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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Provenance and craftsmanship overcome risk of overexposure

10 August 2004

AS its title suggests, the June 30 sale of scientific, medical and engineering works of art held by Christie’s South Kensington (19.5/12% buyer's premium) was something of a mixed bag. The 216-lot auction incorporated anything from 18th century microscopes and preserved amphibians to delft barbers’ bowls and scale models of locomotives.

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Holding time in the palm of your hand

20 July 2004

A Dial in your Poke by Mike Cowham, published privately. £29.50, plus p&p: UK £4.50, Europe £5.50, rest of the world including USA £10.00.

Binnacle bidders solve Enigma

19 May 2004

MOVING just South of the Border to Jack Dudgeon (10% buyer's premium) in Berwick-Upon-Tweed, and echoes of one of the key incidents of the Second World War provided keen specialist interest at their April 19 sale.

The onward march of technology

28 April 2004

Christie’s South Kensington (19.5/12% buyer’s premium) hold three Scientific Instruments sale a year but reserve the spring sale for a restricted number of high-quality objects. Tom Newth, head of the department, reports the market picking up in the last six months, with strong competition for microscopes and Islamic astronomical instruments.

An underrated library chair is a £5000 best seller

15 April 2004

OF the 830 lots offered in Fieldings (12.5% buyer's premium) February 28 sale, a painting provided the highest price but a chair the biggest surprise.

Incomplete – but scarcity triumphs

17 June 2003

The combination of a single-owner collection in a specialist niche corner of the market with a not over-large and mostly market-fresh selection of realistically estimated material were the keys to the warm reception that greeted Sotheby’s (20/12% buyer’s premium) sale of Scientific instruments in their Olympia rooms on May 28. All bar 15 of the 155 lots, just short of 90 per cent (92 per cent by value) changed hands for a total of £262,350.

International interest focuses on collection of microscopes

17 April 2003

A private collection of 99 microscopes was the highlight of this three-day sale at John Bellmans. No fewer than nine examples realised four-figure sums, the best seller being a 19th century lacquered brass binocular petrological microscope by Watson & Sons which sold to a private collector from London at £3100.

City scene from a better age

17 April 2002

For many people the German city of Nuremberg is synonymous with some of the uglier scenes of the 20th century – Nazi rallies and war trials – but lovers of Renaissance art are fortunate in being able to overlook these late historical blemishes.

Pointing towards electric kitsch

02 April 2001

The wind has always been blowing strongly in one direction in the market for American weather vanes, and this 1930s example, left, offered at the Harrogate rooms of Morphet’s (10 per cent buyer’s premium) on March 15 was always expected to sell for a high price.

Scientific breakthroughs

22 January 2001

UK: CLOSE to 640 lots were packed into the catalogue of the last Bloomsbury sale of the old year – half of them scientific and medical – but compared with the sale of the previous week, reported in Antiques Trade Gazette No. 1473, four-figure bids were few and far between.

Scaphe dial and astrolabe

09 October 2000

LONDON: Renaissance period combined scaphe dial and astrolabe made by Arsenius of Louvain, dated 1563.

A small group of scientific apparatus

14 August 2000

UK: A SMALL group of scientific apparatus featured in Phillips’ July 18 horological auction in Bond Street, London and comprised a silver pocket chronometer by Webster and Son of London, hallmarked for 1834, and a 19th century five-inch theodolite signed for Reiss Leibenwerda, each with their custom-made cases.

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