Satinwood Stick Barometer by Edward Nairne, c.1800

Bayonet Stick Barometer by Thomas Blunt, c.1785

When one attempts to date a barometer, one of the most useful tricks is to utilise the dates of any partnership the maker may have entered into during the course of his career. However, if you do this in the case of Edward Nairne and Thomas Blunt, you come completely unstuck.

Both Nairne and Blunt were superlative instrument makers. Nairne’s career began in 1748, when he became free of the Spectacle Makers’ Company. He went on to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1776 and retired in 1801. Blunt was similarly free in 1771 and died in 1822. The pair were in partnership from 1774 to 1793, but the joint name persisted until Blunt’s death, thirty years later.

To further complicate matters, both men continued to produce solo instruments under their own name, as well as jointly signed pieces. There is an impressive trade card for Blunt in the British Museum, bearing the Royal Coat of Arms and describing him as “Mathematical Instrument Maker to His Majesty” ; the card is illustrated with an engraving of the interior of his shop at 22 Cornhill, with a naval officer and his wife surveying an awesome array of instruments, from globes and orreries to astronomical telescopes.

We presently have a bayonet stick barometer for sale, signed by Blunt alone, which was almost certainly made during the twenty years of partnership. It has a beautifully engraved full length thermometer plate covering the trunk and the junction with the register plate is tastefully disguised with classical swags.

We also have an equally striking instrument signed by Nairne alone, with an exposed tube. Unusually for a ‘stick’, it is veneered in satinwood, edged in ebony, and it dates from around 1800.

 
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