Jason Clarke Antiques

Mid Eighteenth Century Mahogany Stick Barometer by Nairne & Blunt London


For sale, a Mid Eighteenth Century Mahogany Stick Barometer by Nairne & Blunt, London.

Constructed on finely grained mahogany board with large domed top and chamfered edge which runs completely around the body of this finely constructed instrument. The generous silvered and engraved scale plate is designed to follow the contours of the head of the barometer leaving the chamfered edge to frame it. The engraving shows standard weather indications to the left of the scale and a scale divided for 27 to 31 inches of barometric pressure. The 27 is deliberately not marked due to the necessity for a screw head and to maintain symetry. A large Vernier is also placed to the left of the scale for more precise measurements. To the domed top, the famous makers’ name of Nairne & Blunt, London is engraved in a semi circle mimicking the barometer cnotours and also surrounding the brass cap that secures and protects the top of the barometer tube.

The exposed tube is half set into the body of the barometer and runs down the full length of the trunk terminating into a round bulbous cistern cover secured by a brass clip at the head. A robust travelling screw emanates from the base.

The company was a partnership formed by Master and Apprentice Edward Nairne and Thomas Blunt in 1774. Edward Nairne needs little introduction, born in Sandwich in 1726 he was apprenticed at the age of fifteen to the equally famous instrument maker Matthew Loft. Having barely finished his seven year apprenticeship, Loft died in 1748 whereupon Nairne took over his Master’s business under his own name.

In 1749, he took on the first of his apprentices and eventually trained fourteen accolytes who included numerous important figures such as Jesse Ramsden, James Ayscough, James Long and of course Thomas Blunt who joined the company in 1760. Nairne was one of the most capable instrument makers of his period and he is known to have maintained correspondence with Benjamin Franklin, supplying him with a set of magnets and an achromatic telescope. He also provided a dip circle for Captain Phipp’s voyage to the Pole in 1774. His inventions also including the famous, “Nairne Patent Electrical Machine”, the first marine barometer which incorporated a thinner bore to the barometer tube between the cistern and the scale (used on James Cook’s second voyage to the South Pacific) and Nairne is even regarded as the first to have sold the pencil eraser.

During his lifetime in his own right and during the period of partnership with Blunt, Nairne held a Royal Appointment to George III, was an active contributor and Fellow of The Royal Society, became Master of the Spectacle Makers Guild and held an Appointment to the Royal Greenwich Observatory.

Given Nairne’s workload and engagements, it is unsurprising that he sought a partnership with his apprentice Thomas Blunt. It must be assumed that Blunt continued to work for Nairne for the seven years following his initial training as he is listed at Nairne’s trading address of 22 Cornhill throughout this period. There is little doubt that Blunt was the lesser partner of the relationship given the huge stature that Nairne had commanded by this point but nonetheless his skill and abilities allowed the partnership to serve all of the Appointments that were bestowed on the company and he is known to have worked with Jean Hyacinthe De Magellan on the development of his “new” barometer. In 1792, Blunt achieved the same accolade as his partner and assumed the role of Master of the Spectacle Makers Guild proving beyond doubt his position within the industry and it was a role that he continued throughout the dissolution of the partnership in 1793 and into 1794.

Little is known why such a successful partnership such as this ended. Nairne continued to trade until his retirement in 1801 at the same address of 20 Cornhill whilst Blunt set up shop next door at 22 Cornhill. It is reasonable to consider that Blunt thought his role in the guild demanded a business with his name alone but without specific evidence this is simply reasonable conjecture. It may also have been a move by Blunt to create a family business with his sons that were slowly coming of age. His eldest Charles would have been in a position to apprentice to his Father at this point in time.

Nairne died shortly after in 1806 and Blunt continued to trade, taking on his sons, Charles as referenced above and later Thomas Jr and Edward. Charles is known to have been working with his Father by 1801 under the business name of Thomas Blunt & Son through records of purchase at Christ’s Hospital, although he seems to have entered into business on his own account in the early part of the second decade at Tavistock Street in Covent Garden.

Thereafter the business became T&T Blunt with the inclusion of his middle son Thomas Jr which seemed only to last for another ten years into the early 1820’s whereupon the business continued as Blunt & Son with his youngest Edward. Thomas Blunt Sr died in 1823 leaving the business to his younger son but sadly Edward also died at the age of 28 after which the business was sold to Thomas Harris & Son.

A simple yet astonishingly well designed and executed eighteenth century barometer of the sheer quality you would expect from a maker such as this.

Circa 1770

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