On offer at Charles Miller’s auction in London, the Ellis-type Aquatic microscope by Peter Dolland, c.1768, is one of four used by Banks and is engraved Joseph Banks / H.M.B. Endeavour.
When Banks was offered the chance to accompany Captain Cook, he set about acquiring one of the finest collections of naturalists’ instruments and accessories he could – including this one designed by John Ellis.
Before the voyage, Ellis advised Banks on what equipment he should take aboard the Endeavour and his suggestions included his ‘modified’ aquatic microscope, which Banks purchased for the considerable sum of £2-12-6 so he could carry out marine biology observations as well as use it as a dissecting microscope for entomology and botany.
The Endeavour circumnavigated the globe, visiting South America, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia and Java.
The microscope subsequently had quite a journey on its own: it headed to the Knatchbull family via Banks’ wife Dorothea Hugessen (1758-1828), then was believed dispersed at one of a series of London sales of Banks’ effects between 1886-93 at Sotheby’s and Puttick & Simpson, where it is presumed to have been bought by VB Crowther-Beynon (1865-1941), a wellknown antiquarian and a member of numerous antiquarian and archaeological societies, in many of which he held office.
It was then sold by Crowther- Beynon’s wife Mary (1856-1952) as part of his effects by Cavendish House Auctioneers, Cheltenham, in December 1950, where it was bought by the vendor’s late father. A copy of the auction catalogue is included in the lot.