Friday, 11 December 2015

Fair Organiser, Don Edwards

Don Edwards is the present organizer of the Scientific Instrument Fair. He is a chemist by profession and had an early interest in the history of science. After qualifying he worked for a mining company (in Central Africa) where he developed a passion for geology and on returning to the UK he started a business dealing in mineral and fossil specimens for collectors, museums and educational establishments. This became his full-time occupation in 1970.
The business was centred on a shop (which he still owns) in the Peak District town of Tideswell but it rapidly developed an international dimension with attendances at many major earth science fairs in Europe and the U.S.
Some 25 years ago He started to include antiques related to mining and mineralogy in his inventory, and this aspect expanded to encompass scientific and subsequently medical antiques.
His main interests (apart from, still, earth science related items) lie in microscopy and electrostatics. He can be contacted for enquiries about the fair on 01298 871606 (shop) and 01433 620304 (home)

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Books on Scientific Instruments

The most important weapon in the armory of the collector  is a good book on the subject. Thankfully there are many available to the collector of scientific instruments. When starting out on a collection it is always a good idea to start out with an overview of what is available and realistic within your budget to collect. Collections can be limited by date of manufacture, by country of origin, by type, or even by maker. For general scientific instruments a good starting point would be Anthony Turner’s “Early Scientific Instruments; Europe 1400-1800” published by Sotheby’s in 1987. Following on from that, also published by Sotheby’s is Gerard L’E Turner’s “Nineteenth Century Scientific Instruments”. For the medical instrument collector nothing is better than Elisabeth Bennion’s, now out of print,  “Antique Medical Instruments.” Then there are more niche publications, some of which are listed below:
·      Slide Rules Their History, Models and Makers: Peter Hopp, Astragal Press
·      Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550-1851: Gloria Clifton, Zwemmer
·      Weighing Coins: Michael Crawforth, Cape Horn Press
·      The Great Age of the Microscope: G l’E Turner, Adam Hilger
·      Ivory Diptych Dials: Steven Lloyd, Harvard University Press
·      Globes from the Western World: Dekker and van der Krogt, Zwemmer

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Surgical and Medical Antiques at the Scientific Fair

Many doctors and surgeons are collectors of antique surgical instruments related to their own specialist disciplines. To the lay observer they may seem gruesome but their sole purpose is to save life. There is a strong functional aesthetic in many of these tools as the famous slogan says, “form follows function.” Crafted often with ivory or ebony handles before the advent of sterilization these tools have an appeal and fascination which extends beyond that of the present day practitioner. Across the world many cities have museums specializing in medical history. Here in London the Science Museum has a large area devoted solely to the amazing collection put together by Henry Wellcome. Nowadays there are very few specialist dealers in antique medical items, and we are lucky that a good many of them exhibit twice a year at the Scientific Instrument Fair at London’s Double Tree by Hilton Hotel, in Southampton Row. Here are just a few:

Toon van Leest, and Thom and Vincent  Nelis, all from Holland; David Coffeen, New York; Fletcher Wallis dealer at London’s Portobello Road.

Artificial Leech

Prosthetic Glass Eyes

Ivory Phrenology Head

Percussor and Pleximeter

Embalming Syringe

Early Binaural Stethoscope

Pelican Tooth Extractor

Monday, 7 December 2015

Mathematical Instruments at the Scientific Fair

The history of mathematics has it beginnings around 2000 BC as evidenced by the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, but the use of complex instruments for calculation only started emerging with the  invention of Napiers Bones in the early part of the seventeenth century and an adding machine by Sir Samuel Morland in 1666. Whilst the latter is impossibly rare, several examples of Napier’s Bones have, in recent years, come on the market. One dealer, David Coffeen, a regular exhibitor at the Scientific Instrument fair, has one set available on his website:
Throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the slide rule held a pre-eminent position as the calculation device of choice. Many examples are still available at prices between £10 and £1000 making it quite possible to put together a good collection for a reasonable outlay. Made from boxwood, ivory and metal, they were made for both general purpose mathematical calculations using logarithms but also for more complex situations adapting formulae for solving problems for customs and excise, shipbuilding, water flow through pipes and many others.
Mechanical adding machines, although invented many years before, began to be developed in the nineteenth century. The Thomas de Colmar machine was one of  these and is a very elegant device which now has an auction value of several thousand pounds for a good example.

There will definitely be some good examples of mechanical calculators, slide rules and other related instruments at the next Scientific Instrument Fair, 17 April 2016, at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel, Southampton Row, London.
Some examples are shown below
Curta calculator

The Addix

The Contostyle

Fuller's Time Telegraph

The Boucher Calculator

The Supremathic