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Drawing Instruments
Signed by Bartholomew Newsum
circa 1570; London
Gilt brass; 198 x74 x 74 mm

The box is finely engraved and decorated, and stands on four cherub head feet. The four sides of the box are decorated with female figures and on all sides are profiles of columns in relief.

The front figure is inscribed 'Pax orbi exoptatissima', Peace, represented by a woman opening a vase, and a dove with an olive branch. On this side has the closing catch, housed under a cross-shaped cover decorated with foliage.

The right side of the box is engraved with a depiction of Abundance, a female figure holding a branch, with the inscription 'Abundantia Pacis filia'. The rear of the box is engraved with War, 'Bellum fax mundi', represented as a woman with armour, helmet and feather. The left side of the box is engraved with Poverty, 'Pauperies Belli filia'. All the inscriptions are written on scrolls.

The lid of the box is decorated with vases and flowers on the sides and with a crowned lion-passant guardant with foliate scrolls on the sides. The inside of the lid is decorated with foliage around a central flower.

On the bottom of the case is the signature 'Barthelemewe Newsum' in a cartouche.

The interior of the box is filled with a two-piece wooden block, the top of which has shaped holes cut to accommodate the various instruments. The top block is covered by a brass plate also slotted for the instruments.

The drawing instruments are all decorated and engraved with similar geometrical and foliate motifs. Nineteen instruments survive and five are missing. The instruments are: 1) A folding square, with a scale of inches divided alternatively to 8 and 4, numbered 1 to 11 on one side, and on the other a scale of inches divided sequentially to 1/2, 1/4, 1/6, until 1/22, numbered from 2 to 22 by two. The ends are heart-shaped. 2) A pair of scissors. 3) Proportional dividers, ratio 3:1. 4) Square scribers, 4 in. long, steel-pointed. 5) Dividers, 3 in. long. 6) Scribers, 2 in. 7/8, steel-pointed. 7) Beam-compass, 7 in., with a scale of inches divided to the half inch and numbered 1 to 6. The top is separated. 8) Sharpening stone. 9) Pencil holder. 10) Compasses, 5 in. with pen-nib. 11) Pen with fixed nib. 12) Dividers, 6 in. 13) Pricker. 14)Dividers, 2 in. 15) Knife. 16) Dividers, 11/2 in. 17) Drawing pen. 18) Folding rule, divided sequentially to 1/2 inch, to 1/4, until 1/12, numbered form 1 to 12. The other side is divided similarly to 1/24, and is numbered from 2 to 24. Half of the rule is decorated with geometrical motives, and the ends are heart-shaped. 19) Knife. Numbers 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, have urn-shaped tops. Numbers 5, 6, 10, 12, 14, 16 have bulbous tops.

The instrument was bequeathed by Max Rosenheim in 1912 and is described in F. A. B. Ward, A Catalogue of European Scientific Instruments in the Department of Medieval and Later Antiquities of the British Museum (London, 1981), p. 86, no. 239.

Ilaria Meliconi

British Museum, London
Registration no. MLA 1912, 2-8.1

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