Jason Clarke Antiques

Mid-Victorian Aneroid Barometer by Dubois & Casse for Lennie Opticians Edinburgh


For sale a brass cased aneroid barometer by Dubois & Casse for Lennie Opticians of Edinburgh.

This early example of an aneroid barometer is comprised of a brass graduated case and bezel with a 4” dial card dial measuring 25 to 31 inches of barometric pressure and with Vidi style weather indications. The base of the dial is printed with the words “aneroid barometer” and the intended retailers name of, “Lennie Opticians, Edinburgh” written in pen and ink. The back of the case is also stamped with distinctive DC with central anchor motif.  

This approach to marking the British retailer in such a way is unique to Dubois & Casse’s early export instruments and was a somewhat simplistic way of distinguishing the various British recipients whilst standardising its production. Negretti & Zambra are also known to have purchased this style of barometer from the French maker.

The French firm were quality makers of aneroid barometers in the mid to late nineteenth century. Lucien Vidi invented the aneroid barometer in 1843 and held the patent rights until 1859, thereafter a number of British and French manufacturers including Naudet (PNHB) began to retail his mechanism. Dubois & Casse were another of these firms and the quality of the workmanship from the case to the mechanism is evident. The history of the firm is somewhat shrouded in mystery although later Maxant catalogues of the 1890s suggest that an Alfred Casse took over the business of Guilbert & Co only to be succeeded himself by Maxant in 1895/96. It seems likely that Alfred Casse was one half of the original partnership or perhaps a later relation.

Lennie Optician was started by James Lennie in Edinburgh between 1835 and 1840 firstly in South Bridge and then in Leith Street. He is recorded in the 1850’s as having a wife Eliza, four sons and three daughters. Tragically, Lennie died at the early age of 38 and so in 1854, the business was continued (somewhat unusually for the period) by his wife Eliza and maintained the trading name of J. Lennie until the business moved premises to 46 Princes Street, whereafter it was renamed E. Lennie Opticians.

Branding itself as an optician and manufacturer of photographic equipment throughout the 1860s, the business by the 1870s had focussed much more specifically on optical work possibly as a result of Eliza’s marriage to an English optician, James Taylor. John Lennie’s sons, (John, James & Joseph) are also noted as working for the business by this period.

Nevertheless, Lennie Optician continued to advertise a full range of scientific instruments throughout their trading history and given the range and their specialism it is considered that the company were far more a retailer of scientific instruments than makers in their own right. Interestingly, the book Brass & Glass, published by The Museum of Scotland where much of this information is taken and within which a section on Lennie is provided, suggests that Lennie were prolific importers of French scientific products for retail to the UK market. This theory would seem to be supported by the nationality of this particular instrument but it was certainly commonplace for barometers to be imported during this period by all British instrument makers and re-branded. It is little surprise that the French created a market specialism for this instrument given that both Bourdon and Vidi (inventors of the aneroid) were both Frenchmen.

Circa 1860-1865


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