For sale, a Late Victorian French aneroid desk barometer on ebonised stand by PNHB and made for the retailer V&H Doninelli of Nice.
The barometer is comprised of a brass case with graduated bezel and hanging loop to the top. The four and a half inch paper dial is enclosed behind a nice thick bevelled glass, measuring 69 to 80 (the French used centimetres of Mercury as opposed to inches) of atmospheric pressure. It is surrounded with standard weather indications around the outer circumference of the scale and has the retailers name, “V&H Doninelli Engineers & Opticians, Nice” to the centre below the set hand dial. At the base are the words “barometre holosterique” and the trademark PNHB for the makers, Pertuis, Naudet, Hulot & Bourgeois. The same symbol can also be seen stamped to the back of the case.
The barometer is set upon an ebonised wood, three part stand with plinth base and a semi circular rest which is decorated with turned roundels and shaped veneer. The rest is shaped to receive and hold the barometer in place firmly and it has a baize liner within to avoid scratches to the instrument when it is in place.
The retailer of this barometer were the partners Victor and Honore Doninelli who traded from L’Avenue de la Gare in Nice, Southern France. The company was founded in 1830 by Victor’s Father, Theodore in 1830 but by the mid-1860’s, Victor seems to have taken control of the business. His name appears on adverts of the period beyond the turn of the century so it is assumed that Honore was perhaps the son who became a later partner in the business. This fact remains unclear as clocks from a slightly earlier date marked to H Doninelli have been catalogued. The design of the barometer is also a little unhelpful for dating purposes, as the style endured throughout the entire second half of the Nineteenth Century with large French manufacturers such as Alfred Casse also advertising them for sale as late as 1895.
Surprisingly little has been written about the Parisian manufacturer, Pertuis, Naudet, Hulot & Bourgeois (PNHB). The company was formed in 1860 by the above named partners and they quickly rose to become one of the largest manufacturers and exporters of aneroid barometers in the world. Their early export success may be related to their exhibiting at the 1862 London Exhibition where they are listed under Volume 3 – The Colonial & Foreign Division and it is likely that the company garnered numerous business relationships as a result. Examples of their barometers are numerous amongst the wares of all of the best scientific instrument makers of the day. Negretti & Zambra were also importing and retailing the company’s barometers as well as making their own.
Interestingly, the company was listed at the exhibition as Naudet & Co (Cie in French), so it is also likely that the initial partnership was broken up in some way within two years, leading to the convenient (for Naudet at least) belief that the PNHB makers stamp really stood for “Paul Naudet Holosteric Barometre”. However, there are a number of confusing factors that suggest that not all partners left the concern. In 1867, “Naudet, Hulot & Cie” are referenced in the, “Bulletin de la Societe D’Engouragement pour L’Industrie Nationale” after receiving a medal for their enhancements to Monsieur Vidi’s design (the patent had fallen into the public domain in 1859) through their “Holosteric Barometers”.
The company’s 1891 catalogue continued to reference this award, printing the Society’s report in full but at this stage, the catalogue states the business name as, “Naudet & Cie” but with the line below stating “Pertuis & Fils” in larger text proving that Pertuis also continued to have a stake in this highly successful enterprise.
We can only surmise at this stage but it would suggest that Hulot and Pertuis maintained some kind of relationship with Naudet until the end of the Nineteenth Century and Bourgeois was the only partner to have left the company in its the early period. It is certain however that further research is required to untangle this complicated partnership arrangement.
Survival of the company through the Franco Prussian war and the First World War is evidenced through the existence of their catalogues but in 1928 it seems that the company had moved out of the original owner’s hands and had been bought out by a company named Dourde. Like many English scientific instrument makers, the new owners had sought to maintain the goodwill and customer base built up by Naudet and their catalogue’s front page is dual named to “Maison Naudet” and “Dourde successeur”.
Unlike many of its kind, Naudet (or Naudet Dourde) still exists and continues to make new barometers today even winning the “Enterprise du Patrimoine Vivant” award in 2016. They primarily trade under the Naudet name, so much so that the Dourde name is not incorporated into their branding on their website or on their instruments. A testament to the strength of reputation that this company created in the Nineteenth Century.
Largely a French design combination, this stand does occasionally crop up with English barometers (from French sources) but it was far more popular on the continent and therefore makes it slightly less common to the UK market. Perhaps not as detailed as some of the English Victorian stands, however it holds it own for its simple classical styling which is perhaps a little more suited to today’s tastes.