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An English 15-inch Armillary Sphere

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An English 15-inch Armillary Sphere

BENJAMIN MARTIN, 1705-1782

Details
An English 15-inch Armillary Sphere Benjamin Martin, 1705-1782 The Armillary sphere, composed of graduated equatorial and ecliptic, two colure's with several arms engraved with stars for two orders of magnitude, numbered I - XXI & 1-39, held in a graduated meridian ring with two hour circles; inside, a 12-inch terrestrial globe with cartouche MR. SENEX'S TERRESTRIAL GLOBE now drawn and improved according to the latest Observations by JAMES FERGUSON Made and Sold by BENJ. MARTIN Fleet Street London. Thos. Bowen Sculpt. comprised of 12 engraved and hand-coloured gores and two polar calottes with a laid analemma to the Pacific Ocean with discoveries of routes and voyages up to 1775; Supported on mahogany stand bearing engraved hand-coloured calendrical horizon ring. The tripod legs united with brass cross-stretchers supporting a 32-point compass rose. 28in. (71cm.) high
Special Notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Lot Essay

A very rare armillary sphere by one of London's leading instrument makers. Benjamin Martin was "one of the great popularizers of science in the mid-eighteenth century" (DSB) and his fine instruments can be seen in many museum collections today. After the fire in 1764 he supplied Harvard College with an order of several instruments, and he was held in high regard internationally. Orreries and planetaria by him a rare, and this model of armillary is not mentioned in any of his publications. He did write that "Gentlemen may have the orrery constructed in what manner soever they chuse", so it is likely that this piece will have been a commission.

The armillary sphere is a demonstrational model of the universe. Composed of several rings (Armillae in Latin) and a band for the Zodiac, it represents the apparent movement of the celestial sphere around the Earth and marks the Sun's annual progress around the ecliptic. This example also carries additional arms to mark 60 stars on the celestial sphere. Their use can be traced back to antiquity and the handful of earliest extant examples date from the Middle Ages. But it was in the 16th through 18th centuries that their construction reached a peak and they became such iconic instruments of science. Elaborate and decorative examples were made for princely collections and they became symbolic of astronomy in paintings and engravings of the time.

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