• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 5428

    Travel, Science & Natural History

    23 April 2008, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 272

    An 18th-century ebony, brass and ivory octant


    Price Realised  


    An 18th-century ebony, brass and ivory octant
    by Benjamin Martin with ivory scale by Jesse Ramsden, 1771-1782
    18¼in. (46.5cm.) radius index arm signed MARTIN Inv.t et fecit Londini, with double pin-hole sight and slide shades, back sight, mirrors with screw attachment, three interchangeable filters, inset ivory plaque on 'T' bar, the inlaid ivory scale graduated 2°-0°-99° divided every 20', the framed vernier scale providing measurements to the minute of arc, the scale engraved with I R either side of an anchor, reverse with inset ivory plaque and three brass bun feet; in later case with 6 engraver's tools (key missing).
    19¾in. (50cm.) long in box

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    A FINE OCTANT BY MARTIN WITH A SCALE BY RAMSDEN. Jesse Ramsden (1735-1800), who used the anchor trade mark, invented a machine for accurate scale division in 1771, which won him an award of £300 from the Commissioners of Longitude in 1777, and 'became one of the key inventions of the industrial revolution' (ODNB). Benjamin Martin (bap. 1704/1705-1782) would have paid Ramsden to make this scale, and his death in 1782 dates this instrument -- which unites two of the leading British instrument-makers of the 18th century -- to 1771-1782.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.