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Historical Auction Catalogues

The Museum has a number of 18th-century auction catalogues of scientific instruments. For example, there is an annotated copy of the sale catalogue of Benjamin Martin’s stock in trade after his death in 1782.

Dr Peter de Clercq has examined and transcribed from a series of photocopies of 18th-century auction catalogues in the library’s collection. For a discussion of these documents, see his two-part paper ‘Private Instrument Collections Sold at Auction in London in the Late 18th Century’, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, 95 (2007), 28-36 (Professional Practitioners and Gentlemen-Collectors), and 100 (2009), 27-35 (Instrument Makers and Watchmakers).

His transcriptions are available here as a 71 page pdf document.

There are transcriptions from 14 sale catalogues, arranged in chronological order:

James Short, instrument maker, 1769
John Urings, instrument maker, 1773
William Ludlam, mathematical practitioner, 1788
William Russell, amateur astronomer, 1790
Edward Ellicott, watchmaker, 1791
Henry Pyefinch, instrument maker, 1791
Nicholas Meredith, instrument maker, 1793
John Smeaton, civil engineer, 1793
“A Gentleman”, 1793
Samuel Dunn, mathematician, 1794
William Boyse, surgeon, 1794
“Two Scientific and Mechanical Gentlemen”, 1794
John Field, instrument maker, 1795
Hurter and Haas, instrument makers, 1795

Scanned images of the auction covers can be seen below.
Click on a caption to view a fullsize image. Note that only the covers are available as images; the full texts are available as transcriptions in the pdf document.