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Gifts to the Museum

Autumn, 1996

The Museum has recently received two
generous donations to its collections. Harriet Wynter has presented
a modern edition of Napier’s Bones and John Millburn a rare piece
of ephemera.

The set of Napier’s Bones is produced
in a traditional format with punched numerals on boxwood rods
in a decorated walnut slip-case. The ten calculating rods are
provided with a tabulat and fixed multiplier rod and there is
also a square and cube-root block. The set can be used to learn
a popular calculating technique of the seventeenth century –
essentially multiplication and division for those who had not
learned multiplication tables but were able to do addition and

The piece of ephemera is an uncut sheet,
folded twice to make an eight-page pamphlet, containing details
of a printed syllabus for ‘A COURSE OF SIX
LECTURES in the Newtonian Experimental
PHILOSOPHY’ by Benjamin

So far as is known this is a unique
copy, dated by Millburn to c.1748. The lectures in question
were to be given at Martin’s house ‘in Orange-Court, Bath’, and
subscribers would be entertained with various instruments, including
the solar microscope, the air-pump and the orrery.

The course, Martin assured his customers, ‘is particularly
calculated for such Gentlemen and Ladies as would chuse to be
acquainted with the more rational and sublimer Parts of Knowledge
in the shortest Way, and with the least Expence’. The subscription was two shillings per lecture or half a guinea (ten shillings
and sixpence) for the complete course.