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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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.

Sextant

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.

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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.

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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.

Flints

Inaugural auction for scientific instruments specialist Flints attracts overseas buyers

27 September 2017

Cameras, scientific and medical instruments specialist Flints Auctioneers held its first auction this month and a 19th century French telescope was among the highlights of the sale.

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Bidders focus on naval binoculars

18 September 2017

Enhancing a growing reputation at Edinburgh auction house Thomson Roddick (17.5% buyer’s premium) for optical instruments, a recent sale included 18 lots of binoculars and the like.

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Isle of Wight auction houses join forces in a shipshape format

28 August 2017

Pieces with a maritime slant proved popular at the sale at Cowes held by HRD Auction Rooms (15% buyer’s premium) on August 3 during the yacht-fest that is Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight.

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Sextant at Maine auction signals shipwreck rescue story

21 August 2017

Thomaston Place Auction Galleries of Maine is holding its annual summer sale, a three-day offering of more than 1500 lots covering a huge variety of different categories.

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Pick of the Week: Shedding light on a £26,000 lantern

07 August 2017

Triple lens or Triunial magic lanterns were the iPhone 8 of their day. Since the days of the Sturm lantern in the 17th century, the technology had developed from basic projectors producing small, dimly lit images, to these magnificent machines capable of spectacular technicolour lantern entertainments.

Space selfie

First space self-portrait goes under the hammer at Bloomsbury Auctions

27 July 2017

Among the lots at Bloomsbury Auctions’ upcoming sale, The Glory of Science, is ‘the first space selfie’.

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The gadget man lends rarities for Birmingham display

10 July 2017

From the moustache spoon and the nose-shaping device to the washing machine, the period following The Great Exhibition of 1851 was a time of prolific invention in the UK.

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Niche specialists launch auction firm for cameras and scientific instruments

10 July 2017

A new auction house is to open in London hoping to find a gap in the market for cameras, scientific and medical instruments.

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Calculating a good price - slide rule fetches £9500 at auction

12 June 2017

Readers old enough to remember using one at school may also recall Sam Cooke’s 1960 song in which he lamented “don’t know what a slide rule is for”. Today, few teenagers would know what one was.

Hooker original

Botanical illustration exhibition toasts bicentenary of explorer and scientist Joseph Dalton Hooker

06 June 2017

Botanist Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911) is remembered for his directorship of Kew Gardens, his close friendship with Charles Darwin, and the more than 30 plants with the specific name ‘hookeri’ and ‘hookeriana’ in his honour.

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Daniel Quare barometer heats up Austrian auction

10 April 2017

Daniel Quare (1648-1724) is primarily known as a clock and watchmaker. He was, however, also an accomplished maker of portable barometers, one of which came up for sale at Dorotheum (25/22/15% buyer’s premium) in Vienna on March 29.

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Survey of the scientific sale scene

18 March 2017

Tennants’ (20/18.5/17.5% buyer’s premium) sale of Scientific and Musical Instruments, Cameras and Tools on February 17 included a rare brass altazimuth theodolite, signed by London instrument makers Heath and Wing. Estimated at just £300-400, it sold in its original box together with wooden tripod at £10,000.

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First commercially produced typewriter the Malling-Hansen Writing Ball sells at Cologne auction

12 December 2016

As you peruse this story on your computer, smartphone or tablet, take a look at the keyboard on said devices and spare a thought for the Rev Rasmus Malling-Hansen (1835-90).

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