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Loan to Grinling Gibbons Exhibition

Autumn, 1998

AN important exhibition on the work of the celebrated seventeenth-century wood-carver Grinling Gibbons has opened at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and contains a set of drawing instruments loaned by the Museum of the History of Science.

The instruments, illustrated above, have been preserved in the two compartments of an original folding wooden case, each with a sliding cover. Partly for this reason they are in outstandingly good condition. Within the extensive set, there are two particularly notable instruments. One is a pair of fixed ratio 2 to 1 proportional dividers that could be used in the manner of the single-handed dividers recommended for seamen. The other is a spectacular pair of dividers with a graduated quadrant arc indicating the opening between the points, which can be fitted either with straight or with extravagantly curved legs. The curved legs are for taking external dimensions and would have been used on spherical objects, such as a globe, or possibly some other form of curved object being measured for sculpting or carving.

The instruments are English and date from the seventeenth century. Their rarity is illustrated by the difficulty experienced by the exhibition organizers in finding an appropriate set to display. The exhibition continues until the 24th January, 1999.