West Sea Company

3. Nautical Instruments

Prices in U.S. Dollars are in GREEN



3.37  NAVIGATOR’s RULES.  Very early 1800’s parallel rules of the type used by the ship’s navigator to determine courses and positions of his ship on the vessel’s charts.  This fine old example is made with limbs of solid ebony affixed with 2 pivoting brass arms.  For aid in positioning brass “buttons” are provided on the center of each arm.  Each arm is squared on the leading edge and beautifully chamfered on the trailing edge.  The brass has acquired a lovely bronze age patina and the ebony wood is solid and straight, without flaw.  15 inches long by 2 3/8ths inches wide.  Excellent, fully functional condition showing years of actual use at sea.  95

(See item 3.34).


open back

Order Info




3.36  18th C.  SEXTANT BY THE INVENTOR.  Most rare, early English sextant by the famed maker Edward Troughton as beautifully engraved on the large arc, “Troughton, London.”  This exceptional relic is marked with the serial number “397” on the vertical strut.  Official records indicate it dates 1799!  This massive instrument is of the classic design known as the “double” or “pillar frame” invented by Edward Troughton in 1785, patented in 1788.  Its large arc is inlaid with a GOLD scale calibrated from - 4 degrees to 140 degrees in 10 minute increments marked in 5 degree intervals.  The smaller GOLD vernier scale reads from 0 to 10 calibrated in 10 arc seconds.  To aid in the reading it is overlaid by Troughton’s distinctive circular magnifier mounted on the index arm just above the vernier.  In theory at least, is would have an accuracy of about 2 tenths of a nautical mile.  The braced index arm has a knurled brass “stop” and a horizontal tangent screw knob for fine adjustment.  The top of the arm has the index mirror.  On the right is the knurled adjustable height telescope holder and on the left is the split image horizon mirror.  This instrument is complete with all four colored glass index filters and all 3 colored horizon filters.  Troughton’s ingenious device employs the principle of truss bridge construction first used in the 1700’s.  It made for a strong, lightweight, rigid frame.  It overcame the problem of inaccurate readings due to warping experienced by other instrument makers of the time.  To accomplish this Troughton riveted 2 sheet brass frames together with 20 posts or “pillars” which kept the two sides aligned and as light as possible.  The obvious complexity made such instruments expensive to produce.  As such they were only available to prominent ship owners, captains and senior naval officers.  For taking a sighting a sculpted lignum vitae handle was fitted to the back.  It also has 3 brass “feet” for mounting in its case.  The large, classic “keystone” box is an absolute thing of beauty.  It is solid rosewood!  We have never seen anything like it before in our 40+ years.  It contains both brass telescopes, a screw-on sun filter and an adjusting knob.  It retains the original skeleton key lock and both hook and eye closures.  Indicative of its early age, the box is constructed with fine hand dovetailing.  The lid bears the early trade label of “J. SOMALVICO & CO. Opticians, No. 2 Hatton Garden, Two Doors from Holborn Hill, LONDON.”  Overall condition is “excellent.”  The front of the instrument is bright brass, the reverse is in its original blackened finish.  The lower right corner of the box has a nice old repair.  All glass and mirrors are clear with no cracks or chips.  The solid gold scales are crisp and bright, with no wear.  The box measures 12 ¼ tall by 15 ¼ inches wide and is 5 inches thick.  The instrument measures 12 inches tall and is 13 inches wide.  This represented the highest quality sextant available at the time and would certainly have been cherished by its wealthy owner.  Price Request

Indicative of the importance of such a rare instrument, the premier 20th century nautical antique auction  Richard Bourne & Co., Hyannis, Massachusetts, chose such a sextant for their catalog cover February 27, 1990.

J. SOMALVICO & Son were listed at Hatton Garden, Holborn, London from 1820-1840.  (Edwin Banfield, “Barometer  Makers And Retailers, 1660 – 1900,” 1991, Baros Books, Trowbridge , Wilshire, England).


box perspective

contents label

instrument back

detail vernier

number index

maker auction

Order Info




3.33  ARTIFICIAL HORIZON.  Mid-1800’s marine navigational device used to simulate the earth’s horizon when the actual horizon was not visible.  This fine English example was made by the noted London instrument makers “Henry Hughes & Son,” as beautifully as extolled on the firm’s trade label in the lid.  This quality instrument consists of a pyramidal cover glazed on both sides.  The frame is blackened brass to prevent glare and the beveled optical glass panels are precisely set at 90 degrees to each other.  The cover fits snugly over the heavy cast iron tray with curved edges to contain the mercury.  To those ends a very stout metal bottle with pourable cap and threaded inner stopper is provided to contain and pour mercury in the tray.   Two pivoting boxwood arms hold the bottle in place.  The entire apparatus is neatly contained in its lovely hand-dove-tailed mahogany box with hinged lid, skeleton key lock and 2 hook and eye closures. Surprisingly this compact instrument weighs a hefty 10 pounds!  The device itself, as configured for use, measures 6 ¼ inches long by 3 ¾ inches wide and 4 1/8 inches high.  The box measures 7 ½ inches long by 6 inches wide and 5 inches deep, and is of exceptional quality as evidenced by  the slight wooden “skirt” around the base of the box.  Overall condition is nothing short of exceptional.  If this device was ever used, it was done in the most respectful manner. 1595  Special Packaging

When the ship’s navigator took a sighting with his sextant or octant he was measuring the angle between a heavenly body and the earth’s horizon.  With that information and the exact time the measurement was taken the ship’s location could be determined.  But what if the horizon was taken at night, or it was obscured by haze or fog?  An answer was the artificial horizon.  A few varieties were employed, including the use of a bubble level.  The most popular of these devices in the 18th and 19th centuries was the mercury horizon.  Instead of sighting the horizon, the navigator would take his reading of the heavenly body reflected from the surface of the mercury pool.  Since the surface of the mercury was level, (at least in theory) the reading was precise.  The problem was the constant movement of the ship made it difficult, if not impossible, to take a stable reading.


box perspctive

label contents

interior components

Order Info



3.34  18th C. NAVIGATOR’s RULES.  Especially nice parallel rolling rules made by the preeminent English makers “W. & S. JONES * 30 HOLBORN LONDON” as marked in the center.  This early navigational instrument is made of ebony and ivory with brass fittings.  It consists of an internally weighted rolling axle with corrugated brass drums on each end.  The drums grasp the surface of the chart allowing the instrument to travel in a parallel direction.  Of special note are the ivory ends of the roller which trace from 0 to 2 inches in increments of 1/10th inch when rolled.  This complication is in addition to the fact that the leading edges are ivory scales marked in tenths of inches from 0 to 12!  Absolutely pristine original condition in all respects.  It is hard to believe this original instrument is more than 220 years old!  349

William and Samuel Jones began their scientific instrument manufactory on Holborn Hill, London in1791.  (Gloria Clifton, “Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550-1851, 1995, National Maritime Museum and Philip Wilson Publishers, Ltd.)


detail bottom

maker roller

Order Info




3.32  IMPORTANT EARLY AMERICAN COMPASS.  Authentic early 1800’s sailing ship’s main steering compass.  This extra large dry compass has a beautifully-engraved card marked in points of the compass rose down to one half points, with the Cardinal and Intercardinal points identified.  North is designated by a very elaborate fleur-de-lis which is embellished with multiple draped flags, a handsome American Federal eagle, Union shield, star spangled canton and a classic fouled anchor below.   The center bears its high quality jeweled pivot.  Surrounding the center the card is boldly signed “S. THAXTER & SON, Boston.”  The compass is housed in its original weighted brass bowl slung in gimbals.  The brass bezel retains its old wavy glass held in with putty in the traditional manner.  The compass is lively and accurate, swinging correctly in its original pine box held with copper nails.  The original chamfered sliding lid is present, opening and closing properly.  The compass measures 7 inches in diameter and the box is 10 inches square by 6 3/4 inches high.  The entire presentation is in excellent condition considering it is circa 1830 and nearly 200 years old!   A wonderful original relic from the days of the early Yankee packets and later clippers that is still functional!  A museum piece at a very reasonable price.   895 Special Packaging

Samuel Thaxter was born in 1769, and was apprenticed to William Williams.  Thaxter initially started business at Butler’s Row in 1796, moving to 49 State Street in 1806.  The firm name changed to Samuel Thaxter & Son in 1826 located at 125 State Street, Boston.  (M.V. Brewington, “The Peabody Museum collection of Navigating Instruments,” 1963, Peabody Museum, Salem, Massachusetts).
(See also item 3.20/4.17)


box in box

bowl card

north point

Order Info




3.29  HELMSMAN’s HELPER.  Ingenious pilot house device used to assist the man at the wheel to maintain the ordered compass course heading.  This unique hand-made instrument is of the finest quality. It is not a production item, but was likely made by a very skilled ship’s carpenter.  It is fabricated entirely of wood with brass fasteners and three glazed “windows.”  Within are faceted solid wood spindles.  The first spindle on the left bears the numbers “0” through “3.”  The second and third spindles are numbered “0” through “9.”  By means of the knurled brass knobs on the bottom this arrangement allowed the Captain or Mate to indicate the full range of ship headings in degrees from “000” through “360.”  This substantial device measures 13 ½ inches wide by 5 inches deep and 6 1/4 inches high inclusive of the brass knobs.  The back is marked in crayon “220 C. Hine.”  There are traces of light green paint indicative of its being mounted to the pilot house bulkhead just forward of the helm.  While there were certainly other forms of simple helmsman’s helpers, this is the most elaborate we have ever seen. A great digital “pre-digital” example! 895


back bottom

Order Info




3.31  INCLINOMETER.   Very finest quality turn-of-the-last-century English steamship’s pilot house clinometer with white enameled dial signed “<HEZZANITH>.”  This precision navigational instrument is marked in single degrees of the ship’s heel (roll) from 0 to 50 port and starboard, marked by 10’s.  A knurled thumbscrew at the bottom locks the pivoting indicator need in place when the instrument is not in use.  The heavy solid brass case is mounted to a lovely laminated backboard having 3 brass brackets.  Attaching only the top bracket allows the instrument to rotate and the needle to move.  If all 3 brackets are attached it will register as designed on a rolling ship.  The brass case is 8 ¾ inches in diameter on the flange.  With brackets the entire assembly measures 12 inches across and weighs a hefty 9 pounds.  WAS $795 NOW! 295
The venerable firm of Heath & Co. was originally founded by Thomas Heath, the mathematical instrument maker in 1720 on the Strand, London.  By 1910 the firm was located at 2 Tower Royal, Cannon Road, London producing instruments under the trade name “Hezzanith.”         (M. V. Brewington, “The Peabody Museum Collection of Navigating instruments,” 1963, Peabody Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.)


perspective

Order Info




3.28  PRISTINE BOXED COMPASS.  Turn-of-the-last-century American small craft boxed compass by the famous maker “E. M. Sherman, Seattle, DIRIGO Trade mark,” as signed on the composition compass card.  This liquid-filled compass has a rose marked in points of the compass down to ½ points and is also marked in 10’s of degrees on the periphery.  North is denoted by a fancy fleur-de-lis.  The center has a high quality agate pivot.  The detailed card is a mere 2 inches in diameter while the bronze compass body is 3 inches across.  It is set in its stout bronze gimbal ring.  The entire unit is mounted in its machine dove-tailed oak box with lid.  Two brass hooks and 3 dowelled “keepers” assure the box closes securely.  4 ¾ inches square by 3 ¼ inches high.   Unbelievably, this item is over 100 years old!  They don’t come any nicer.  389

The well-known Dirigo compass was first manufactured in Lexington, Massachusetts by boat builder and violin maker Eugene M. Sherman in 1907.   Sherman was born in Somerville, Massachusetts to a New England seafaring family in 1872.  “Dirigo,” translated from Latin means “I Lead.”  In 1911, Sherman moved to the Pacific Northwest where he opened his compass making business in Bellevue, Washington.  This compass dates to his early manufactory.   He sold his stake in the company in 1944.


box in box

detal card

Order Info




3.26  LOG TIMER.  Authentic mid-19th century ship’s timer used in conjunction with a chip log to determine a ship’s speed and position using dead reckoning.   Of significance, this navigational instrument was commercially-made.  It consists of a hand blown glass vial with two bulbous section connected by a narrow neck in the middle.  One of the bulbs contains a cloth plug by which iron filings were inserted.  The glass is contained within two turned wooden discs supported by 4 simple wood columns.  The discs are decoratively scribed with concentric circles and the end with the plug bears a paper label.  The embossed lettering reads “28 SECONDS.”  It is difficult to read but is legible under magnification.  The timer measures 2 7/8 inches in diameter and stands 4 ½ inches tall.  It is in working condition and surprisingly accurate.  679

The exact origins of sand timers are unclear, although they are generally attributed to the Arab world.  From ancient times the passage of water was used as a measurement of time in "water clocks." As a follow-on, the "fluid dynamics" of flowing sand was seen to be similar. "By the Middle Ages the sand-glass came into its own, fragile though it was, this was the first clock which the men who made the great voyages of discovery took with them." (Jean Randier, "Nautical Antiques for the Collector, 1977, Doubleday & Co., New York, page 96).  "Dating old sand glasses can be difficult, but the color or tint of the bulbs is a help. The glass was greenish up to about 1700. During the 18th century it was darker; then in the 19th century it gradually acquired the transparency of crystal.  There were also variations in the actual sand which, prior to about 1720, was reddish or orange-red in color.  After about 1720, white or green sand was increasingly used." (Alan Major, "Marine Antiques," 1981, A.S. Barnes & Co., New York, pages 178-179.)

Mariners have used the chip log for dead reckoning navigation since the first known description of the device in print.  That was "A Regiment for the Sea" by William Bourne in 1574.  Bourne devised a half-minute sand glass for timing.  At that time, a mile was the equivalent of 5,000 feet.  At a speed of one mile per hour a ship would travel about 42 feet in 30 seconds:

Distance in feet = 1 mile/hour (3600 seconds) = 30 seconds x 5000 feet / 3600 seconds = 42 feet

In early times the length of the log-line was measured directly by sailors as it passed through their hands. With the introduction of the nautical mile as a standard unit of measure at sea in the 15th century, they began to mark the line at equal intervals proportional to the nautical mile and to the time interval used for measurement.  At first the markings were simply knots in the line.  Later, sailors worked identifying knotted cords into the log-line.  Most ships used knots spaced 7 fathoms (42 feet) apart.  The time interval was therefore directly related to distance between knots in the line.  Using 6,000 feet (or 2,000 yards) for 1 nautical mile, the above formula yields 28 seconds for a distance of 7 fathoms.  With the advent of steam propulsion and faster ships in the first half of the 1800’s, the duration of the sand timer was cut to 14 seconds.


running label

Order Info



3.25   SEXTANT PAMPLET.  How to use a sextant, entitled “How to Find Your Position With The Master Sextant.”  This instructive paperback booklet contains 15 pages crammed with information on how to take a sighting with a sextant and then use that information to compute the longitude.  There are also sections on how to use the sextant as a pelorus and as a heliograph.  Well illustrated with charts and line drawings.  Published by Davis Instruments, San Leandro, CA.  Condition of the cover is fair.  Content is fine.  Shipped First Class mail at no additional cost.  16


plate

Order Info




3.21  VERY EARLY LOG TIMER.  Quite exceptional mid-1700’s or earlier ship’s log timer of  28 seconds  used in the dead reckoning method of navigation to determine a ship’s speed.  This amazing survivor from the early days of sail is of classic form with 2 hand-blown greenish glass vials conjoined in the middle with wrapped leather and twine.  The frame consists of two oak discs connected by 4 turned pine columns which hold the discs together while protecting the vials.  Both ends of the timer discs exhibit concentric circle decorations.  The timer measures 6 inches tall and 3 1/8 inches in diameter.  It is in excellent original condition considering its 250+ year old age!  The sand runs strong and is nearly accurate.  A true museum piece if ever there was one! SOLD 

The exact origins of sand timers are unclear, although they are generally attributed to the Arab world.  From ancient times the passage of water was used as a measurement of time in "water clocks." As a follow-on, the "fluid dynamics" of flowing sand was seen to be similar. "By the Middle Ages the sand-glass came into its own, fragile though it was, this was the first clock which the men who made the great voyages of discovery took with them." (Jean Randier, "Nautical Antiques for the Collector, 1977, Doubleday & Co., New York, page 96).  "Dating old sand glasses can be difficult, but the color or tint of the bulbs is a help. The glass was greenish up to about 1700. During the 18th century it was darker; then in the 19th century it gradually acquired the transparency of crystal.  There were also variations in the actual sand which, prior to about 1720, was reddish or orange-red in color.  After about 1720, white or green sand was increasingly used." (Alan Major, "Marine Antiques," 1981, A.S. Barnes & Co., New York, pages 178-179.)

Mariners have used the chip log for dead reckoning navigation since the first known description of the device in print.  That was "A Regiment for the Sea" by William Bourne in 1574.  Bourne devised a half-minute sand glass for timing.  At that time, a mile was the equivalent of 5,000 feet.  At a speed of one mile per hour a ship would travel about 42 feet in 30 seconds:

Distance in feet = 1 mile/hour (3600 seconds) = 30 seconds x 5000 feet / 3600 seconds = 42 feet

In early times the length of the log-line was measured directly by sailors as it passed through their hands. With the introduction of the nautical mile as a standard unit of measure at sea in the 15th century, they began to mark the line at equal intervals proportional to the nautical mile and to the time interval used for measurement.  At first the markings were simply knots in the line.  Later, sailors worked identifying knotted cords into the log-line.  Most ships used knots spaced 7 fathoms (42 feet) apart.  The time interval was therefore directly related to distance between knots in the line.  Using 6,000 feet (or 2,000 yards) for 1 nautical mile, the above formula yields 28 seconds for a distance of 7 fathoms.  With the advent of steam propulsion and faster ships in the first half of the 1800’s, the duration of the sand timer was cut to 14 seconds.


perspective running




3.22  TINY AMERICAN BINNACLE.  Absolutely charming, near miniature compass binnacle.  This diminutive device is made of rich mahogany with dove tailed joints and brass hardware.   For viewing it has a glazed “trap door” in front, hinged at the top and splined for durability.  The old wavy glass is held in place with putty in the traditional manner.  The window measures 2 ½ by 3 ¾ inches.  Inside, the all brass compass is dry,  suspended in its original brass gimbal ring.  The compass card is marked down to ¼ points of the compass rose with the Cardinal and Intercardinal points identified.   It is further marked in single degrees on the periphery, identified by 10’s.  Speaking to its quality it has a jeweled center pivot and 4 bar magnets for accuracy.  The card measures 3 inches in diameter; the compass bowl 4 ¼ inches across.  The top of the binnacle has a folding brass handle for carrying and retains hook and eye closures on both sides to secure the door.  The inside rear of the binnacle retains the original old maker’s label reading ‘WILCOX CRITTENDON & Co., Inc., Middletown, Conn., U.S.A.” stamped with an illegible date “FEB 14…”  What is truly remarkable about this little binnacle is that it is complete with its darling oil-fired binnacle lamp for night viewing.  The lamp has its original whale oil burner which screws into the bottom with a bayonet twist.  The glazed lens fits into a brass aperture on the back of the binnacle opening above the compass.  A spring-loaded clip with a “keeper” insures a secure fit.  The existence of a detachable side lamp on such a small binnacle is extremely rare.  This fact more than doubles its value and appeal!  The binnacle measures a mere 6 inches wide by 7 inches tall exclusive of the handle and 9 inches deep inclusive of the lamp.  Outstanding original condition in all respects.  The compass is lively and accurate, gimbaling freely within its housing.  945


interior side

lamp lamp reverse

lamp open

Order Info




3.16 EXCEPTIONAL NOCTURNAL.  Splendid, incredibly rare and eagerly sought after by advanced collectors, instrument used by early mariners for telling time at night, hence the name “nocturnal.”   This 17th century English example is made of rich golden brown boxwood with square and hexagonal brass “nuts” framing the sighting hole.  It measures 10 ¾ inches overall including the index arm.  The dial is 4 5/8 inches in diameter.  It is complete with the rotating volvelle and a rotating pointer arm for alignment with the stars of the big and little dippers ( Ursa Major and Ursa Minor) the greater and lesser bears, labeled “GB” and “LB” respectively. The instrument is divided and stamped with scales for the date, hour, lunar age, and polar distance, with a detailed compass rose on the reverse.  The handle has a lovely pierced heart design and is stamped on the front side “BOTH BEARS.”  Condition is absolutely phenomenal.  It is the best wooden nocturnal we have ever seen in or out of public holdings.  6889

In use the volvelle is set to the correct date with the selected constellation.  Holding the nocturnal is held vertically, the Pole star is sighted through the central hole.  The long arm is then aligned with the stars of the dipper.  So-aligned, the local time is indicated on the central scale  The scale on the reverse also gives the correction for Pole Star elevation in order to compute the latitude.  The lunar age scale permits determination of high and low tides.  As such, it was a simple but very effective early multi-function navigational tool.  Because of its simple wooden construction very few examples survive.

See “TESSERACT” catalog of early scientific instruments Summer of 1999, Number 64, item 18.  It depicts a similar, smaller nocturnal with some condition issues, which sold for $8,750.  Adjusted for in inflation it was $15,845 in today’s dollars.  A further consideration is that this nocturnal is now even a quarter of a century older!


front detail back

back detail

Order Info




3.20/4.17 WHALESHIP COMPASS.  Genuine mid-19th century American drycard compass as used on an American whaleship.  This extra large compass has a beautifully-engraved card marked in points of the compass rose with the Cardinal and Intercardinal points identified.  North is designated by a very elaborate fleur-de-lis which is signed “Breed, Boston.”  East is embellished with a handsome American eagle perched on a Union shield, clutching arrows and olive branches.  The periphery of the card is marked in single degrees in 4 quadrants marked by 10’s.  The center bears its high quality jeweled pivot.  The card is undoubtedly that of Samuel Thaxter & Son, Boston circa 1825.  In our inventory we have an identical card thus signed.  What is so interesting is the fact that the compass was obviously restored by Sherman of New Bedford, bearing the overlaid label surrounding the pivot reading “C. R. SHERMAN * NEW BEDFORD*.”  Sherman was THE preeminent maker/provider of instruments and navigational supplies to whaleships at the height of Yankee whaling in the 1860’s and 70’s.  The compass is housed in its original weighted brass bowl slung in gimbals.  The brass bezel retains its old wavy glass held in with putty in the traditional manner.  The compass is lively and accurate, swinging correctly in its original pine box held with copper nails.  The original chamfered sliding lid is present, opening and closing properly.  Of additional interest and value is the fact that the outside of the box bears the partial label reading “Repaired By C. R. Sherman & Co., 40 North Water Street, New…”  The compass measures 7 inches in diameter and the box is 10 inches square by 7 inches high.  The compass and its box are in excellent condition considering they are 200 years old.   A wonderful original relic from the days of Yankee whaling which is still functional!  A museum piece at a true bargain price.   945 Special Packaging

Interestingly, the inside bowl of the compass bears some hand written inscriptions reading:

“John New Trolander
May 31, 1854
June 15, 1863
Sept 18th 1868”

Charles R. Sherman began his apprenticeship with John Kehew in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1849.  He took over the company in 1865 under the name C. R. Sherman & Co. at 49 North Water Street.

Samuel Thaxter was born in Hingham, Massachusetts in 1769 and was apprenticed to the Colonial American instrument maker William Williams.  Thaxter began his own business at 1 Long Wharf, Boston in 1792.  Thaxter took his son into the business in 1822 on State Street, Boston.  (M.V. Brewington, “The Peabody Museum of Navigating Instruments,” 1963, Peabody museum, Salem Massachusetts.)

Aaron Breed (1761-1817) was a little known maker of mathematical instruments who worked in Boston into the 19th century. He specialized in nautical, mathematical and optical instruments, with an address at 173 Broad Street, and another at No. 2 Rowe's Wharf, "At the Sign of the Quadrant."  Breed made surveying instruments in brass and in wood.  A brass instrument is in the Henry Ford Museum, and a wooden instrument is in the collection of Old Sturbridge Village.  The latter is fashioned from walnut with an engraved compass card inscribed "Aaron Breed Boston."


box closed

card eagle

engraver inner bowl

Order Info




3.13  18th CENTURY COMPASS.  Museum worthy mid-1700’s or earlier English-made travelling compass of the finest quality.  This handsome instrument features the classic compass rose found on such early instruments.  The card is hand-engraved paper set on a mica backing supported on a brass pivot with clear agate bearing.  The card is marked in 32 points of the compass with the Cardinal and Intercardinal points identified.  North is denoted by a fancy fleur-de-lis and East bears the traditional archaic decoration.   The circumference of the card is marked in single degrees identified by 10’s.  The center of the card around the pivot is decorated with a subtle octagon design.  The card is housed in its cylindrical brass case with scalloped bezel containing old wavy glass. Of special note is the fact that the original press-on cover with knurled rim is still present after 250+ years!  3 ¼ inches in diameter and 1 3/16 inches thick.  Virtually pristine original condition showing expected age patina.  WAS 895 NOW! 495

The earliest usage of the compass in the Western world took place during the Crusades from Europe to the Holy Land in the 11th century A.D.  It was during these Crusades east that the Christian cross became symbolic of the "East" point on the compass rose. The tradition of the "decorated East" point remained with mariners until the late 18th century.


card case

Order Info



3.15  EARLY AMERICAN OCTANT BY IMPORTANT  MAKERS.  A fine Captain’s navigational instrument made by America’s foremost 19th century instrument makers “E. & G. W. Blunt, New York” as hand-engraved on the large arc.  This especially beautiful all brass instrument bears a large inlaid silver arc calibrated in single degrees from -4 to 115, sub-divided by 20 arc minutes, marked in 10’s.  The silver vernier scale on the index arm is calibrated from 0 to 20 arc minutes subdivided by 30 arc seconds, giving a theoretical accuracy of about ½ nautical mile at the equator.   The index arm is provided with a pivoting magnifier for a precise reading.  The cast solid brass frame supports the sight tube holder, index mirror, 4 index filters, horizon mirror and 3 horizon filters, all of which are without damage, complete and functional.  The reverse of the instrument retains its lovely sculpted rosewood handle, mirror adjustment apparatus and 2 brass “feet.”   It is fitted into its original keystone mahogany box bearing the partial label of the equally revered nautical instrument makers “THAXTER & SON, Boston.”  This early style box is in remarkably well preserved condition, with none of the typical cracks, and is complete with both optics, 2 sun filters and adjusting wrench.  The instrument measures 9 ¾ inches long on the index arm and 8 ½ inches wide on the large arc.  The fitted box measures 11 inches tall by 11 inches wide.  Seeing is believing.  For the well versed collector, they really don’t come any nicer than this!  SOLD

The fact that the large arc is calibrated up to 115 degrees designates this instrument as an “octant” rather than a sextant, which would exhibit a scale of 130 degrees or more.


box interior

instrument back

vernier signature

label



3.10 EARLY SEXTANT.  Particularly well preserved 19th century English sextant made by the noted scientific instrument makers “Negretti & Zambra, London” as finely engraved in script on the large arc.  This classic 3-circle sextant has an inlaid silver scale reading from -5 to 160 degrees, effectively making it a “quintant.”  The scale is marked in 10’s of degrees and each degree is subdivided to 10 arc minutes.  The silver vernier scale at the bottom of the index arm reads from 0 to 10 arc minutes right to left, subdivided in 10 arc second increments, theoretically allowing for an accuracy of 30 nautical miles.  In use the index arm has a knurled thumbscrew stop and a fine adjust tangent stop.  A pivoting magnifier and a frosted glass light diffuser are mounted on the index arm for viewing the reading.  This all brass instrument is complete with both mirror boxes, height adjustable telescope holder, all 4 index filters and complete set of 3 horizon filters.  It retains its original blackened finish throughout.  The back has its original 3 “feet” for mounting in its box and its lovely sculpted solid rosewood handle.  The index arm measures 8 ¼ inches long and the large arc is 9 inches wide making for a very diminutive instrument.  The handsome solid mahogany box is of hand-dovetailed construction with brass furniture.  It contains one long telescope with 2 interchangeable eye pieces, a separate peep site and screw-on sun filer.  The box has two hook and eye closures, the original skeleton lock with escutcheon and folding brass drop handle.  It is in remarkable condition with no major cracks in the large single panel lid.  It measures 9 ¼ by 9 ½ inches by 4 ¾ inches thick.   Fabulous cosmetic condition.  1285

For someone considering a single quality instrument of this type to fill out a nautical collection, this is it!

The partnership of Enrico Negretti and Joseph Warren Zambra began at 11 Hatton Garden, London in 1850.  Exhibiting at the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace London in 1851, they won a Prize Medal.  Thereafter the business expanded rapidly and they were awarded the Royal appointment of instrument makers to the Queen and the Prince Consort.  The firm was the most prolific manufacturer of scientific instruments in the second half of the 19th century in England.  The partnership made all manner of quality scientific instruments, best noted for their barometers and telescopes.

(Edwin Banfield, "Barometer Makers and Retailers 1660-1900," 1991, Baros Books, Wiltshire).


A later English sextant with a large crack in the lid is currently offered on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $1600.  (eBay item 274510165846)


box in box

sextant back

signature

Order Info




3.14/5.46  U.S. NAVY CLINOMETER.  Authentic World War II fighting ship's pilot house inclinometer made for the Navy by the John L. Chaney Instrument Company.  The face of the Bakelite body is engraved:

CLINOMETER
U.S. NAVY BU-SHIPS
MK IV
1943
JOHN L. CHANEY INSTR. CO.
LAKE GENEVA WISC., U.S.A.

This precision device is calibrated in single degrees of heel port and starboard up to 70 marked by 10's.  The reading is made by a small black ball within a curved glass tube containing fluid.  The fluid acts to dampen (slow) the ball as the ship rolls.  This is exactly the same principle used in an aircraft's turn and bank indicator.  The instrument measures 12 ½ inches wide by 6 ¼ inches high.  It is in excellent original condition. The action of the ball is perfect.  395


back

Order Info




3.11 BOXED COMPASS. Late 19th century American small craft boxed compass made by the “Coston Supply Co., New York” as stenciled on the bottom of the bowl. The composition card is marked in ½ points of the compass with the cardinal and intercardinal points identified. North is denoted by a classic fleur-de-lis and “Polaris.” It is mounted on a high quality jeweled pivot. This all brass compass retains its handsome original black e-enameled surface. The compass is slung in gimbals, mounted in the original mahogany box with lid, held by 2 pivoting hooks. The compass measures exactly 3 inches in diameter and the box is 4 ½ inches square by 3 ¼ inches high with lid. Excellent original condition throughout showing signs of use but no abuse. 329

The Coston Company was established in 1840 by Benjamin Franklin Coston, inventor and manufacturer of night signals and ship rockets. He continued as head of the business until his death in 1901, when the business was incorporated. In the early 1900’s the company expanded its product line to include life-saving appliances for ships as well as general steamship supplies. But it was always best known as an innovator and leader in ships’ distress signaling devices.


compass box

Order Info




3.09  EXCEPTIONAL QUADRANT.   Fourth quarter 18th century mariner’s navigational quadrant (octant) by the famed English makers W & S. Jones as engraved on the bottom of the index arm “W. & S. Jones 30 High Holborn, London.”  This especially fine instrument is an excellent example of state-of-the art instrumentation produced by the world class London makers in the 1780’s.  Certainly the Jones were members of that elite cadre, evidenced by the superior quality embodied in this instrument.  Speaking to this, the frame is made of rich rosewood instead of the more common ebony of the time.  The long index arm has a riveted brass index scale with ivory vernier.  Of major concern to instrument makers of the era was the accuracy of their instruments, given conditions at sea which could affect expansion and contraction due to  humidity and temperature.  Prior to 1780 most instruments were made entirely of wood.  But during this innovative era makers began incorporating brass into their instruments.  Ultimately brass became the sole material used in sextants of the mid-1800’s and later.   This instrument has both index and horizon mirrors AND backsight.  A full complement of 3 interchangeable sun filters is present and the peep sight has the early form pivoting shade.   The lovely solid ivory scale is calibrated in single degrees from -2o to 98o divided by 20 arc minutes.   The index arm has the early form index arm stop with knurled thumbscrew.  The ivory vernier is calibrated in single arc minutes from 0 to 20, thus rendering an accuracy of one arc minute.  The center brace is fitted with an ivory pencil for recording readings.  The reverse of the frame is complete with all 3 knurled brass “feet,” both mirror box adjusting apparatus and an inlaid ivory trapezoidal “note pad” for recoding sightings.  It is also complete with brass arm stop on the right side.  16 inches tall by 13 inches wide.  Absolutely outstanding state of original preservation for such an instrument 240 years old.  Without question museum quality.  Truly bargain-priced!  Please compare comparable quality instruments offered by other sellers.   This is the best!  Value $1595  NOW!  1195

The highly esteemed firm of William and Samuel Jones was begun in 1791 or earlier.  William Jones was listed as optician in 1787.  The partnership was prolific in its output of high end scientific instruments which included, barometers, compasses, globes, orrereys, microscopes sundials, telescopes, quadrants, thermometers, and planetaria among others!

(Gloria Clifton, “Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550-1851,” 1995, Zwemmer Press The National maritime Museum, Greenwich).


detail back detail

back makers

Order Info



3.06  BINNACLE INCLINOMETER.  Authentic World War I era pilot house binnacle clinometer made by the noted American makers Kelvin and Wilfred O. White as boldly marked on the silvered brass dial "KELVIN-WHITE CO. BOSTON & NEW YORK."  This precision nautical instrument features a blackened brass pendulum bob overriding an arched scale reading in 2 degree increments from 0 to 40 degrees port and starboard.  It is housed in its solid brass case under glass.  The back is curved to fit the front of the binnacle and there are mounting tabs on each side to accommodate screws.  Functional original condition with a lovely age patina to the brass surfaces.  The silver dial is perfect.  179


inclined
back

Order Info





3.04 NAVIGATOR's  PROTRACTOR.  Patented 19th century American navigational device which consists of a T-square mounted on a long brass arm over which a brass circle with compass rose is mounted.   The circular rose is divided to ¼ points of the compass with the cardinal and intercardinal points identified.  North is designated by a classic flue-de-lis.  The rose is mounted in such a way that it slides the full length of the supporting arm while being able to rotate a full 360 degrees.  The pivot point is off center allowing for cross hairs to pinpoint the precise point on a chart.  This ingenious device is of all brass construction.  It is stamped with maker's mark "J. W. STRANGE Manufacturer, BANGOR, ME."  It is additionally marked"Pat'd June 13. 1876." The long arm measures 16 inches in length and the cross bar 4 ½ inches.  The disc is 4 inches in diameter.  Outstanding original condition with nice golden lacquer surfaces, virtually the same as it was when made 140+ years ago!  A very rare American navigational relic. 389



detail
back

disc
maker

patent

Order Info




3.60 RARE SEXTANT.  "Hoppe's Improved Sextant, LONDON, No. 271."  Very, very early 1800's lattice frame sextant by Ebenezer Hoppe who was a mathematical and optical instrument maker at Edward Street, Limehouse Fields, London, beginning in 1801.  Hoppe's idea was to brace the sextant frame much like the crossed trusses of a bridge, to maintain its rigidity and thus its accuracy.  The beautiful inlaid sterling silver scale on the large arc is marked from -5 – 145 degrees subdivided divided by 15 arc minutes.  The braced brass index arm carries the silver vernier scale calibrated from 0 – 15 arc minutes subdivided to 15 arc seconds.  The attached pivoting magnifier aids in taking a precise reading.  The back of the arm has a positive thumbscrew stop and the vernier has a tangential fine adjustment thumbscrew.  This instrument is complete with both mirror boxes and a full set of 4 index filters and 3 horizon filters.  The backside is equipped with an elegant sculpted rosewood handle and three brass "feet" for positioning in the box.  The index arm is 11 inches long and the large arc is 12 inches wide.  The early style keystone box is constructed of rich African mahogany with telltale very thin dovetail joints.  It contains one functional telescope, 2 partial telescopes and a screw-on sun filter.  Condition of the instrument is remarkable considering it is approximately 220 years old.  The brass surfaces have acquired a deep age patina.  The box is sound, with a few expected age cracks but no damage.   It measures 12 inches high by 13 ½ inches wide and 5 inches thick. The box lock is missing.  The lid bears the partial label of the famous Pacific Northwest chandler, Max Kuner of Seattle. SOLD


Ebenezer Hoppe was apprenticed to the renowned early instrument maker Michael Dancer in 1793.  Hoppe died in 1821.  (Gloria Clifton, "Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550-1852, 1995, Zwemmer, Philip Wilson Publishers, London).


box detail
interior

sextant
back

vernier
maker




3.00  EARLY AMERICAN WOODEN SEXTANT.   Rare, American-made wooden sextant with the ivory maker's label reading "B: K: HAGGER & SON, BALTIMORE."  This high quality navigational instrument has limbs of rich ebony with inlaid ivory scales and brass furniture.  The large arc is calibrated from -7 to 134 degrees marked by 5's.  Each degree is subdivided to 20 arc minutes.  The ivory vernier scale mounted on the braced brass index arm is calibrated in single arc minutes from 0 on the right to 20 on the left, providing the navigator with a theoretical accuracy of one nautical mile.  To aid in reading, a pivoting magnifier is attached to the index arm.  A thumbscrew on the rear provides a positive stop while the tangential fine adjustment knob allows an accurate reading.  This superior instrument has both index and horizon mirrors, all 4 index filters and all 3 horizon filers.  The adjustable height sighting tube holder contains a long telescope.  The back is equipped with an early form sculpted rosewood handle, 3 brass "feet," and the apparatus for adjusting the horizon mirror box.  The instrument is double braced both vertically and horizontally for assured accuracy.  The index arm measures 11 inches long and the large arc is 10 ¾ inches wide.  Wooden sextants are very scarce, especially those made by American instrument makers.  Circa1820.  Fine condition.  Make no mistake, this is a "sextant" made from rare ebony wood, predating those in the latter half of the century that were made of brass.  Truly a bargain price for such a museum-quality example.  The appraised value is double or more.  895

Benjamin King Hagger, named after his famous uncle, was born in Boston in 1769.  He began business in instrument making as early as 1784, but certainly by 1789.  In 1816 he moved to Baltimore where he set up business as a nautical instrument maker and ship chandler.  Soon after his son joined him in the business.  In 1834 the elder Hagger died and the firm name changed to Hagger & Brother.  (M.V. Brewington, "The Peabody Museum Collection of Navigational Instruments," 1963, Peabody Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, page128.)


back
venier

maker

Order Info




3.91   NAVIGATOR's RULES.  Spectacular!  An absolutely HUGE set of parallel rules made by England's premier 18th and 19th century scientific instrument makers, "TROUGHTON & SIMMS . LONDON" as marked in the mid-section.  These rules are constructed of rich ebony with brass fittings measuring an amazing 3 feet ¼ inch long by 3 ¼ inches wide!  The set has 3 pivoting brass arms vs. the usual 2.  The size of the individual planks of solid ebony is impressive, particularly in light of the limited world trade in rare woods in the early 1800's.  Condition is outstanding and original in all respects.  One must ponder what type of capital ship would require parallel rules of such massive size?  795  Special Packaging


open
back

signature

Order Info




3.89   PROTRACTOR & RULE.  Genuine mid 19th century American ship's navigator's chart rule with directional protractor.  This ingenious device was made by "L. MORGAN & SON 650 E. 12. ST. N.Y." as stamped on the silvered brass back plate.  It consists of a heavy rosewood rule with silvered brass edges.  Inset into the middle is a semicircular protractor marked in segments of the compass rose with north at the top, divided east to west in one quarter points .  The protractor rotates to the appropriate course or line of bearing and is locked into placed by the knurled brass knob at the top.  Just above the pivot point the protractor is marked "PAT. JAN. 19 69.  This high quality precision navigational instrument measures 17 inches long by 2 ¼ inches wide on the rule itself.  With the silvered protractor it stands 4 ¼ inches high.  This is a very rare  American navigational instrument of exceptional quality circa 1870 in beautiful original condition.  669


perspective
protractor

patent
maker

Order Info



3.90  IMPRESSIVE COMPASS.  Fabulous very early 1800's American boxed compass made by Wm. Davenport of Philadelphia as signed in beautiful script from east to west..  This exceptionally handsome drycard compass has a compass rose marked in single points of the compass with the cardinal and intercardinal points identified.  Then on the periphery it is marked in single degrees on the 4 quadrants between the cardinal points.  The northpoint is designated by an extremely ornate fleur-de-lis.  Of special note is the fact that the East point is decorated with floral embellishments indicating its early origins.  Speaking to the quality of construction the center pivot has an agate bearing.  The hand-engraved paper card overlays a stiff mica backing with bar magnet below.  The card rides on its central pivot contained in the large brass bowl covered by the original old wavy glass.  The compass body is slung in brass gimbals mounted in its original rich mahogany box measuring 10 inches square and 6 inches high.  This box never had a cover indicating it was used as protected inside the ship as the master direction finder.  1295 Special Packaging

William Davenport was born in 1778 and was apprenticed to Philadelphia instrument maker William Dean.  He took over Dean's business in 1802.  (M. V. Brewington, "The Peabody Collection of Navigating Instruments," 1963, Peabody Museum, Salem, Massachusetts).



in box
card

Order Info




3.88/ 5.04  PATENT NAVY PARALLEL RULES.  Rare 4th quarter of the 19th century navigator's parallel rulers made by John Bliss and Co., in accordance with LCDR Sigsbee's patent.  This beautifully preserved set is made of ebony with brass fittings.  It is uniquely constructed in such a manner so as to allow the limbs of the instrument to fold over the chart and align at a distance from the indicated course.  This allowed the navigator to "hop scotch" across the chart without sliding the rules over the map's surface.  The upper rule is stamped "PAT. FEB.24' 80."  Remarkably, it is preserved within its original cardboard box with label reading "PATENT PARALLEL RULE U.S. NAVY PATTERN JOHN BLISS & CO., Under Patent granted Feb. 24  to Liuet-Comdr, C. D. Sigsbee U.S. NAVY."  The rules are in absolutely perfect original condition measuring 15 inches long by 2 5/8 inches wide.  The original box is 15 ¼ inches long by 3 inches wide and ½ inches thick.  As expected the box shows considerable wear after 140 years.  But the label with minor losses  is still legible.  595

Charles Dwight Sigsbee is best remembered as the Captain of the ill-fated Battleship Maine which exploded in Havana Harbor, Cuba on February 14, 1898, sparking the Spanish-American War.  Following his service as a junior officer in the Civil War Sigsbee was assigned to the Hydrographic Office in 1871, then the Coast Survey in 1874 where he commanded the Coast Survey steamer BLAKE from 1875 to 1878.  He returned to the Navy Hydrographic Office from 1878 to 1882 at which time he invented this unique parallel rule.  He then served as chief hydrographer in the Bureau of Navigation from 1893 to 1897.  During his service on BLAKE he developed the Sigsbee sounding machine, which became a standard item of deep-water oceanographic equipment for the next 50 years.

An identical item "Sigsbee's Patent Parallel Rules No. 272" is held in the collection of the Peabody Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.



positioned
rules

patent
label

Order Info




3.83  "WOODEN" BOXED COMPASS.  Federal Period 19th century American boxed compass made by "ROBt  MERRILL & SONS * NEW YORK*" as engraved on the paper card.  This first quarter of the 1800's compass has a bowl turned out of wood!  The old style drycard is engraved with a compass rose divided down to ½ points marked by cardinal and intercardinal notations.  It is mounted on its classic mica disc.  North is designated by a fancy fleur-de-lis and the East point is embellished with scrollwork.  The center brass pivot has a quality agate bearing.  The card, measuring 4 inches in diameter, rests in its wooden bowl protected by wavy glass.  The compass body is slung in the old type thin brass gimbals mounted in its dove-tailed pine box.  It measures 5 inches in diameter. The entire presentation is in surprisingly excellent condition for such an early instrument of this type.  The compass is accurate and it gimbals properly within its box. These early wooden bowl compasses are highly desirable.  Due to their construction, few have survived the elements.  This is a GREAT example approximately 200 years old!  Truly a collectors' piece at a very, very reasonable price.  695 Special Packaging



in box
components

profile
card

Order Info




3.79  VERY EARLY AMERICAN BINNACLE.  First quarter 1800's boat binnacle by the esteemed American makers Samuel Thaxter and his son as indicated around the pivot point of the drycard compass "S. THAXTER & SON. Boston."  This very rare navigational instrument has a heavy solid brass housing.  Within is contained the high grade drycard compass marked in points of the compass rose down to ½ points, with the cardinal and intercardinal points identified.  Speaking to its quality it has an agate bearing in the brass pivot and the card is backed by mica.  Two other significant attributes are its decorated east point, and the fact that the innovative compass bowl is brass and not wood, as used up until about 1820.  We were told by the original owners this compass is dated "1818," but we have not opened the body to confirm.  The compass bowl and its gimbal are supported within the very substantial binnacle housing with glazed viewing port.  The top is fitted with a heavy duty suspension ring for portability.  The side bears an auxiliary lamp for night viewing.  It contains a small font with whale oil burners – again, a testament to its early origins.  The compass measures 5 ½ inches in diameter.  The cast brass binnacle base is 9 ½ inches in diameter and the binnacle stands 11 ½ inches tall exclusive of the ring.  Totally complete and in excellent original condition in all respects, showing its great age.  1179

Samuel Thaxter was born in Hingham, Massachusetts in 1769.  In 1792 he began his business as a ships' chandler and nautical instrument maker at 1 Long Wharf, Boston under the name Samuel Thaxter.  In 1796 he moved to 49 State Street.  The firm name became Samuel Thaxter & Son in 1822, the latest possible date of this compass.  (M.V. Brewington, "The Peabody Museum Collection of Navigating Instruments," 1963, Peabody Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.)

The earliest usage of the compass in the Western world took place during the Crusades from Europe to the Holy Land in the 11th century A.D., and it was during those Crusades east that the Christian cross became symbolic of the "East" point on the compass rose. The tradition of the "decorated East" point remained with mariners until the early 19th century.


port side
starboard side

laMP
burner

compass

Order Info




3.78   1700's QUADRANT.  Large 3rd quarter of the 18 century English navigational instrument known as a "Hadley's Quadrant," later referred to as an "octant."  This imposing device has limbs of rich, almost ebony-like rosewood, with brass furniture and ivory inlays.  The large arc is calibrated in degrees from -4 to 94 in 20 arc minute increments marked by 5's.  The early form "A" type vernier (zero centered) allows a reading to an accuracy of up to one arc minute, equating to about one nautical mile.  The flat brass index arm is the early unbraced form and measures 16 inches in length.  This instrument is complete with both peep sights, 3 mirror boxes and a full set of interchangeable sun filters, all in excellent condition.  Telling of its early age, this quadrant has a back sight feature.  The back sight was obsolete by the 1820's.  It is complete with its rarely-found ivory pencil for recording readings on the trapezoidal ivory note pad on the back.  Remarkably, it comes complete with its stepped pinewood keystone box.  The lid of the box contains the partial label "H. GATTEY, NEW YORK Mathematical, Optical, and Philofophical (sic) Instrument Maker. (from London)"  The box measures 17 inches long by 15 inches wide and 4 inches thick.  Interestingly, many original sighting notations are written on the interior of the box in chalk and in pencil.  Unusually fine condition for an instrument of this age.  Over 240 years old!   There is some wear and minor losses to the box, but overall it is very sound.  The instrument itself is especially nice, totally complete, unmodified original condition.  Circa 1770.   Price Request

Henry Gattey was listed as a Mathematical Instrument maker working at 5 Windsor St., Bishopsgate, London in 1790.   (Gloria Clifton, Dictionary of British Scientific instrument Makers 1550-1851,"1993, Philip Wilson Publishers, London).  Note that this instrument clearly dates before 1790.



box perspective
vernier

detail
instrument

back
scale detail

pencil
label

Order Info




3.76 LOG TIMER.  Scarce, highly sought after authentic mid-19th century ship's sand glass timer used in conjunction with a chip log to determine the ship's speed underway.  This charming example is of 14 seconds duration and has round ends of turned oak with 4 painted pine support columns.  Its simplicity shouts "American," since French and English examples from the era were more ornate and made of exotic woods.  The glass is of one piece, hand-blown construction with a cloth plug in one end.  It contains iron filings, the standard as used in the 1850's.  It measures exactly 3 inches in diameter and 4 ¾ inches tall.  Excellent original condition, fully functional and showing great age but no abuse.  SOLD


perspective
top

plate





3.75/5.88  U.S. NAVY INCLINOMETER.  Scarce World War II ship's pilot house clinometer from a U.S. Naval fighting ship.  This "pendulum" heel and list indicator is not nearly as common as the liquid-filled tube and ball type.  The Bakelite body is incised:

"CLINOMETER
U.S. NAVY BU. SHIPS
MK II – MOD. 0
1942
MADE  BY
FEE AND STEMWEDEL. INC.
CHICAGO. ILLINOIS"

It features a blackened solid brass pendulum bob with indicator tip sweeping over a scale divided by single degrees marked by 10's up to 70 degrees port and starboard.  12 inches wide by 7 inches high.  Excellent original condition showing good age but no damage.  The pendulum swings freely and is very accurate.  SOLD


inclined
back




3.81  MARINER's QUADRANT.  Very rare, highly desirable 18th century navigational device known as a quadrant, or alternatively "octant."  This early example is patterned after John Hadley's double reflecting quadrant first introduced in 1731.  It is an extraordinary instrument which has limbs of mahogany with brass furniture and a finely engraved boxwood scale inlaid into the large arc.  The scale is divided from 0 to 90 degrees, or one quarter of a circle, hence the designation "quad"rant.  The degrees are marked by 5's.  Each degree is sub-divided into 20 arc minute segments, with diagonal lines cutting across 10 concentric circles.  With this arrangement the index arm and its ivory "line of faith" can provide a reading to an accuracy of 2 arc minutes, interpolated to 1 arc minute.  Below the diagonal scale is a second linear scale divided into single degrees and subdivided to 20 arc minutes.  These precise divisions are quite remarkable considering they were hand-done, before the advent of the mechanical dividing engine!  To attain such accuracy the instrument was necessarily large.  The index arm is slightly over 18 1/2 inches in length and the scale is 15 inches wide.  The quadrant is equipped with an index mirror and horizon mirror, a set of three pivoting filters, and a peep sight with pivoting shade.  It has a blank ivory nameplate in the cross brace.  On the reverse are three brass "feet" and the horizon mirror box adjusting assembly.  The index arm stop is a single brass thumb screw.  There is no fine adjustment feature on these early instruments.  Condition is remarkably excellent for a working device which saw sea service over 260 years ago!  A true museum piece! Price Request

The search for "The longitude" in early 18th century England was encouraged by the Board of Longitude which offered a massive prize of £30,000 for the solution.  It spurred much innovative interest in celestial navigation.  In May 1731 John Hadley, an English mathematician, presented a paper to his fellow members of the Royal Society in London describing the use of a double reflecting quadrant or "octant."  His quadrant was based on the principle of light reflection and angles of incidence that were described by Robert Hooke, Isaac Newton, and Edmund Halley in the previous century.  The principle is that when the angle described by an observed celestial object is seen through a double reflection, that angle is condensed in half between the two reflecting surfaces.  Thus Hadley's quadrant, reading to 90°, had an arc of only 45°, or one eighth of a circle, making it an "octant."  Basically the instrument consisted of a triangular wooden frame with a swinging index arm pivoted at the apex.  A mirror was fixed at that point which would move with the arm.  A second mirror, half of which was transparent so that the user could view the horizon, was fixed to one limb and a sight was attached to the opposite limb.  A precise scale, calibrated in degrees, was scribed on the arc of the bottom limb of the triangle, across which the index arm moved.  This continued to be the basic form of angle measuring navigational instruments for the next 250 years, and still remains, even with the advent of GPS!
    
Quite independently of Hadley, Thomas Godfrey, a Philadelphia glazier and an acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin, devised an improved altitude measuring device based on the same principle over a year earlier.  The instrument was tested in the Sloop TRUEMAN on a voyage to Jamaica and Newfoundland from 1730-1731.  The Royal Society recognized the equal contributions of both men and awarded them a prize of £200 each.  Godfrey also received a prize from the Board of Longitude (of chronometer fame) for his work.  However it was Hadley who received the most credit for the invention.

The improvements in navigation of the Hadley quadrant or "octant" as it came to be known, over previous instruments was immense.  Not only was it more accurate, it provided simplicity of operation and the ability to "capture" the object being sighted for rapid, multiple sightings.  The merits of the quadrant were immediately noticed by the British Admiralty and it was quickly put into commercial production.  Even so, the instrument did not find popular acceptance and general use amongst traditionally minded mariners until after 1750.

The earliest Hadley quadrants, like backstaves, were constructed of walnut or other indigenous woods, with the scales being engraved on boxwood (although examples on brass do exist). With the discovery and growing importation of exotic woods such as African mahogany around 1750, the use of mahogany was quickly implemented, gradually giving way to the exclusive use of ebony and ultimately brass.

From the article "Evolution of the Sextant" by Rod Cardoza
http://westsea.com/captains-log/evolutionofthesextant.html


detail
back

back detail
index

scale

Order Info



3.66  DAVIS QUADRANT.  Very rare, highly sought after authentic late 17th century or very early 18th century mariner's navigational device known as a Davis Quadrant or alternatively "Backstaff."  The backstaff name was given to the instrument which measured the altitude of the sun as projected by its shadow on a scale held by the observer with his back to the sun.  The idea for measuring the sun's altitude using back observations originated with Thomas Harriot.  Many such instruments evolved from the earlier crosstaff, but only the Davis quadrant (1594) remained dominant in the evolution of navigational instruments.  As such, the Davis quadrant is synonymous with the backstaff.   This ancient maritime instrument is made of two hardwoods, one being rare boxwood (prized for its homogeneous grain) for the scales and the other a fruitwood such as pear or apple for the sturdy limbs.  It bears two engraved arc scales.  The large arc is calibrated with the early form diagonal scale reading in degrees left to right 0 - 25 calibrated in 20 arc minute segments, marked by 5's and further divided  to 2 arc minutes on the diagonal scale.  The small arc reads from 0 degrees at the top down to 62 degrees divided by single degrees and marked by 5's.  The back edge of the arc is also calibrated in degrees from 0 - 60 marked by 5's.  The observed altitude comprised the sum of the readings of the two scales.  This instrument is unusually well-decorated with inlaid brass diamonds at the joints and a myriad of stars, fleur-de-lis and herringbone designs.  These all harken back to the time when such an instrument was considered a work of art in addition to being utilitarian.  This example retains its rarely-found horizon vane.  The scales and the vane show evidence of worming that was prevalent in 18th century Europe. This is actually a good sign of its age.  The limbs of this instrument are free of such worming, indicating the construction of two different woods.  There is a large blank ivory maker's plate inlaid near the brace.  25 inches long on the longest limb.  14 ¼ inches wide on the large arc by ¾ inches thick.  The horizon vane is exactly 5 inches wide and 2 inches high.  Definitely a museum piece! SOLD

Captain John Davis invented his version of the backstaff in 1594.  However, Davis was neither the first nor the last to design such an instrument.  Davis was a navigator who was familiar with the instruments of his day such as the mariner's astrolabe, quadrant and backstaff.   Noting the drawbacks of the various instruments to date, he proposed a new instrument which could reduce the inherent shortcomings and increase the ease and accuracy by which a navigator could obtain a solar sighting.  This is such an example.



detail
back

brace
crook

horizon vane
Large arc

small arc



3-42

3.42    NAVIGATOR’s RULES.   A very nice example of late 19th century rolling parallel rules made by the well-known English maker “J.A. Nicholl & Co.” as impressed in the top of the rule.  This substantial, highly accurate navigational instrument is made of brass with a boxwood body.  It consists of a heavy brass axel connected to knurled rollers on each end.  These move freely allowing the rules to run over the face of a chart parallel to the course line.  To assist the navigator in plotting, knurled brass knobs are provided on each end of the rules.  This precision device is housed in its high quality mahogany box with machine dovetailing and interior felt supports.  Two brass hook and eye closures insure the contents are secure.  The rules measure 18 inches long by 2 ½ inches wide.  Unlike trapezoidal parallel rulers, the extent of this ruler’s travel is endless.  The box measures 19 inches long by 3 ¼ inches wide and 1 7/8 inches thick.  Outstanding original condition in all respects.  249

J. A. Nicholl worked from 1848-1901+.  In 1865 his address was 42 Stanhope Street, London and from 1885 onward it was 153 High Holborn, London WC.  He was known to have made and sold protractors.  (Gloria Clifton, “Dictionary of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550-1851,” 1995, The National maritime Museum, Greenswich).



bottom

box
maker


Order Info



3.38   RARE SURVEYING SEXTANT.  Most important, very high quality marine navigational sextant which also served as an astronomical and hydrographic survey instrument.  This magnificent all brass precision instrument is signed on the large arc “Cary, London 2842 Gold & Platina.”  The large arc is calibrated in single degrees from -5 to 150 degrees divided by 10 arc minutes, effectively making it a quintant.  The scale is beautifully engraved on solid gold overridden by a platinum vernier scale.  The division of the vernier from 0 -10 allows for a reading to an accuracy of 10 arc seconds.  Interestingly the sheet brass frame is very similar to the one invented by Edward Troughton in the 1780’s, in that it is secured to a second frame by screws for rigidity and accuracy. This amazing instrument has many unusual cutting edge features.  The index arm stop and the fine adjust tangent screw are spring loaded, allowing a much smoother reading.  To take the reading there is a small adjustable magnifier built into the index arm, as well as a small frosted glass window mounted just above the magnifier to provide maximum lighting for the reading.  Above the magnifier, mounted to the index arm, is a bubble level which can be locked into place or allowed to swing free indicating the plane of the earth, also known as an artificial horizon.  This sextant is equipped with its full set of 4 colored glass index filers and 3 horizon filters for viewing in different atmospheric conditions.  Both the index and horizon mirrors are in place and functional.  Attesting to Cary’s attention to minute detail, both are equipped with pin-adjusted screws which are covered by threaded knurled caps!  This sextant has an adjustable height eyepiece operated  by a knurled knob on the reverse.  The eyepiece supports a long telescopic sighting tube which fits nicely into the holder with a bayonet twist.  The back side of the sextant frame has 3 brass “feet” and a rosewood handle reinforced with brass.  But there its commonality with other fine sextants is surpassed.  It is mounted, through its handle to an exceptionally heavy and well-machined tripodal stand.  The stand is signed “G. LEE & SON, THE HARD, PORTSMOUTH.”  It is equipped with 3 knurled leveling screws on a folding base mounted with a support much like a library telescope.  At the top is a revolving platform with a tangent locking screw and fine adjust stop.  These are for precisely orientating the instrument to the heavens.  The tilt of the sextant fore and aft is accomplished by 2 pivoting levers attached to the stand.  Each is attached to a brass-encased lead counterweight.   The action is flawless!  The sextant itself measures 10 ¾ inches wide on the large arc and 10 ½ inches on the index arm.  It stands 18 inches high and 10 ¼ inches wide on the base.  Circa 1820.  Absolutely outstanding condition.   As rare as it gets.  Museum quality.  Price Request

The Cary name was highly revered in the late 18th and early 19th century scientific community in England.  William Cary began business as an optician and nautical instrument maker on the Strand, London in 1789.  He partnered with John Cary (I) in 1791.  John Cary (II) was William’s nephew who partnered with George Cary to form the famous globe making firm. William died in 1825.

George Lee was a maker in the early 19th century who enjoyed a Royal appointment as maker to the Crown.



perspective
detail

back
reverse

sextant
maker

stand maker

Order Info



3.30  MINIATURE SEXTANT.   Truly extraordinary, if not completely unique, 2nd quarter 1800’s midshipman’s sextant (aka lifeboat sextant) made by the highly revered early English maker William Cary as beautifully hand-engraved on the large silver arc “Cary, London 968.”   This amazing instrument is actually a semi circumferentor having a scale divided to a full 180 degrees of arc, sub-divided to 20 arc minutes!   This was a spectacular feat of precision engineering at the time, attesting to Cary’s genius.  It was not attempted by any of his contemporaries even on larger more easily calibrated instruments.  This pristine all brass instrument is in its original blackened finish. The tangent fine adjust knob works in consort with the knurled index arm stop. The large scale is overridden by the index arm vernier scale calibrated to provide a reading down to an accuracy of an amazing 20 arc seconds!  This was virtually unheard of for an instrument of its size at the time.  It is a cutting age accomplishment literally akin to the moon exploration more than 125 years later!   The index arm is equipped with an adjustable magnifier to view the reading.  This compact navigational instrument has both index and horizon mirrors and a height adjustable sight holder which accommodates 3 telescopes housed in its box.   Incredibly, 2 index filters and 2 horizon filers are also provided.  On the reverse it has a sculpted solid ebony handle and 3 positioning “feet.”   This diminutive instrument measures  a mere 5 ¼ inches wide on the broad arc and 4 ½ inches long on the index arm.  It is housed in its original rich African mahogany box with very fine hand-dove tailed construction measuring 5 ½ inches square by 3 ¼ inches thick.  It is complete with all three sighting tubes and 2 eye piece filters.  Incredibly the box lock is complete with its original skeleton key!  Within the lid are two original labels.  The first is by “HENRY PORTER Successor to the Late W. CARY.”  The second is a hand-inked label dated 1888 indicating the correction of the index error in June 1888.  This extraordinary presentation is worthy of the finest world class museum.  In fact it must ultimately go to a museum as the trail of its past dictates.  We are all caretakers of our prized possessions, but not owners in perpetuity.  3900

William Cary was a patriarch of the family of instrument makers in England which brought that country to world prominence in the early 1800’s.  Born in 1759, Cary apprenticed to the premier 18th century instrument maker, Jesse Ramsden.  Cary began his own practice in 1789 at 277 The Strand, London.  In 1821 he moved to 181 The Strand where the business flourished thereafter.  In partnership with his brother John, William produced some of the finest and most highly sought after antique globes sold today.  The signature J & W Cary is a mark of excellence in the current marketplace.  William Cary died in 1825.  But his apprentice Henry Porter carried on the firm in his master’s name.  Owing to the quality and execution of the finest details of this superior instrument, it is our opinion that this sextant is indeed by the hand of the master, William Cary, as signed “Cary, London.”  Inasmuch as Porter’s trade label in the lid states “Apprentice and Successor to the Late W. Cary,” surely this instrument dates very close to or prior to Cary’s demise.

Such miniature sextants were popular as functional but very expensive novelties during the second quarter of the 19th C.  Many were awarded as prizes for superior performance by their recipients in navigational academies of the time.  Other well known makers such as Troughton & Simms produced a nominal amount of such quality instruments at the time.  (See item 3.92) 



box
in box

contents
back

label
signature

Order Info



3.18  AZIMUTH INSTRUMENT.  Genuine, highest quality ship’s navigational instrument made by the esteemed American makers, “NEGUS NEW YORK” as stamped on the bed plate and again on the maker’s tag on the box.  This precision instrument is all brass with a blackened finish.  It has an optical quality glass prism which rotates via two knurled brass knobs.  Designed to be set atop the ship’s main steering compass in a binnacle, it has a magnifier set in a tube below the prism to enhance the current compass reading while at the same time providing an image of the sun or celestial body.  Two pivoting sun shades are provided for looking at the former.  A removable “line-of-sight” pole is provided, as is a bubble level for assuring totally accurate level readings.  This instrument fits the top of a standard size 8 inch Navy magnetic compass.  It measures 9 ¼ inches long by 3 3/8 inches wide and 8 ¾ inches high with the removable vertical post.  Absolutely mint, untouched, original factory condition in its original dove-tailed wooden box with brass hardware measuring 10 1/4 by 7 ½ inches by 5 ½ inches thick. 199

Primarily used to determine LAN (Local Apparent Noon) the azimuth instrument is an effective tool for determining the ship’s latitude by measuring the sun’s altitude at the exact time of meridian passage.

The Negus firm first appeared in the New York City directories at 84 Wall Street in 1850.  Thomas Stewart was trained as a chronometer maker in England and began working with his brother, John David in 1848, first under the name of Thos. S. Negus & Co.   During the Civil War the firm moved to 100 Wall Street and the name changed to T.S. & J.D. Negus.  The business of chronometer and navigational instrument making continued to grow, causing them to move to 69 Pearl Street in 1875.   From the Civil War onward, Negus enjoyed the patronage of the U.S. Navy as the suppliers of chronometers and other navigational equipment.   By the early 1900’s T.S. & J.D. Negus had established themselves as the leading nautical instrument makers and chandler in the United States.  In 1962 the firm was purchased by Max Low & Co.  Low found success in providing the government with navigational instruments, clocks and deck watches during World War II.  Max Low’s son, Charles, continued the business in New York through the 1980’s when the firm was finally dissolved.



box
open

instrument
detail

mirror & bubble
maker

Order Info



3.03 EARLY AMERICAN NAUTICAL COMPASS. Really exceptional maritime compass of unusally small size produced by the short-lived American scientific and nautical instrument making firm of “FRYE & SHAW * NEW YORK*” as hand-engraved around the pivot of the compass card. This high quality functional ship’s compass has a paper over mica drycard compass rose marked in single points of the compass with the cardinal and sub-cardinal pointes identified. North is designated by a classic fleur-de-lis. The brass pivot is of conical form reminiscent of compasses dating back to the 17th century! Also in keeping with tradition, the East point is embellished with yet another fleur-de-lis. The card is housed in the weighted brass bowl slung in gimbals mounted in its heavy brass cylindrical housing complete with the original press-fit knurled brass lid. The compass is very lively, accurate, and gimbals properly. The presentation measures 3 5/8 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick with the lid. Condition is absolutely outstanding and original, in all respects. Totally original. This is a sweetheart of an offering, worthy of any museum. Not esspcially cheap, but offered here before inflation. Worth every penny. Try to find another! 888

Adington D. Frye and Robert Ludlow Shaw formed a partnership which was listed in the New York City Directories as mathematical instrument makers at 222 Water Street in 1837 and 1838. The New York State Directory lists the firm in operation from 1840-1845. (Charles E. Smart, “The Makers of Surveying Instruments in America Since 1700,” 1962, Regal Art Press, Troy, NY).

The decorated east point on the compass rose found its beginnings in the early Crusades as warriors battled their way East in search of the Cross. Early compasses were embellished with a cross on the east point reminding Crusaders of their goal. As time went on the cross gave way to a more secular embellishment, but the tradition of a “decorated” east point continued for centuries, finally falling out of favor with compass makers in the early 1800’s.



closed
with lid

gimbaled
card

Order Info



3.92  RARE HISTORIC MINIATURE SEXTANT.   Truly extraordinary, mid-1800s presentation sextant made by one of England’s most elite makers!  This delightful little instrument is signed on the large arc in perfect hand-engraved script, Troughton & Simms, London.”  Of all brass construction with a V-shaped frame, the sextant has an inlaid silver arc reading from -5 to 160 degrees, effectively making it a quintant.  Incredibly, these divisions along with the vernier scale on the index arm, allow this sextant to match the accuracy of it larger cousins, down to 20 arc seconds!  A pivoting magnifier is provided for taking the reading.  The index arm has a miniaturized version of a thumb screw stop and tangential fine adjust.  The sextant is complete with its 2 horizon filters and 2 index filters in perfect condition.  The index mirror and horizon mirror are in beautiful condition.  The whole presentation is totally complete in its shaped rich mahogany box.  The octagonal ebony handle screws into the frame with a secure fit.  There are two optics, a peep and a telescope which fit into the height-adjustable sight holder.  Rounding out the accessories, there are both sight tube filters, mirror adjustment tool, and the functional skeleton key for the brass lock.  Of monumental importance for its value and appeal is the beautifully-hand-engraved  presentation on sterling silver inlaid into the top of the box.  It reads, Presented at the Public Examination on the 13th of June 1851 to Gentleman Cadet, Henry Goodwyn by the Honble Court of Directors of the East India Company, as a mark of the Courts approbation of his attainments in Mathematics while at the Military Seminary.”  The overall presentation is nothing short of phenomenal for an instrument 166 years old!  Totally complete and virtually in the same condition when it was made.   All surfaces are in their original bright brass lacquer finish.  This is a nautical gem of the highest order, if ever there was one!  Most certainly worthy of the finest world class collection and/or museum.  5350

The East India Company, also known as the Honourable East India Company or the British East India Company was formed to pursue trade with the "East Indies" (present-day Southeast Asia), but ended up trading mainly with Qing China and controling the Indian subcontinent.

Originally chartered as the "Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies", the Company accounted for half of the world's trade  in basic commodities such as cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, saltpeter (for gun powder), tea, and opium. The Company was also instrumental in the founding of the British Empire in India.

The Company received a Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth I on December 31, 1600, making it the oldest among several similarly formed European East India Companies. Wealthy merchants and aristocrats owned the Company's shares, but the government owned no shares and had only indirect control.

During its first century of its operation, the Company's focus was on trade, not the building an empire in India. But early in the 18th century when the Mughal Empire began to decline, Company interests turned from trade to territory as the East India Company competed with its counterpart, the French East India Company.
By 1803, at the height of its rule in India, the Company had a private army of about 260,000, twice the size of the British Army! The Company eventually came to rule large areas of India with its private armies, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions.  Company rule in India effectively began in 1757 and lasted until 1858. But following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the resulting Government of India Act 1858 led the British Crown to assume direct control of the Indian subcontinent in the form of the new British Raj.

Despite frequent governmental intervention, the Company's on-going financial problems finally led to its dissolution in 1874.



perspective
in box

contents
in back

sextant
vernier

presentation
makers

Order Info