How Scientific Instruments Have Changed Hands


This collection of essays discusses the marketing of scientific and medical instruments from the eighteenth century to the First World War. The evidence presented here is derived from sources as diverse as contemporary trade literature, through newspaper advertisements, to rarely-surviving inventories, and from the instruments themselves. The picture may not yet be complete, but it has been acknowledged that it is more complex than sketched out twenty-five or even fifty years ago. Here is a collection of case-studies from the United Kingdom, the Americas and Europe showing instruments moving from maker to market-place, and, to some extent, what happened next.

Contributors are: Alexi Baker, Paolo Brenni, Laura Cházaro, Gloria Clifton, Peggy Aldrich Kidwell, Richard L. Kremer, A.D. Morrison-Low, Joshua Nall, Sara J. Schechner, and Liba Taub.

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A.D. Morrison-Low, D.Phil. (2000) in Economic History with Physics, University of York, Research Associate at National Museums Scotland since her retirement in 2015. Her recent publications explore the 18th and 19th century instrument trade, and the early history of Scottish photography.

Sara J. Schechner, Ph.D. (1988) in History of Science, Harvard University, is the David P. Wheatland Curator of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments and Lecturer on the History of Science at Harvard University. Her research has focused on time-finding and social change, instruments of glass, colonial astronomy, and workshop practices in America.

Paolo Brenni, Ph.D. (1981) in Experimental Physics, University of Zürich, specialized in the history of science and technology. His researches are focused on scientific instruments, instrument making and trade (18th to early 20th centuries). He studied and restored several collections of instruments and he is working at the Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica in Florence.
"this is a volume that helps to broaden our understanding of the complex nature and status of what for convenience we call scientific instruments and to think about them as consumed commodities."
Richard Dunn (Royal Museums Greenwich), British Journal for the History of Science 50:1: 149-150.
"Recommended. Faculty and professionals only"
- N. Sadanand (Central Connecticut State University), Choice, 1 May 2017.
Preface vii
A. D. Morrison-Low, Sara J. Schechner and Paolo Brenni
List of Illustrations ix
Notes on Contributors xvi
Colour Plates xix

1 Symbiosis and Style: The Production, Sale and Purchase of Instruments in the Luxury Markets of Eighteenth-century London 1
Alexi Baker

2 Selling by the Book: British Scientific Trade Literature after 1800 21
Joshua Nall and Liba Taub

3 The Gentle Art of Persuasion: Advertising Instruments during Britain’s Industrial Revolution 43
A. D. Morrison-Low

4 Some Considerations about the Prices of Physics Instruments in the Nineteenth Century 57
Paolo Brenni

5 Mathematical Instruments Changing Hands at World’s Fairs, 1851–1904 88
Peggy Aldrich Kidwell

6 Connections between the Instrument-making Trades in Great Britain and Ireland and the North American Continent 104
Gloria Clifton

7 European Pocket Sundials for Colonial Use in American Territories 119
Sara J. Schechner

8 Selling Mathematical Instruments in America before the Printed Trade Catalogue 171
Richard L. Kremer

9 Trade in Medical Instruments and Colonialist Policies between Mexico and Europe in the Nineteenth Century 212
Laura Cházaro

General Index 227
All those interested in the history of science and technology, the history and marketing of scientific and medical instruments from the 18th to the 20th centuries, material culture, and social history.
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