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Early Wheel Barometer by James Gatty
During the late 18th Century, the Holborn area of London was colonised by many Italian glassblowers and barometer makers, most of whom originated from around Lake Como. Tantalisingly, little is known about their date of arrival or the businesses they set up, but possibly the most successful was James Gatty, whose family came from Tavernino.

The most renowned of Gatty’s instruments are his large and elaborate wheel barometers from the period 1800-1810, which often display exotic timbers, extravagant pediments and profuse dial engraving.

We currently have an example of Gatty’s work in a much earlier style, possibly as early as 1770, with several hitherto unrecorded features. It is a surprisingly short instrument – only 34” tall, with tight curves, a round top and a bottom lobe that is virtually un-waisted. The deeply moulded wooden bezel has no less than three concentric lines of fine barber’s pole stringing, which is repeated around the circumference of the case. There is a comparatively short alcohol thermometer and a hygrometer with ivory button adjustment. The decorative inlay is unusual in having three six-pointed stars, of the ‘Festival of Britain’ variety, arranged up the centre line, as well as a pair of more conventional paterae.

The most striking feature of the 8” dial is that the central disc is entirely blank, except for the signature: “James Getty Fecit”. I know of no other example of this form of signature by this maker. The overall style of the dial is austere and strangely reminiscent of an Ellicott wall/bracket clock from the 1760s.

Finally, the carcass of the case is made of oak instead of deal and the closure on the reverse is not the usual crudely hinged door but a carefully shaped lid that is screwed in place over the aperture to exclude dust.

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