A very fine 6.5” dial Vidie type see through barometer on an exquisite carved oak stand. Retailed by EG Wood, 74 Cheapside, London and manufactured by the famous Parisian makers, Pertuis, Naudet, Hulot & Bourgeois (PNHB).
The 6.5” silvered dial is arranged with an engraved scale plate to the top half showing 28 to 31 inches of barometric pressure and uses the typical Vidie style description of “Stormy” through to “Very Dry”. It is further engraved with the PNHB trade mark name, “Holosteric barometer”. Thought to be an amalgam of the Greek words Holos and Stereo referencing its wholly solid design without the need for mercury. The bottom half of the dial is arranged with two thermometers. The left hand side showing scales for Reaumur and Centigrade readings and Fahrenheit scale to the right. Between the two the thermometers is engraved the serial number 4094. With a glass front, blue steel indicator hand and brass pointer with brass knurled knob, the centre of the dial is see through at a diameter of 3.5” to allow the superbly crafted movement and bellows to be viewed.
The brass graduated case comes complete with brass hanging ring and is stamped to the back with the makers stamp of “PNHB” and the retailer, “EG Wood, 74 Cheapside, London”.
The oak base is graduated in the same way as the brass case of the barometer in order to receive it on the stand and is carved with a classical Etruscan scroll pattern with floral drapes either side terminating into a stylised animal head. Below the solid base is carved with a gadroon edge pattern and floral design to the centre. The front edges have floral scrolls either side which provide character to the square edges not often seen on these types of barometer.
The retailer of this fine instrument was Edward George Wood (1811-1896) an optician and scientific instrument maker most notable for his involvement in the early photographic industry and for developments to the magic lantern. From 1833 to 1843, Wood seems to have worked alone or with his brothers, Henry & George Wood from premises in King Street and Shepperton Street in London. It is possible that Wood, initially supplied the trade with finished parts for constructing instruments as I can find no examples of his work with the early addresses. This assumption can be evidenced by recent research by Brian Stevenson through an 1844 newspaper advertisement announcing that Messrs Horne, Thornwaite & Wood have acceded to the business of Edward Palmer, “having been assistants and manufacturers to him since his first establishment in Newgate Street in 1837”. Palmer was a highly successful instrument maker and retailer of the period.
Given the above, we know that in 1844, Wood entered the successful partnership of Horne, Thornwaite and Wood, trading at Palmer’s old address of 123 Newgate, London and later expanding into 121 Newgate. The company exhibited numerous devices at The Great Exhibition and won a Prize Medal for photographic equipment. Nothing is known of Wood’s reasoning but in 1854, the partnership was dissolved with Wood leaving to form a company under his own name, established at 117 Cheapside and the other partners continuing under the name of Horne & Thornwaite where they maintained a successful business, gaining royal approval from Queen Victoria and signing their instruments with, “philosophical instrument maker’s to Her Majesty”.
In 1862, as well as exhibiting at the famous London Exhibition, Wood found the time to move his business to his better known address of 74 Cheapside and it remained there until his death in 1895. He did however, return to business with his old partners for a brief period in 1886 until 1893 whilst his own business was maintained under family ownership. The business seems to have diversified into electrical engineering during its later existence and was finally bought out by Dollond & Co Ltd in 1912.
Edward George Wood was an extremely capable instrument maker and inventor, whilst in partnership, he invented the first vertical double magic lantern or biunial for which he is best known but numerous scientific instruments such as barometers, telescopes and of course photographic instruments are known to bear his name.
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 (alongside EG Wood) at the 1862 London Exhibition where they are listed under Volume 3 – The Colonial & Foreign Division and it is extremely likely that the two companies met one another during this time and agreed to do business.
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 Vidie’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 at the early stages. 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 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.
In addition to the pedigree already discussed, this barometer also formed part of the collection fo the renowned barometer collector and writer Edwin Banfield. A retired Bank Manager, Banfield dedicated much of his retirement to the collection and study of all types of barometers and his books remain the bible for collectors to this day. This particular barometer is featured and discussed on page 23 of his book, “Barometers – Aneroid and Barographs” first published in 1985 where he relates that the Naudet Company manufactured 20,000 instruments between 1861 and 1866. With a serial number of 4094, it is certain that this is a very early example of their work.
This superb and rare Vidie type barometer would have been imported by Wood from Pertuis, Naudet, Hulot & Bourgeois and the back would have been engraved to EG Woods for retailing at his premises. Given the early serial number of 4094 on the dial and the manufacturing outputs of Naudet during this period, we can date the instrument to the earliest part of EG Woods tenure at 74 Cheapside, circa 1862 - 1865. This model of barometer proved so successful that the company was still advertising them in 1891 but these early Vidie type movements are extremely rare.A unique collector’s piece.