Cast bronze, German, 19th century.

Chess is the oldest and most universal of war games. European chess is directly descended from an Indian game, played in the 7th century, and forms of chess are also played in China and other parts of Asia. It was popular across Europe from the Middle Ages, a civilized and leisured pastime that has a huge literature. The varied and colourful pieces of the chess-set have always stimulated the imagination of writers, as in Alice Through the Looking Glass, or, right up to date, in the first of the Harry Potter books.

Chessmen come in a bewildering variety of materials and forms. Ivory was the preferred substance from which chessmen were carved, but bone, rock-crystal, jasper, amber, ebony and other hard woods were also used. Some chessmen are represented as human figures, the kings and queens crowned and the knights mounted on horseback, while the pawns are foot-soldiers.

Conventional chessmen, however, were made more simply, in formalized shapes to indicate the piece represented. The king, in medieval sets, was shaped like a throne, the knight as a cylinder, the pawn like a thimble. These simple, chunky forms gradually became more stylized and elegant, and could be exquisite examples of the carver’s art.

Our striking and dramatic set pits Roman soldiers against Germanic tribesmen, and is made from cast bronze, one side gilded, the other blackened. Such “historical” chessmen were popular in the 1860s, and the tribesmen pawns with their spiked clubs and round helmets are typical of the period. This set is particularly finely finished, with lofty, flagged castles, knights on rearing horses, and the Romans resplendent in crested helmets, with drawn swords.

Three Early 18th-Century Simple Microscopes

The simple microscope uses a single lens, as opposed to the compound instrument, which employs three or more lenses in line. The variations in simple microscopes depend on how the lens is mounted, and how focus is achieved. A popular type of simple instrument throughout the 18th century was known as the compass microscope, with two arms hinged above the handle, one holding the lens, the other the rod and forceps supporting the specimen.

At the very end of the 17th century, a Dutchman, Nicolaas Hartsoeker, invented another design, known as the screw-barrel, and this was introduced into England by James Wilson, continuing to bear his name. The screw-barrel consists of a wide-threaded cylinder which is screwed in or out of the main barrel to focus slides held between brass plates. The barrel can either be held to the eye with a handle, or mounted on a stand. Both these instruments were generally used to examine botanical and other commonly found specimens, and these could be either transparent or opaque.

The viewing of opaque objects was greatly improved by the invention of a German anatomist, a cup-shaped silver mirror to fit round the lens, providing proper illumination from the eye side. These are to be found with nearly all 18th century simple microscope kits, and are known as lieberkuhns, after their inventor.

A botanic microscope of the compass type with a wooden case (5 x 31/2 ins.) covered with black fishskin, and lined with green velvet. The handle is ebony and there are three lenses, all with lieberkuhns. The rod has stage forceps at one end and at the other a pair of grippers to hold a phial (pictured in the case) for aquatic specimens. A brass rod with twisted end is provided to clean the phial. Also present are tweezers to hold specimens, a black/white disk, and a small live box, intended to hold insects. It is rare to find such kits complete with all their accessories.
A Wilson-type screw-barrel microscope, signed: E Culpeper Londini, in a fishskin-covered case. Edmund Culpeper (c.1666-1738) was a leading London instrument maker, well-known for his screw-barrel microscopes, and for the innovation of providing these simple instruments with folding stands, and an additional tube with an eye lens, to convert them to compound microscopes. This example of a Culpeper ivory screw-barrel is complete with four numbered lenses with protective covers, and a paper-covered box to hold ivory slides. Also provided are a brass slide for aquatic specimens, a talc box to hold brass split rings and mica disks for the slides, a brass and ivory attachment to enable larger specimens to be viewed at a greater distance, and stage forceps with the typical Culpeper rectangular brass plate, bearing floral decoration and the initials EC
This simple/compound microscope is unsigned, but of the Culpeper type described above.  A brass tripod stand with folding feet holds, by a ball joint, a brass screw-barrel microscope with a blackened ivory compound attachment (total height 10 3/4 ins.). At the side of the stand is an articulated arm, also typical of Culpeper, holding a bull’s eye lens. There are five brass-mounted lenses, a talc box with brass spring clips, a fishskin-covered box of ivory slides, a brass wet cell, tweezers, glass phials, and stage forceps with a black/white disk at the other end, and the typical rectangular central portion. Finally, there are the wooden handle for holding the simple microscope, and a brass extension to allow more distance for viewing, as above. The case is typically covered in black fishskin.

Case of Miniature Silver Cutlery
Early 18th century

The appeal of the miniature is universal and irresistible. It is certainly not only children who love a dolls’ house, and collectors abound of tiny silver objects, books smaller than matchboxes, and model soldiers in the uniforms of every war that has ever been fought.

The Dutch have always been the most important producers of miniature silverware, and they have given names to the different categories in the field. The particular term for this superb cutlery set is poppengoed, meaning doll’s ware. These items were of a size to be used by little girls playing at being mistress of the house. The penny coin in our photograph shows that the knives, forks and spoons are just right for a small child’s hand.

The quality of the set and its design place it firmly in the early part of the 18th century, and it may well be Dutch. The shaped and fitted case is covered in fishskin, the material often used for microscope boxes of the period, and lined with velvet.

The braidedging is a Continental rather than an English feature. The silver lock eschutcheon and carrying handles are particularly fine details. The shape of the knife handles, and the three-pronged forks also point to an early date.









Horary Quadrant Ivory, late 17th century, signed: J B Londini fecit. Diameter 5 ins.

This complex and delicately engraved instrument is the work of the instrument maker, John Brown, who flourished in the second half of the 17th century, and had his shop at the sign of the Sphere & Sundial, in The Minories, London. He was Master of the Clockmakers’ Company in 1681, and was an author as well as a successful tradesman.

On the side of the instrument that carries the signature is a 60 degree arc of a Gunter quadrant, together with a table of six stars, named in Latin, with English details, giving their Right Ascension and Declination. With a plumb-line, the Gunter scale is used to measure solar altitudes, and thus find the time.

On the reverse, around the middle, is a folded calendar scale, starting at the Vernal Equinox on 10 March, and proceeding first anti-clockwise to the Summer Solstice, and then clockwise to the Autumnal Equinox on 13 September, and so on to complete the year. Around the edge are six concentric scales giving the following information: sunrise; declination; place in the Zodiac; the longest day; Right Ascension; degree scale. Each scale, except the last, is identified, the Sun designated by a circle with a dot in the middle. Pivotted at the centre is an ivory rule that spans the scales and connects the information for each day of the year.

This instrument is a compendium of the detailed calendrical information that was considered essential for a civilized person in the 17th century, rather as a diary is today.


18th Century Shop Sign Painted Wood Model of a Naval Officer.

Dickens, in Dombey and Son describes them perfectly: “little timber midshipmen in obsolete naval uniforms, eternally employed outside the shop doors of nautical instrument makers in taking observations of the hackney coaches”. In Dickens’s day, this type of shop sign had already been around for some considerable time.

The earliest shop signs were painted boards, conveying the nature of the business without use of the written word. By the end of the 18th century, however, projecting signs were becoming a hazard in London streets, and were being prohibited by law. It was at this time that the wooden model figure became a popular substitute, first in England and then in the United States.

Our naval officer, in his epauletted coat and cocked hat, holding his sextant ready for use, is a particularly good example. The face is full of character, the hands well modelled, and no detail is omitted - notice the fob watch hanging below his coat. Standing about 26 inches high, this figure, rich in historical associations, would make an unusual impact in a hall or study.

Set of 8 Wooden Brackets Portraying Ships’ Sterncastles.

If you are looking for something really unusual to decorate a study or office wall,
how about this group of model sterncastles, maximum height 9 ins.. Nothing could more immediately evoke the appeal of the great three-masted sailing ships than these colourful painted brackets, showing the splendid, wide windows of the state cabin.

Anyone who has visited the Victory at Greenwich, or any other 18th century ship open to the public, will be aware that the ship’s stern was the part most decorated, both outside, and in the interior, where the most spacious accommodation was provided.

It is difficult to know where and when these rare brackets originated; probably they were commissioned for some nautical setting, perhaps a shipping office or even a waterside inn. They are likely to date from the late 19th century, and are probably Dutch. From their form, they may well have been used to display examples of blue and white china.

Ophthamotrope Mid-19th century, to the design of Hermann Knapp.

This remarkable instrument was the invention of a pioneer of physiological optics. Hermann Knapp was born in what was then Prussia in 1832, and studied medicine at Giessen University. He then found his specialism in ophthalmology, and became professor of the subject at Heidelberg. In 1868 he moved to New York, where he lived until his death in 1911. He founded the New York Ophthalmic and Aural Institute, and successively held a professorship in two leading medical colleges.

This instrument, 10 inches high, has a pillar stand of brass with a horizontal bar at the top from which three brass rods project. An earlier version, of which there are surviving examples in museums, was made with a wooden framework. The two outer rods hold the eyeballs, made from painted wood, and the central bar holds the mechanism for the oblique muscles. The eyballs are held in place by strings which represent the eye muscles, kept taut by brass weights. The eyeballs are free to rotate in all directions. The degree of shortening or lengthening of the muscles is recorded on a millimetre scale at the back of the horizontal bar.

Knapp’s ophthalmotrope was an simple version of the teaching device, which later incorporated lenses mounted on the eyeballs. The second half of the 19th century was a period when much fundamental research was carried out in the field of optics, and the complex operation of the eye was at last fully understood.

This instrument, in excellent condition, would be a rare and important acquisition for any collector of medical apparatus.

18th Century Glass Stethoscope

No, it’s not an angel trumpet, but a superb medical instrument! The survival of this rare stethoscope (173/4 ins high) for over two hundred years is remarkable enough, but it is also an interesting example of medical history.

The technique of auscultation, that is, listening to the body, usually the heart or lungs, to detect irregularities, is an old one. Many different types of stethoscope were devised and made, some, as in this case, with the intention of keeping a safe distance between the patient and the doctor, avoiding contagion.

This splendid example of the glass-blower’s art was also easy to keep sterile.


BOOK list

The Gallery Offers an exclusive list of books on historic scientific instruments, some out of print (marked with an asterisk) and therefore difficult to obtain, others hot off the press. Below is a selection of the titles available.

Collecting Microscopes by G. L’E. Turner* £50.00
Directory of British
Scientific Instrument Makers
by G. Clifton £65.00
The Divided Circle by J. A. Bennett* £125.00
Drawing Instruments by Maya Hambly* £120.00
Elizabethan Instrument Makers by Gerard L’E Turner £79.50
English Barometers
by Nicholas Goodison £45.00
The Geometry of War by Jim Bennett & Stephen Johnston £20.00
Globes of the
Western World
by Elly Dekker & Peter van der Krogt* £65.00
Globi Neerlandici by Peter van der Krogt £400.00
Globes at Greenwich by Elly Dekker £110.00
The Great Age of the Microscope by G. L’E. Turner £75.00
Ivory Sundials of Nuremberg by Penelope Gouk* £25.00
The Illustrated Longitude by Dava Sobel & William J. H. Andrewes £25.00
Marine and Pocket Chronometers by H. Von Bertele £100.00
Mathematical Instruments in Antiquity and the Middle Ages by A. J. Turner £55.00
Measure of Time Trevor Philip & Sons 25th Anniversary Catalogue £10.00
Mémoire de Sabliers by J. Attali £65.00
Nautical Antiques by R.W. D. Ball £35.00
Public and Private Science
(George III collection)
by A. Morton & J. Wess* £125.00
The Quest for Longitude edited by William J. H. Andrewes £55.00
The Universe Unveiled by B Stephenson, M Bolt & A F Friedman £55.00
Scientific Instruments 1500-2900 by G. L’E. Turner £25.00
Sphaera Mundi by Edward H. Dahl & Jean-Francois Gauvin £50.00
Sundials: An Illustrated History of Portable Dials by Hester Higton £40.00
Sundials at Greenwich edited by Hester Higton 99.50
Western Astrolabes
(Adler Planetarium, Chicago)
by R.& M. Webster £65.00


Issue 8.
© Trevor Philip and Sons

Trevor Philip & Sons Ltd 75a Jermyn Street St James's London SW1Y 6NP England