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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


Lots that come under close scrutiny

21 May 2018

Lenses and slides caught the eye of buyers at specialist science and early technology auctioneer Flints (20% + VAT buyer’s premium) at its two-day sale of Fine Photographica & Instruments of Science & Medicine.


Pick of the Week: Microscope looks good at £88,000

07 May 2018

A rare 18th century variable microscope by eminent instrument maker George Adams sold for £88,000 at specialist science and early technology auctioneer Flints (20% + VAT buyer’s premium).

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How Reginald Cheetham's huge collection of militaria was housed in a two up two down home

15 January 2018

Collectors can often be as fascinating as a collection itself. Take Reginald J Cheetham, an extraordinary man who amassed a huge array of items now coming up for auction at the Adam Partridge saleroom.

digital ‘blue box’ designed by Apple founder Steve Wozniak

Digital ‘blue box’ designed by Apple founder Steve Wozniak at Bonhams New York

20 November 2017

"If it hadn't been for the Blue Boxes, there would have been no Apple. I'm 100% sure of that." So said Steve Jobs of the electronic devices that simulate operators by generating the tones used by a telephone operator’s dialling console, and were typically used from the 1950s by so-called ‘phone phreakers’ to avail themselves of free calls.


Pick of the Week: Vancouver sextant discovery

13 November 2017

The name on the frame was the name of the game at Charles Miller’s November 7 auction in west London where a “rather tired and dirty” sextant sold for £28,000.

Martin tellarium and planetarium

Rare Martin planetarium on offer at Bonhams scientific sale

13 October 2017

Sextants, microscopes, telescopes and tellariums all lead the way at Bonhams scientific instruments sale with a Benjamin Martin tellarium and planetarium in the spotlight.


A prize under doctor’s orders

09 October 2017

This original case of five silver catheters and three urethral sounds marked for the London maker J Millikan might be a strange offering as a prize outside medical circles.


Scoping out a new London specialism

02 October 2017

Cameras, scientific and medical instruments specialist Flints (20% buyer’s premium) held its inaugural sale on September 21.