Johannesburg Centre, Astronomical Society of Southern Africa

ATM Books


As Amateur Telescope Makers, we have found the following reputable books to have been useful...

Some of these publications are apparently out of print. Others can be very hard to find. But don't let that daunt you. Several are available from the Centre's library, as are additional books on optics in general. You can also try your local Municipal, University and School reference libraries. Should you wish to acquire any of them, try the Planetarium, Exclusive Books or order directly from the publishers. See Willman-Bell, Sky Publishing, Kalmbach, Astronomy or Sky & telescope for details. The Internet is also a useful hunting ground.

Please let us know if you have found additional good-quality literature that you would like to share with the local ATM fraternity. Why not offer us your favorites to add to the site?


The following are probably the best introductory texts available. They present sound advice and proven techniques in sufficient depth, without being overwhelming. Any one of these would by itself provide sufficient information to enable you to build a functional instrument., though each has its peculiarities of emphasis and opinion. If at all possible, compare them all and then choose the one that somehow appeals or makes the most sense to you.

Making Your Own Telescope

by Allyn J Thompson

Handbook for Telescope Making

by NE Howard

First Edition, 1947

Sky Publishing Corp.

Second Edition, 1969

Faber & Faber

ISBN 571-04680-0

Having a wonderful clarity of expression, this classic work is as fresh as the day it was written.

Another classic, well-structured guide with a good description of mirror-making technique.


How to Make a Telescope

by Jean Texereau

A Manual for Amateur Telescope Makers

by Karine & Jean-Marc Lecleire

Second Edition, 1984

Willmann-Bell, Inc

ISBN 0-943396-04-2

First English Edition, 2003

Willmann-Bell, Inc.

ISBN 0-943396-79-4

Translated from the French, it provides the purist's insights. For many years, this was the ATM "bible", and the first accessible information on Cassegrains.

Also translated from French, this modern text has a technical bent. Describes interesting techniques. Offers detailed plans to build 3 different telescopes. Very different from the American texts.


Build Your Own Telescope

by Richard Berry

First Edition, 1985

Charles Scribner's & Sons

ISBN 0-648-18476-1

Has a modern, lucid no-nonsense description of testing and good ideas on building several varieties of telescopes using basic techniques and readily-available materials





For those wanting more, the following publications will expand and round out your knowledge. Rather than having a heavily theoretical bias, they are full of practical ideas and the wisdom of experience. Apart from these, the various magazines devoted to popular astronomy sometimes carry articles of particular interest tothe amateur telescope maker. Browsing the back issues can be highly rewarding, particularly the old Sky and Telescope "Gleanings for ATMs" column.

All About Telescopes

by Sam Brown

Telescopes for Skygazing

by Dr Henry E Paul

Eighth Edition, 1989

Edmund Scientific Company

ISBN 0-933346-20-4

Third Edition, 1976


ISBN 0-8174-2408-3

This is for the tinkerer/gadgeteer! A treasure trove of useful information and interesting ideas. Has a very practical approach with an emphasis on using basic materials.

An excellent overview of the relative merits of various telescope types, with "buy vs. assemble" considerations. How to choose, test and use the telescope best suited to your needs.


Amateur Telescope Making ( books 1, 2 & 3)

Albert G Ingalls, editor

Telescope Making Magazine,

ATM Journal

Book 1 Fourth Ed. 1978

Book 2 First Ed. 1968

Book 3 First Ed. 1969

Scientific American

ISBN 0-943396-48-4

ISBN 0-943396-49-2

ISBN 0-943396-50-6

Willmann-Bell, Inc. 1996

TM Magazine, ISSN 0190-5570, published by Kalmbach and edited by Richard Berry, ran to 46 issues from 1978 to 1992. The final issue contains a comprehensive index to the myriad interesting and wide-ranging articles.

The original Scientific American edition of this 3-volume set captured the wisdom of the early ATM movement in the US. Re-edited by JG Ingalls & Wendy Margret Brown, the W-B edition is a cleaner more structured arrangement with much out of date material removed. This makes it a more useful reference guide, but loses the serendipity and quaintness. Get both sets if you can!

When Telescope Making Magazine folded, the rather more erudite ATM Journal was created to fill the void. This too finally petered out, after nearly a decade.  Fortunately, the better articles have been collected into a 2-volume compendium (see below).


Both periodicals covered a wide range of subject matter on various levels. Grab them if you can.


The Dobsonian Telescope

by David Kriege & Richard Berry

Amateur Astronomer's Handbook

by JB Sidgwick

First English Edition, 1997

Willmann-Bell, Inc.

ISBN 0-943396-55-7

Dover Edition, 1980

Dover publications, Inc.

ISBN 0-486-24034-7

The subtitle, "A practical Manual for Building Large Aperture Telescopes", says it all. Perhaps a bit prescriptive to some, it is a comprehensive heavyweight.

Admittedly rather dated, this nonetheless contains a myriad interesting items of information, catering more for those wanting further insights into underlying principles.


Making and Enjoying Telescopes

by Robert Miller & Kenneth Wilson

The Best of Amateur Telescope Making Journal, Vols 1 & 2 William J Cook, editor

Sterling Publishing Co. Inc., 1995

ISBN 0-8069-1277-4

2003 Captain's Nautical Supplies, Inc.

Willmann-Bell, Inc.

ISBN 0-943396-77-8 (v.1)

ISBN 0-943396-78-6 (v.2)

The subtitle, "6 complete projects and a stargazer's guide" is appropriate. Assembly using commercial optics is advocated, but several interesting construction details are presented.

These 150 articles, re-edited and updated, cover the whole spectrum from simple to complex. Extremely thought provoking.

Amateur Telescope Making

Stephen F Tonkin, editor

Building and Using an Astronomical Observatory, by Paul Doherty

First Edition, 1999


ISBN 1085233-000-7

First Edition, 1986

Patrick Stephens Limited

ISBN 0-85059-808-7

This compendium from around the world has a very different flavour to the American offerings. Telescopes, mountings and accessories are covered, favoring innovative modern techniques and designs.

The grandiose title is modified by the subtitle: A beginner's guide to constructing a telescope and setting up an observatory. This interestingly quirky book, with a distinctly British flavour, describes some ambitious projects accomplished with rather basic means.


Unusual Telescopes

by Peter L Manly

New Perspectives on Newtonian Collimation

by Vic Menard & Tippy d'Auria

First Edition 1991

Cambridge University Press

ISBN 0-521-38200-9 hardback

Fourth Edition 10.22.87

First Printing

Revised 04.02.98

This "resource book of ideas for the innovative telescope designer", illustrating and describing 150 unusual telescope designs, highlights the diversity of thought that this field breeds.

This slim booklet, subtitled "Principles and Procedures" concentrates on a much ignored or misunderstood topic. You should read it.


The Telescope

by Louis Bell

Optical Glassworking

by F Twyman, F.R.S

Dover Edition, 1981

Dover Publications, Inc

ISBN 0-486-24151-3

Abridged version of Prism & Lens Making, 2nd Ed. 

Hilger & Watts limited.


This classic work provides an historical context

This out of print manual of the professional techniques of yesteryear offers a lot of value to the advanced amateur of today.





For the really serious, the following books are somewhat more challenging. The older books are still quite valid for the amateur.

Advanced Telescope Making Techniques

Volumes 1 & 2. Allan Mackintosh, editor


by Eugene Hecht

First Edition, 1986

Willmann-Bell, Inc

ISBN 0-943396-11-5 (v.1)

ISBN 0-943396-12-3 (v.2)

Second Edition, 1974

Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.

ISBN 0-201-11611-1

The two Mackintosh volumes contain a wealth of short articles by a number of authors on a variety of issues: unusual or specialised optical configurations, their manufacture and alignment; mechanical systems; more advanced testing procedures; etc.. Like the "Best of ATM Journal" books mentioned above, these were compiled from the notes of the Maksutov Club.

What can I say? If you understand this stuff, you don't need my opinion.


A modern classic foisted on a generation of unsuspecting students. Try it: maybe you'll like it.


Star Testing Astronomical Telescopes

by Harold Richard Suiter

Telescope Optics: Evaluation & Design

by Rutten & van Venrooij

First English Edition, 1994

Willmann-Bell, Inc

ISBN 943396-44-1

First Edition, 1988

Willmann-Bell, Inc.

ISBN 0-943396-18-2

The title is apt. This volume is clear, rigourous and highly-recommended. If you absorb even a small percentage of it, you are well on your way to being able to evaluate and diagnose the multiple ills that befall our instruments.

Highly recommended for the clear handling of a difficult topic. Various telescope designs are evaluated and compared with respect to performance and applicability, and the factors that influence these.


Applied Optics & Optical Design

by AE Conradie

Fundamentals of Optics

by FA Jenkins & HE White

Part 1, 1957

Part 2, 1960

Dover Publications, Inc.

Third Edition, 1957

McGraw-hill Book Co., Inc.

Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 56-12535

For many years, a standard text. Dated compared to Hecht, but it gives a sound basis for understanding and designing a variety of optical systems.

As for Conradie.





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