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Former Display Label - The Orrery Collection of Scientific Instruments


In this case are shown nearly all the scientific instruments bequeathed to Christ Church by Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery and 1st Baron Marston (1676-1731; together with a few others acquired later by the College, probably in the time of the Rev. Dr. John Fanshawe, Regius Professor of Greek, and of Divinity, Canon of Christ Church, during the second quarter of the eighteenth century.

The 4th Earl of Orrery was a scientific amateur, and the great-nephew of the Hon. Robert Boyle (1627-1691), the chemist and physicist. The Orrery Collection is one of the few early collections of scientific instruments which have survived undispersed. The earliest dated instrument in the collection was made in 1658, and most of the instruments were probably bought between 1690 and 1710. The Earl died in August 1731, leaving his instruments and books, but not the original orrery (which was made for him), to Christ Church.

Shown here is a negative photostat of the "...Inventory of the Mathematical Instrumts. in the Library of the Rt Honble. ye Earl of Orrery Deceast" which was made "... by Tho Wright Mathematicall Instrumt. Maker Sept 17th 1731". The original is a fair copy and not in Wright's hand, but at the end are two lines in a different hand, that is probably Wright's. The inventory was addressed to Dr. Fanshawe, who received the Collection and conducted correspondence thereon on behalf of Christ Church.
[The Orrery Collection numbers given on the labels of instruments shown in this case, refer to the order of the instruments in Wright's catalogue, as numbered by R. T. Gunther, Early Science in Oxford, I, 380-2.]

The instruments are some of the finest examples of their kind, and were made by the best contemporary craftsmen, such as John Marshall, John Rowley, Henry Sutton, James Wilson and John Worgan. (For notes on these makers, and on Thomas Wright, see separate notes.)

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