Jason Clarke Antiques

Early Victorian Farmers Stick Barometer by Negretti & Zambra


For sale, an Early Victorian Farmers Stick Barometer by Negretti & Zambra

This fascinating barometer is comprised of a solid golden oak body with a small, graduated pediment above a twin porcelain scale plate measuring 27 to 31 inches of barometric pressure to the right-hand side and with hand adjustable Vernier for precise measurement. The left-hand side of the scale plate is provided with Fitzroy type weather indications and the barometer tube runs between.

Both plates have the addition of a Fahrenheit thermometer and painted temperature scale which when used in unison form a hygrometer. The left thermometer is for measuring standard air temperature whilst the right thermometer is further provided with a small glass vessel attached below by means of a brass ring. The water vessel is intended to continually dampen the bulb of this thermometer to derive a wet temperature. Both measurements compared will provide the observer with an understanding of the relative humidity currently present in the air.

The top of the scale provides the name, Farmers Barometer with patent no: 658 and the then current addresses of the firm. It states,

Negretti & Zambra, Opticians to Her Majesty – 1 Hatton Garden, 122 Regent St & 59 Cornhill, London.

The thin oak neck of the barometer is incised down its centre to partially encase and protect the exposed barometer tube and is held in place with a brass collar attached to the front. The cistern is protected behind a simple square shaped cover and the travel screw is visible as it follows out of the base. A pair of simply designed shoulders are attached where the neck meets the cistern and are repeated below the scale plate to soften the angular shape of the oak body.

A wonderful barometer intended as a very practical instrument rather than for huge interior statements, the addition of a hygrometer was perhaps not a new idea as they had appeared on wheel barometers in wheat beard form for some time. However, with the use of more scientifically precise instruments (thermometers) and in using the published work of James Glaisher on humidity, it took the barometer to ever greater levels of forecasting precision. It is unsurprising that the company chose the name, given the benefits it would bring those involved in agriculture, but they were careful to find other practical applications as part of the advertising:

“For ascertaining the humidity of the atmosphere, the general character of the weather, and the approach of wind and rain. The Farmer’s barometer combines three distinct instruments – the Barometer, The Thermometer, and the Hygrometer, and is equally valuable to the Agriculturist and the Invalid, a difference of 5 to 8 degrees being considered a healthy amount of moisture in the air of dwelling rooms. The action is very simple, and so long as a sufficient supply of water is kept in the cistern, the Hygrometric condition of the atmosphere can be known at any moment.

It is a well known fact that the barometer is as much, or even more affected by a change of wind as it is rain, and the objection raised against a simple barometer reading, as leaving the observer in doubt whether to expect rain or wind, is entirely removed in the instrument now offered to the Public by the addition of the hygrometer, an instrument indicating the comparative degree of dryness or dampness of the air; a most important item in the determination of the coming weather.

Hitherto the use of scientific instruments of this class has been confined to very few observers. Nevertheless, through the instrumentality of James Glaisher Esq FRS, as Secretary of The British Meteorological Society, multitudes of observations have been taken with extreme accuracy, and duly registered; and it is from these carefully collected data that we are enabled in a measure to interpret the various changes that we feel and see going on in our atmosphere, and by the aid of well constructed instruments, are in a position to predict with a great degree of certainty the weather that is likely to prevail from time to time.”

Negretti & Zambra also provided the Glaisher hygrometric standards within their catalogue which you will see reproduced in the attached images.   

Negretti & Zambra were a leading name in the production of meteorological and scientific instruments and had a company history dating back to 1850 although their parents were amongst those Italian emigres that bolstered the British meteorological instrument making industry at the turn of the century.

Throughout their long and esteemed history, they exhibited at British and international industrial fairs and became makers to both Queen Victoria and Edward VII. Owing to changes in the business, the firm ceased the public retailing of scientific instruments sometime around the late 1960’s and continued with a focus on the aviation industry in numerous guises until its eventual liquidation in the year 2000. They are today perhaps the most collected of the scientific instrument firms which bears testament to the quality of their work.

The addresses provided on the barometer give very precise information of the barometer’s age as all of the properties were used by the company during the 1860’s. Regent Street was the last to be purchased in 1862 and by 1869 the redevelopment of Holborn and Hatton Garden gave way to a new premises at 38 Holborn Viaduct. Therefore, this barometer would have to have been manufactured at some point during the seven years between 1862 and 1869.

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