Jason Clarke Antiques

Early Bourdon Aneroid Mantel Barometer in Ebonised Wood Case


For sale an early Bourdon aneroid mantel barometer in ebonised wooden case.

This rare example of a bourdon barometer has a five inch paper dial showing 28 to 31 inches of barometric pressure through a thick bevelled glass and with an open movement to the centre. It has a blue steel indicating hand and an unusually intricate brass pointer operated by a knurled knob to the front of the glass. The card dial is also printed with the name, “metallic barometer” with reference either side to the awards that Bourdon’s invention had won at both the “Paris Exhibiton 1849, Bourdon & Richards Patent” (Gold Medal) and at the “Universal Exhibition, London 1851” (Council Medal). Unlike most aneroid barometers of the period, the case has a removable bezel with a slot which is secured by means of a pin affixed to the drum. To remove the bezel, the slot is aligned with the pin and the front lifts off.

The movement has Bourdon’s tell-tale crescent shaped flattened vacuum tube with fan shaped rack operated by twin levers and is stamped to the top of the mechanism with “EB” for Eugene Bourdon which is a tell-tale sign of it being an earlier production example. It has no other engravings but also has signs to its early pedigree as it has the early pointed fan shaped rack rather than the later “tear-dropped” version and non-adjustable lever mechanism.

The barometer is mounted within its original ebonised wood case which mimics the black marble clocks that became prevalent in Victorian England following the early death of Prince Albert. It has a removable back to allow for access to the calibration screw at the back of the barometer. 

The French engineer Eugene Bourdon (1808-1884) was an early competitor to Lucien Vidie (inventor of the bellows movement) registering his crescent shaped mechanism design in 1849; it was produced under licence alongside Felix Richard, who with his brother Jules would later form the company, Richard Freres renowned for their developments to the barograph in France. Bourdon’s designs for both barometers and pressure gauges were met with approval at The Great Exhibition in 1851 winning him a council medal alongside his competitor Vidie. Bourdon’s movement however were slightly more fragile than Vidie’s and although they continued to be produced until the turn of the century, they were less well received.

As early as 1863, Admiral Fitzroy, Chief of the Meteorological Department of the Board of Trade commented that, “they are not so well adapted for travellers, nor for the measurements of considerable elevations, as Vidie aneroids”, which in some part contributed to the lack of uptake in the UK. Bourdon continued to work on numerous other designs and eventually became more renowned for his work on pressure gauges. He was a prolific inventor and died in 1884 whilst undertaking experiments on the effects of wind on steam locomotives. A fall from a moving carriage resulted in a head injury from which he died a few days following the accident and was buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery, Paris. His barometer movements are today prized for their workmanship, beauty and for their rarity.

Circa 1865

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