Negretti & Zambra astronomical telescope, £6250 at McTear's.

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Five years later they began trading in photography and must have been doing something right: the firm became the official photographers of the Crystal Palace Company (also see main story in this feature).

They were pioneers, sponsoring Francis Frith’s photographic expedition to Egypt and Pierre Rossier’s to China and Japan, producing the first commercial photographs of those countries.

In 1863 Zegretti himself became the first man to take aerial photographs from a balloon in flight.

As well as a photographic studio, N&Z produced optical and scientific instruments and went on to be appointed optical instrument makers to Prince Albert, the Royal Observatory and the British Admiralty.

In 1851 the firm also gained a patent to make thermometers.

Astronomical purpose


Negretti & Zambra astronomical telescope, £6250 at McTear's.

The quality of the firm’s work was underlined by a late 19th century refracting astronomical telescope with a 5ft 7in (1.7m) body tube offered at Glasgow saleroom McTear’s (24% buyer’s premium) on February 2 with an estimate of £3000-4000. It took £6250.