Unusual Belgian Instrument Click on any image for a larger view.

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COMPLEX SURVEYING SIGHT, Belgian, early 20th century, beautifully signed "J.B. Tibaut-Desimpelaere, Bruxelles," also signed and serial numbered (191) in the mahogany case. Made of brass, 4-1/4" (11 cm) long, the handheld device has multiple windows, internal mirrors, and ports giving views as marked, at 45°, 90°, and 180°. Condition is excellent, with its fine golden lacquer finish. The makers were "Opticiens, constructeurs d'instruments de précision;" we have located two trade catalogues from them, dated 1910 and 1922. (9186) $295.


Classic French "Air-Level", c. 1700 Click on any image for a larger view.

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EARLY FRENCH SIGHTING LEVEL, c. 1700, signed "Macquart à Paris." This handsome brass level has mainplate 14-1/4" (36 cm) long, mounted with twin sight vanes each with pierced crucifix sights plus pinhole sight plus swing-away shutter restricting use to the central hole. A central leveling tube is a full 9-3/8" (24 cm) long, fitted with liquid-filled clear glass vial. The complex mount below has clampable ball-and-socket adjustable a full ±90° from horizontal, and staff mount tube with clamp screw. A spring plate joints the mainplate to the ball joint, and permits vertical tilt fine motion by thumbscrew. Condition is very fine throughout. There are decorative shapings everywhere, from the windows of the level vial to the outline of the spring plate to the three-dimensional shape of the staff mount to the form of the clampscrew. The result is a remarkably handsome instrument.

This is a fine example of a classic French leveling system, illustrated and described in detail by Bion, who terms it an "Air-Level" due to its use of an air bubble in the glass vial, and to differentiate it from the "Water-Level" and the "Plumb-Level." The maker was Henri Macquart, working c. 1660 to 1720, known for the high quality of his instruments. He had studied with Pierre Sevin, and was named "Ingénieur du Roi" in 1691. (9206) $3950.


Vertical and Horizontal Angle Measure in Holland Click on any image for a larger view.

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A FINE DUTCH HOLLAND CIRCLE, 1757, signed in flowing script "J. v. Wyk, Amsterd., 1759." The 11-1/2" (29 cm) brass main plate is boldly divided with a circumferential degree scale, and set with four fixed sight vanes spaced 90° apart, and with a fine suspension mount for vertical use. A rotating alidade has two tall (3-3/4") sight vanes, twin verniers reading to five arcminutes, and a compass engraved with degree scale and splendid rose marked with Dutch directionals. Main plate and alidade are both pierced with lovely arcuate shaping. Each vane has both slit and pointer sights, in alternating order, designed for fore and back sighting. There is no longer any mounting bracket below, but four large screw heads could function as feet, for use on a plane table. Otherwise condition is fine, noting some darkening to the brass.

Here is a true Holland circle, designed to measure both vertical and horizontal angles and angular differences. Kiely finds the form described as early as 1612 (by Jan Dou). The present example was made by Jan (or his brother Jacobus) van Wyk (also Wijk), recorded by Rooseboom and by the Websters as maker of octants and surveying instruments, flourishing c. 1759 - 1785. The Boerhaave, and the Utrecht University Museum, each has examples of physics demonstration apparatus by van Wyk. And Mörzer Bruyns, in his 2003 thesis on the octant, records seven surviving van Wyk octants (and see Tesseract Catalogue 29 Item 32). (8260) $12,500.


Fine Swiss Pocket Barometer Click on any image for a larger view.

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GOLDSCHMID-FORM POCKET BAROMETER, Swiss, late 19th century, signed "Th. Usteri-Reinacher, Zurich, N. 1856." This beautifully constructed aneroid barometer is contained in a shaped pebbled-leather covered doubly-hinged case, and consists of a 1-7/8" (19 mm) diameter lacquered brass drum with twin index arms reading against a 400 - 800 scale, readout magnifier, and rotating top with inset circular thermometer and silvered cylindrical scale divided every half unit from 0 to 50. Condition is fine throughout.

Invented by the instrument maker J. Goldschmid c. 1857, the device consists of a totally unconstrained evacuated chamber bearing only against a tension spring which extends to the readout window, with a second spring alignable by rotation of the calibrated disk above. The long thermometer permits temperature corrections. According to Middleton (The History of the Barometer, pp. 418 - 420) "It was a remarkable first attempt at a null instrument of this sort...." (8280) $1350.


Nuremberg Work by Böhmländer Click on any image for a larger view.

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HAND-HELD COMPASS, German for the English market, c. 1800, signed "Neues Polar S..el im Freien von Joh. Konrad Böhmländer Mechaniker in Nürnberg." The fine turned wood cell is 4" (10 cm) in diameter, set on one side with a colored print of children at play, and on the other with a floral print with German directionals, surrounding the glazed compass with its colored 32-point rose, directionals printed in English, and magnetic declination of 18° West. Condition is good, the wood considerably shrunk with age, and the varnished paper crinkling. Little is known of Böhmländer, but the piece reminds us of other late 18th century Nuremberg work, e.g., the pillar sundial compendium of W. Burucker (Tesseract Catalogue F Item 29). (8290) $950.


Instantaneous Triangulation in the Field Click on any image for a larger view.

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STEWARD'S TWO-OBSERVER TELEMETER OUTFIT, English, early 20th century, signed "The 'Steward' Patent Telemeter, J.H. Steward, 406 Strand, London, No. 70." This complete outfit comprises two 2-3/8" (6 cm) long brass sighting cylinders, a brass reel wound with a long cord, two sighting targets, and the original fitted leather carrying case with shoulder strap. One cylinder is labeled "Optical Square," and incorporates a fixed mirror, peephole, viewing port, three finger grips, and target and cord attachment points. Held to the eye it gives side-by-side views straight ahead and at 90° to one side. The other cylinder is similar but the mirror angle is adjustable by finger wheel and by calibrated thumb wheel, and there is a rotatable sector diaphragm. Condition is fine noting some scraping to the black and white enamel on the targets.

In a 1908 revision of Beazeley, we find a basic description, and comment: "This is an exceedingly clever little instrument invented by Labbez, and is designed to give, without any calculation whatever, the distance of objects from 250 to 3000 yards." With the optical square and the cord, one can establish the baseline as the short side of a narrow right triangle having a distant target at the apex. A second observer can simultaneously use the other device to sight the first observer and the target, adjusting the mirror angle for the deviation from 90°, and read the range on the scale. It provides rapid instantaneous triangulation in the field. (9295) $1450.



A Significant Plumb Bob Click on any image for a larger view.

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ATTRACTIVE BRASS PLUMB BOB, English or Continental, 18th/19th century, the decoratively turned brass bob measuring 4-3/8" (11 cm) tall. The top unscrews for accurate placement of the suspension cord. The overall shape is very attractive, and a number of turned rings (both concave and convex) are milled for effect. In fine condition. (9226) $295.


Fine Four-Vane Surveying Instrument Click on any image for a larger view.

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FINE FOUR-VANE SURVEYING CIRCLE, English, c. 1800, signed "W. & S. Jones, Holborn, London." This substantial brass circle is 9-3/4" (25 cm) in diameter, with its six-spoked design and outer degree scale divided 0° - 360°. It is set with staff mount below and rotating alidade above, the alidade with canted five-arcminute vernier and glazed compass with silvered dial face, circumferential 0° - 360° degree scale, and shaped needle. The compass face is engraved with an eight-point rose, the principal directionals with exuberant foliate decor and a fine fleur-de-lys. Two tall sight vanes dovetail in place on the underside of the main plate; two short ones dovetail atop the ends of the alidade. The four vanes, which have string and slit sights, thus all reach the same height. The outfit stows in its original lovely oak case. Condition is fine throughout, noting a few stains, and no ball-joint fitting.

Brothers William and Samuel Jones were in partnership as optical, mathematical, and philosophical instrument makers, in Holborn, from 1791. According to Clifton, William died in 1831, Samuel 1859. They constructed all manner of fine instruments, including some spectacular physics demonstration apparatus once part of the famous Bancker collection. The present instrument is a fine example of their work. It permitted the land surveyor to take accurate bearings on two landmarks simultaneously, to survey lands, to perform triangulations, etc. In addition it is a beautiful instrument with its highly refined compass decoration. (9233) $3950. (ON HOLD DURING MUSEUM EXHIBITION)


Testimony to the French Revolution Click on any image for a larger view.

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SURVEYING GRAPHOMETER INCORPORATING THE MAKER'S INITIAL, French, c. 1780, signed "Lennel à La Sphere a Paris." This substantial brass graphometer is 9-5/8" (24 cm) wide, with the traditional two fixed sight vanes, two sight vanes on rotating alidade, semicircular degree scale (divided every degree and numbered in both directions), pair of verniers on the alidade (reading to five-arcminutes), inset silvered compass (with lozenge needle, needle lifter, 16-point rose, and degree scale), and staff mount (with universal ball joint using split clamp and fine butterfly thumb screw). It is decorated with floral patterns and, most impressively, with twin pierced L-shapes as compass supporters. The North point of the compass had had an engraved fleur-de-lys, but this is crudely effaced. Overall condition of the instrument is fine, noting light stains and the compass lifter screw worn. The brass is cleaned but not polished.

This is a standard form of French surveying instrument, capable of measuring angles in any plane, even vertical. For horizontal use one finds, additionally, angles from magnetic north. But this example has two special features. It is one of the few where the decorative supporters proudly and elegantly announce the maker; the only other such letters we have seen are "C" (Canivet), "F" (Ferat), and "G" (Gourdin). We have had one other "L" graphometer, that dated 1775 and constructed without a compass (Tesseract Catalogue 20 Item 40).

Secondly, we have here evidence of the unpopularity and danger of displaying symbols of Royalty (the fleur-de-lys) during the Revolution. This people's revolt began in 1789, ending with the execution of King Louis XVI in 1792, and the Reign of Terror 1793 - 1794. It was much better to efface the symbol than be arrested.

Louis Pierre Florimond Lennel became Master in 1771, was successor to Canivet, and worked until his death in 1784 (Marcelin). (9280) $2950.


Wooden Instrument from Southern France Click on any image for a larger view.

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WOODEN SURVEYING SQUARE, French, c. second quarter 19th century, signed "Castex Aine a Toulouse." The turned walnut(?) instrument measures 4-3/4" (12 cm) tall, with integral staff fitting and orthogonally cut sighting slits to lay out right angles for fields, buildings, etc. It is an unusual all-wood instrument, in very fine condition. This "Castex the elder" maker is probably connected with the balance maker listed by Marcelin, working in Toulouse in 1852. (8229) $495.


Early Surveying / Dialling Instrument Click on any image for a larger view.

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SEVENTEENTH CENTURY ITALIAN GRAPHOMETER WITH CENTRAL SUNDIAL, constructed of sturdy brass, 16-9/16" (42 cm) in overall width. This surveying graphometer has a mainplate with a large semicircular arc divided every half-degree and numbered every 5°; we note distinctive early hand-engraved numeral shapes, especially the 5's. The plate is mounted with two small fixed sight vanes, and carries a rotating alidade which reads against the scale and which has its own pair of small vertical-slit vanes. This alidade is engraved with a lovely central four-lobed rose and terminal "leaves." The plate has cruciform supporters to the 4-3/8" (11 cm) diameter circular sundial and glazed compass. This horizontal dial is ruled and numbered every hour from 5am to 7pm, and is engraved for latitude 43° North. The thin gnomon is removable with pin feet. The compass itself has a 32-point rose on brass, with circumferential scale divided every 2° and punch-numbered every 10°, and is engraved with four directionals of a fleur-de-lys (for North), a cross (East), "M" (for Mezzodi, South), and "P" (Ponente, West). Condition is good, noting some very old minor repairs / reinforcements to the frame. Threaded holes either side of the compass probably allowed use with a staff mount, now lost.

This is a very early example of a graphometer, the classic Continental surveying instrument invented by Philippe Danfrie in the late 16th century. The use of a central sundial is known on some other early surveying instruments (e.g., see the fine Metz circle with dial, Tesseract Catalogue 26, item 49). Note that the present instrument has neither transversals nor vernier interpolation, also that some of the brass members have edge outlining characteristic of the early date. Italian graphometers are particularly rare, this one consistent (at 43° latitude) with Umbria, Southern Tuscany, and Elba. (8258) $9500.



A Miniature Theodolite from Paris Click on any image for a larger view.

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MINIATURE BRASS AND COPPER THEODOLITE, French, c. 1830, finely signed "Huette a Paris," standing only 7" (18 cm) tall from bottom of staff mount to top of telescope. The upper assembly rotates in azimuth on a 4" diameter horizontal circle which is precision divided every half degree full circle, with twin one-arcminute verniers and an articulated scale magnifier. A copper-bodied (copper presumably to minimize magnetic disturbances) trough compass rotates with the assembly, and has twin magnetic declination scales divided ±0(0.5)20, and its own swiveling scale magnifier. The vertical semicircle is divided every one-third degree over the range 0±100, and is cut with external rack gearing. The telescope's motion in altitude is by pinion gear, with clamp, long tangent screw fine motion, and one-arcminute vernier. The telescope itself is reversible in its wyes, and gives inverted images. Condition is fine, the brass cleaned, and an auxiliary spirit level apparently lacking. A system of swing-away peep sights gives naked eye sighting parallel to the telescope axis.

We find only limited information about Huette; Nachet records him as working at what was possibly the former workshop of Canivet, and as being succeeded by Loiseau in 1841; Marcelin finds him at 75 quai de l'Horloge in Paris. (8317) $3400.


Well-Dressed Surveying Team, c. 1880 Click on any image for a larger view.

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ORIGINAL TINTYPE PHOTO OF SURVEYING CREW, American, c.1880. Measuring 2-1/4" x 3-1/2" (5.7 x 8.9 cm) , this outdoor tintype shows a full party of five relatively well-dressed men, including the bearded axe man with his gold watch chain, sitting on a bundle of wood stakes, the transit man with his well-polished shoes, protecting his instrument, a very young rod man with long banded rod, and two supervisors(?), one wearing a remarkable multiple tie. Despite some creases to the tintype the image is in excellent condition. It was clearly taken outdoors rather than with a studio backdrop, and shows gravelly ground, distant trees and buildings. (9242) $750.


American Convertible Surveying Instrument Click on any image for a larger view.

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THE "STERLING" CONVERTIBLE LEVEL, American, second quarter 20th century, signed "Warren-Knight Co., Philadelphia, U.S.A., Sterling, 3624, Patented Sept. 19, 1922." Standing 8" (20 cm) tall, and with a 13-1/4" (35 cm) long telescope (opening to 16-3/4" by racked focus and auxiliary sunshade), this sturdy instrument is made of brass with black enameled, natural, and plated finishes. The telescope, which focuses from about four feet to infinity, carries a long spirit level, and is removable from the horizontal wyes and mountable orthogonally, on hinged supports for the trunnions, to cover a limited range of elevation and depression. The base has an azimuthal scale divided every degree, with five-arcminute vernier, and has clamp, tangent screw, four-screw leveling system, and large internal thread for tripod. Condition is good with some wear, and a bend to the degree scale. Included is the original fitted case, rough from use.

Founded in 1912 by J. Henry Warren and Henry R. Knight, the company followed Izard-Warren, which in turn had followed Queen & Co., all with a history as important manufacturers of surveying instruments. The patent description states "Our present invention relates to a novel construction and arrangement of a convertible builder¹s level and transit... enabling the telescope to be supported at right angles to its normal position in trunnions or axles thus enabling the telescope to be elevated or depressed through an angle of at least 45 degrees above and below the horizontal. It further comprehends a novel construction of telescope supports wherein novel means are employed for closing them and novel means are employed for effecting their rotary adjustment...." (8325) $850. (SOLD)  


Surveying Sighting "Sector" Click on any image for a larger view.

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LONG-ARM SURVEYING INSTRUMENT, French, c. early 19th century, signed "Brevet, J. Dartois." Made of brass with an integral walnut case, the assembly measures 25-1/4" (64 cm) overall. Two brass arms carry removable string sights, with removable string-and-slit eye sight at the vertex. One arm has clampable rotation about this center, with readout against a full circle degree scale. An adjustable and clampable segment is divided with scales of "Vernier" and "Declinaison." The iron-reinforced base of the case has central thread for tripod mounting. The protective case cover is finely shaped to accommodate the sights. A most unusual instrument, in fine condition, by a maker not recorded in the standard references. (8242) $2450.

















Dating from the Defeat of the Spanish Armada Click on any image for a larger view.

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SIXTEENTH CENTURY LEVEL, PROBABLY FOR GUNNERY, Continental, signed "A. Pourtales, 1588." The level is of sturdy brass, 7-5/8" (19.5 cm) wide from foot to foot, and over 1/4" (7 mm) thick. An integral 90-degree arc is divided every degree 0 ± 45 and labeled every 5. There are distinctive early numeral shapes, in particular the z-shaped "2" and the slanted topless "5." The vertex is pierced for use with string and plumb bob. The arms are decorated with sinuous floral designs, engraved and punched. Surfaces have linear outlines throughout, and there seem to be small traces of gilding. The reverse is otherwise plain but for a preliminary scale division on the arc. Condition is good, the brass with a fine dark patina, noting nicks and a stress crack in the arc.

This is a splendid example of early level, probably made for setting elevation (or depression) of a cannon . Bion (1709) shows a similar level on the breech of a cannon, and various forms of gunner's level are illustrated by Bennett & Johnston (The Geometry of War, 1500 - 1750). The year 1588 is significant, signalling the defeat of the Spanish Armada (with its invasion fleet of 130 ships!) by the British.

It is difficult to pin down the maker; the name "Pourtales" itself is widespread. In one name search, for example, we find a Count Albert Pourtales exploring the Wild West in the early 19th century. He was born in Paris, but a descendent of Huguenot refugees who had emigrated to Neufchatel (Prussia, now Switzerland) in 1720. His father served in the Prussian army, then for Napoleon, and finally for the Berlin court. The numeral shapes are another small clue to origin, the "2" form suggestive of a German origin. But more research needs to be done. A remarkable survival. (8277) $9800.

(Bion, 1709)


Surveying in Russia Click on any image for a larger view.

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LARGE GEARED SURVEYING CROSS WITH COMPASS AND VERNIER, Russian, c. late 19th century. Standing a full 8" (20 cm) tall, of blue-grey anodized, clear lacquered, and silvered brass, this sophisticated surveying "cross" has tapered staff mount supporting the full assembly, which is manually rotatable and clampable. The lower drum has opposing sights. The upper drum, with its four orthogonal sights, is separately rotatable by geared thumbscrew, with readout against a canted 0 (1) 360 degree scale and two-arcminute vernier. This is surmounted by a 3-1/2" diameter glazed compass with Cyrillic directionals, circumferential degree scale, blued steel needle with stone pivot, and needle lifter. This impressive instrument is in excellent condition throughout with its original walnut(?) carrying case. (8219) $975.

Sir Howard Douglas Quadrant Click on any image for a larger view.

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RARE PATENTED "REFLECTING SECTOR", English, c.1840, signed "A. Rofs & Co., 33 Regent St., London." Measuring 5-1/2" (14 cm) overall, this unusual sighting / plotting instrument is made of brass. It is a direct plotting third-circle, designed rather like a sextant, with peepsight, half-silvered "horizon" mirror, index mirror, divided degree scale engraved on brass, and vernier reading to one arcminute. However the index / plotting arm moves not only the index mirror and vernier, but also, through a sliding linkage, the peepsight and horizon mirror. As a result, one can make instantaneous sightings on objects as much as 120 degrees apart, making this neither octant, nor sextant, nor quintant, nor quadrant, but sort of a direct plotting "tridant." The semicircular degree scale is connected to a 4" long linear plotting rule divided every ten units from 0 to 1000, with an interpolation grid divided every one unit. Condition is very fine, the brass retaining most of its original bright lacquer finish.

This instrument was the invention of Sir Howard Douglas of the Royal Military College at Farnham, as a combination of Hadley's quadrant and a protractor, enabling observed angles to be plotted directly, without having to read the angular scales. It is the first example of Douglas' instrument we have encountered by this maker, Andrew Ross & Co., in business under this name only from 1839 to 1842. (7289) $1850.


Ohio Surveying Compass Click on any image for a larger view.

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LARGE OHIO SURVEYING COMPASS, American, c. 1880, signed "T.F. Randolph, Cin., O." The thick main plate is 15-3/4" (40 cm) long, mounted with twin spirit levels, outkeeper adjustable 1-16, and 7" diameter glazed compass with simple face, silvered degree ring divided full circle every half-degree, and very finely crafted needle (blued, with horizontally flat center and vertically flat ends, set with steel pivot, brass hub, and balance adjustment for needle dip). Below is an outkeeper knob, a canted needle lifter knob, and large mounting fixture for staff or tripod. The outfit includes the 7-3/4" tall sight vanes, turned brass compass cover, and brass mounting peg. Parts are numbered "2" throughout. Condition is good; the instrument has been cleaned at some time, and now shows a bit of spotting. Included is the massive, probably later, walnut carrying case. This Ohio maker, Theodore F. Randolph (1829-1898), received a number of patents for surveying instrument inventions, his instruments winning numerous medals at industrial expositions in the 1850's, 60's and 70's. (8315) $1850.



















Landmark Compass Click on any image for a larger view.

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CARTOGRAPHIC POCKET COMPASS, Swiss, c. early 20th century, the 2-1/4" (5.7 cm) diameter plated brass case nicely glazed, and fitted with printed paper under its own protective glass disk, with a raised counterbalanced blued needle. The paper shows the pivot centered on a map of Switzerland, with cities, surrounding countries, and directionals all labeled in French, and with the map scale specified "Echelle 1:8,000,000." The center is in the region of the highest mountains of the Swiss Alps, and from there the compass serves as the tourist's panoramic guide to distant landmarks. Most unusual, and in excellent condition. (8222) $425.



"New Pattern" Gunner's Perpendicular Click on any image for a larger view.

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CANNON SCRIBE, English, late 18th century, signed in script "Adams, London." This 5" (13 cm) tall finely shaped instrument is made of brass with steel scribe and inset steel feet, and is set with a 3" long spirit level. Condition is good with light wear. In use the instrument is set level across a cannon, the scribe lowered and pushed, to mark the centerline for application of perpendicular sight or inclinometer. It was termed a "gunner's perpendicular" of the "new pattern" (i.e., with spirit level instead of plumb line). Millburn (2000) illustrates one signed "G. Adams" and two signed "Adams," the latter presumably Dudley. A good example. (8173) SOLD




Four-Vane Surveying Compass from Warsaw Click on any image for a larger view.

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POLISH FOUR-VANE SURVEYING COMPASS, c. second half 19th century, finely signed on the silvered compass face "G. Gerlach w. Warszawie No. 84." Measuring 16" (41 cm) overall, this fine solidly made brass surveying compass has two folding vanes and two fixed vanes which mount from underneath. It is complete with the original carrying case and a large brass pin, but lacks the universal staff mount. Condition is very fine noting only a few spots to the original clear lacquer finish. The Gerlach firm was in business from 1816 to 1944. An 1884 catalogue proclaims G. Gerlach as the "Only Russian manufacturer of geodesic, mathematical, drawing and optical instruments," and lists his factory at 30 Tamka St. (his home) and the store at 2 Tchistaya St., Warsaw. (Warsaw was, of course, part of Russian Poland under the tzars at the time). A rare and very fine example of a Polish instrument. (8265) $4950.



















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