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Robert B. Ariail papers

Identifier: SCU-RBSC-2011-1

Robert B. Ariail was an insurance agent who was an avid amateur astronomer. This collection contains items related to his interest in astronomy.

As an astronomer, one of Ariail’s primary endeavors was to purchase and restore antique telescopes. To this end he collected old telescope catalogs that would allow him to see how the telescopes first appeared. He also corresponded with many other amateur astronomers with whom he swapped photocopies of research material useful for learning restoration techniques and the histories of the objects he was restoring.

In his research, he came in contact with Deborah Jean Warner, a researcher with the Smithsonian, with whom he wrote a book on the Alvan Clark & Sons company. Ariail became renowned as an expert in Alvan Clark & Sons equipment. His knowledge of the company and their equipment allowed him to solve the fifteen-year-old theft of an Alvan Clark & Sons eyepiece.

This collection includes Ariail’s correspondence, research material, manuscripts, and catalogs used in the manners listed above.


  • 1815 - 2011


Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All rights reside with the creator/repository. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections.


19 boxes

Biographical / Historical

1956: Graduated University of South Carolina, majoring in English. Joined U.S. Air Force serving in Fairbanks, AK. Returned to Columbia and began business as an insurance broker / agent.

1971: Obtained an 1895 Henry Fitz telescope from Erskine College on loan.

1984: Completed the restoration of the 1895 Fitz telescope and returned it to Erskine College.

1995: Publication of co-authored revision of Deborah Jean Warner’s Alvan Clark and Sons: Artists in Optics.

1999: Assisted U.S. District Attorney with the recovery of an Alvan Clark and Sons refractor lens that was stolen from the Cincinnati Astronomical Society 18 years earlier.

2011: Donated collection of historical telescopes and history of astronomy library to the South Carolina State Museum and Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of South Carolina Libraries.


Arranaged into 10 series: I. Publications; Photocopies and Printouts; III. Catalogues, Price Lists, and Offprints; IV. Photographs and Postcards; V. Historical Optical Manufacturers; VI. Star Charts; VII. Personal Correspondence; VIII. Newsletters, Magazines, and Booklets; IX. General Papers; X. Oversize


Gift of Robert B. Ariail, 2010

Related Materials

The Robert B. Ariail Collection of Historical Astronomy. See library catalog.

The Richard Lemay Collection of Medieval and Arabic Philosophy and Science (500 titles). See library catalog.

The Richard Lemay Papers, 1962-2004. See library catalog.

Repository Details

Part of the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections Repository

Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
1322 Greene Street
Columbia SC 29208 USA
(803) 777-3847

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