Antique scientific instruments
From the observation of the cosmos by means of telescopes to the discovery of the smallest living beings by microscopes, scientific instruments have been helping people to explore and understand their environment since before the Renaissance. Nautical instruments and surveying instruments have helped to make the world smaller, to expand horizons and to travel around the world.
Whether by boat, carriage, horseback or on foot, the exploration of the world was a favorite pastime for privileged people and those who could not make the journey themselves were satisfied with travel journals, which were written by the explorers and were often lovingly illustrated.
It is easy to lose oneself in thinking of a time when the possession of such hand-made apparatus was reserved for the elite, as an expression of its own exclusivity, a status symbol, items made to order just to expand the mind. Brilliant brass, polished wood and magnifying glasses are now no longer just in the hands of the aristocratic elite, but are enjoying a second life in museums and displays around the world.
First time in our auction - Just a click for you
Appearing for the first time in our 160th public auction are scientific instruments. Discover exciting items that document the scientific history of the world and find out about the romantic image of darkened rooms, bubbling flasks and gleaming brass. Come with the explorers and venture into the past together with us – it’s just a click away whilst the exploration and discoveries themselves had to be done meter by meter.
Direct to the online-catalogue.
Starting price: €550
A fine and rare unsigned brass "Borda's" reflecting circle measuring 720 degrees.
Most likely French, circa 1785, 27 ½ cm diameter.
With turned mahogany handle. In good overall condition, minor staining, pitting and with a cracked mirror.
In the middle of the 18th Century there was a pressing need to improve the existing Octant, which eventually resulted in the Sextant. The reflecting circle was first designed by the German Tobias Mayer in 1752 which predates the Sextant but was not considered easy to use and so was quickly replaced, although the design was improved until 1805 and it found some use in the French navy, it never was more popular than the newer Sextant and quickly fell out of use. A similar example is housed at the Toulon naval museum, France.
Starting price: €350
An unsigned brass box sextant.
With silvered scale, Vernier and magnifier, two coloured filters and drum case with lid and table of natural tangents, engraved "B1604". Most likely British, 19th Century. Ø ca. 7cm, height ca. 6cm.
The box sextant was invented by renowned instrument maker W&S Jones of London, this was a remarkable feat of miniaturisation for the time.
Starting price: €220
An interesting brass ring prism instrument.
Likely British/American, early 20th Century.
Marked "PATT.1950" & "No 5659 K." In good condition, extremely minor staining, no pitting, with three lense-filters, a prism and spirit level.
Unfortunately this is a part of what would be a much larger machine, it would have fitted into a circular brass stand onto which it would have projected the reflected sun.
Starting price: €480
A brass marine barometer with wall mount.
Signed "J.J.B.L.M. 16 a 22 R.N Desterro, Lisbon", Portuguese, early 20th Century. The silvered scale with rack and pinion Vernier, gimballed trunk with brass cistern cover approx. 94cm.
Starting price: €320
A good brass protractor.
Engraved "W&S, Jones", "Holborn London", British, early 19th Century.
With magnifier, two folding arms, measuring 360 degrees, the mechanism turned via rack and pinion. In good original condition, minor staining and pitting, Ø circa 15.7cm. W&S Jones was one of the best known and most prolific optical instrument makers in London, and even invented the box Sextant.
Starting price: €250
Gunnery instrument, brass target finder with spirit level.
Engraved "Laboratorio de Precisione Roma" and "Millesimi Esatti, Volata, Culatta" Italian, 19th Century ca. 16 x 7.5 x 4cm.
Starting price: €250
An interesting physiotherapy stimulus device.
Based on the designs of Du Bois Reymond, made and signed by "Ludwig Schulmeister Mechaniker Wien IX Spitalgasse 5" Austrian, circa 1900, approx. 31 x 8 x 11cm.
A very interesting item from the early days of electrotherapy.
Starting price: €150
A brass pocket horizontal compass and sundial with folding gnomon.
Most likely British, middle 19th Century.
The hours are given in Roman numerals and inside is a classical 8-point wind-rose compass with the "Fleur-de-Lis" showing North. In good and completely original condition, the compass needle however does need some attention. Ø circa 9.6cm.
Starting price: €150
An iron tipped adjustable brass divider.
British, 19th Century. With scale and locking mechanism 15 x 1.3cm.
Auctioning or selling antique instruments?
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You should take a closer look into our online-catalogue for the upcoming auction – or simply order our printed catalogue.
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