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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Navy commander Peter Scott became renowned birdwatcher

22 March 2021

If you are a birdwatcher, you need a good pair of binoculars.

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Quality is instrumental to value when it comes to science equipment

01 February 2021

Theodolite and telescope made to high standards measure up in two salerooms

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Superb British Smith & Beck microscope bought by US collector for £38,000 in Berkshire auction

21 December 2020

Surviving records for the London instrument maker Smith & Beck state this superb microscope from the brass and glass era was purchased on September 2, 1853, by Francis Herbert Wenham (1824-1908) – the British engineer who became a key figure in the improvement of the microscope.

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Pick of the week: Slide rule measures up at £11,000

05 October 2020

The invention of the gauger’s slide rule in the 1680s is generally credited to one Thomas Everard of Southampton.

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Sundial and moon sketch draw demand in Plauen auction

28 September 2020

Mehlis (23% buyer’s premium) in Plauen held its first sale of the new season on August 28-29. There was lively bidding, with a high proportion of the bidders joining in by phone.

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Object lesson from Wimbledon fair: glass eyes

07 September 2020

Though the first human in-socket artificial eyes were created by Venetian glassmakers c.16th century, the earliest evidence of ocular prosthesis was found in a female burial plot in Shahr-I Sokhta, Iran – dating back to 2900-2800 BC.

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A detailed look at microscopes and much more

08 June 2020

Fine examples lead an array of scientific instruments and photographica at specialist sale

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Machine exerts a strong influence

06 April 2020

The Wimshurst influence machine, an electrostatic generator capable of creating high voltages, was developed between 1880-83 by British inventor James Wimshurst (1832-1903).

Specialist firm adopts ‘live but online’ auction selling model

06 January 2020

Scientific instruments and photographica specialist Flints Auctions has opened new premises and is launching a fresh type of sale.

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Pick of the week: No.1 microscope proves it’s still the best

28 October 2019

The opening lot of Flints Auctions’ photographica and scientific instruments sale in Reading on October 18 was an exceptional Victorian microscope.

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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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