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Flemish Instruments

Spring, 1998

SINCE the Museum’s exhibition of 1995, ‘The Measurers: a Flemish Image of Mathematics in the Sixteenth Century’, interest in Flemish instruments has been on the increase. An ambitious exhibition entitled ‘Scientific Instruments of the Sixteenth Century: the Spanish Court and the School of Louvain’ has recently closed in Madrid. In the galleries of the Fundación Carlos de Amberes, a magnificent collection of over seventy pieces from museums and private collections all over the world was assembled, including seven instruments from the Museum of the History of Science.

The Museum has subsequently been invited to participate in two further exhibitions on sixteenth-century Flemish themes. One will open in the Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire in Brussels in September, under the title ‘Albert and Isabella: a European Court at Brussels’, and will include mathematical instruments placed within a reconstruction of the archducal collection.

The second exhibition will open the following month in the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp. Here the theme will be the Coignet family of instrument makers and engravers, among whom Gilles Coignet and Michel Coignet are represented in the collection at Oxford, by a geographical astrolabe and nocturnal respectively, which can still be seen in the on-line version of The Measurers.