. Through the good offices of its owner, a former Sales Manager of the firm, I was able to borrow this volume and photocopy what I wished. I kept to the sections on microscope sales, and the pages reproduced here have been digitised from my photocopies: their quality, while adequate for reading the slightly difficult handwriting, is not as good as working from the original pages, of course.
Some of these pages have notes made by me pertaining to the original foolscap book itself ["strip pasted in" for example], or additions in my hand where the original was too big for the A4 copier.
In addition to the pages themselves, this CD provides excellent search engines, quite unavailable in the document itself.
The registered name of the firm changed through William Watson [1837-1867], W. Watson & Son [1867-1882], W. Watson & Sons [1882-1908], to W Watson & Sons [1908-1970]: this book spans the time of change of name from the second to the third form.
In 1887 they introduced the Edinburgh series of stands, and in 1891 the Van Heurck: the first entries for each are in the lists reproduced in this CD.
So far as can be told, entries for Watson-made stands in the delivery book are likely to carry the entry number as the serial number. Some numbers in the book, which was of course their commercial record, were given to stands by other manufacturers, which had been taken in for resale or repair: this was a considerable part of the business. An original Watson stand taken in for repair would be given a new serial in the book, but it seems that this was not re-engraved.
Reference should be made to my book for other general details:
B Bracegirdle - Notes on modern microscope manufacturers. London: Quekett Microscopical Club, 1996. ISBN 0-9514441-7-4.