Scientific Instruments

Items relating to scientific history are a popular collecting area in which number of specialist dealers and auctioneers operate. The field overlaps into sectors such as antique tools, technology, medicine and maritime history.

Objects in this area that regularly appear on the market include microscopes, telescopes, optical devices, globes, sundials and astrolabes as well as dental, drawing and navigational instruments.


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Fair sets sights on science

02 September 2019

Dealer Peter Delehar brings an example of a pioneering protractor to the second edition of the Antique Scientific Instrument Fair.

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Apollo 11 footage tops Sotheby’s space auction on 50th anniversary of moon landing

24 July 2019

NASA videotape recordings of the Apollo 11 mission topped Sotheby’s Space Exploration Sale held on the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing.

Qing dynasty musical automaton clock

Chinese Qing dynasty musical automaton clock – an amalgam of ingenuity and technical prowess – fetches over £1m at auction

24 June 2019

A Chinese musical automaton clock sailed over the £1m mark when it came up for sale at the Drouot auction centre in Paris.

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Thomas Mercer chronometer made in modern times doubles estimate in Gloucestershire

10 June 2019

By the 1980s, Thomas Mercer of St Albans had made almost a third of all chronometers in history – including that used by Ernest Shackleton to navigate his men to Elephant Island and eventual rescue during the Trans-Arctic Expedition of 1914.

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Chiswick Auctions offers chronometer with Titanic connection

10 June 2019

During an expedition to the wreck of the Titanic in 1996, a marine chronometer made by JW Ray, Liverpool, was recovered and brought ashore.

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Nodding magician looks to cast spell at Potter & Potter

10 June 2019

This c.1900 French automaton is included in the next sale held by Chicago saleroom Potter & Potter specialist auction house of magic props and memorabilia.

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The web shop window: 19th century pill-making machine

27 May 2019

Thousands of items are available to buy from dealers online. Here we pick out one that caught our eye this week.

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Fine scrimshaw sells in Scarborough

18 February 2019

Two fine examples of scrimshaw were eagerly contested at the David Duggleby (21% buyer’s premium inc VAT) Scarborough auction of maritime antiques and instruments.

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Seven fabulous gadgets and machines to buy at auction

25 January 2019

Contraptions from the past can be fascinating, whether designed to save time or entertain.

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Flint strikes right technological notes

19 November 2018

A c.1855-60 camera and a c.1930-40 high precision lens provided two star items at photographic and scientific auction house Flints’ (20% buyer’s premium) latest sale to attract worldwide attention.

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Transit instruments measure up in Newbury sale

22 October 2018

Probably a puzzle to all but experts in the field, the item shown below is a transit instrument – one of three which all went well above estimates at a cameras and scientific instruments sale held by Special Auctions Services (17.5% buyer’s premium).

Apple 1 computer sold at auction

From $300 to $300,000 – Apple-1 computer sells at Boston auction

29 September 2018

An Apple-1 computer bought for $300 in the late 1970s has sold at an auction in Boston for $300,000 (£228,730) – $375,000 with buyer’s premium.

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Swan’s first bulb sheds light on Bonhams science and technology auction

24 September 2018

One of the earliest surviving incandescent light bulbs, made by the English physicist Sir Joseph Wilson Swan (1828-1914) in the 1870s, sold for £7500 (plus 25% buyer’s premium) at Bonhams’ sale titled Instruments of Science and Technology.

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Fair sales of art and antiques at Saatchi and LAPADA

24 September 2018

The relaunched British Art Fair opened with a flurry of sales at its new London venue, the Saatchi Gallery.

Light bulb

Shedding light on the first incandescent bulbs

20 September 2018

One of the earliest surviving incandescent light bulbs, made by the English physicist Sir Joseph Wilson Swan (1828-1914) in the 1870s, was snapped up at auction at Bonhams.

Alfred Swaine Taylor

Collection from the ‘father of forensic medicine’ and photography pioneer comes to auction in Suffolk

04 September 2018

The collection of photography pioneer and medical writer Alfred Swaine Taylor (1806-80) is to be offered at auction house Lacy Scott & Knight in Bury St Edmunds in October following the success of a first sale last year.

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Society lays its cards on the table to boost fair numbers

25 June 2018

The long-running Antique Scientific Instrument Fair has been given a boost by the Scientific Instrument Society (SIS).

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Rare 16th century astronomical dial offered at Swedish auction

04 June 2018

A rare late 16th century astronomical horizontal dial, dated MDXCI (1591) and engraved with the arms and name of Pope Clement VIII, is one of the highlights of the sale series to be held by Uppsala AuktionsKammare from June 13-15.

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Charles Hanson withdraws ‘Nelson’s telescope’ from sale "pending further investigations"

22 May 2018

Hansons Auctioneers has withdrawn from its July 2 sale a brass telescope purported to have been used by Admiral Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, after questions were raised about its authenticity.

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