Rare Cased Pocket Aneroid Barograph Altimeter by Richard Freres of Paris

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Vendor: Jason Clarke Antiques

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For sale, a rare pocket aneroid barograph or altimeter by Richard Freres of Paris in original case.

This fine and unusual meteorological instrument is incorporated into a leather covered hinged case measuring 12x8.5x3.5cms and has a glass viewing panel to the lid showing the small barograph recording paper and nib. The paper inside is secured by means of two rollers that are governed by an intricate and miniature clockwork mechanism that is connected to two small aneroid capsules. The mechanism is enclosed within a metal housing secured by two nuts to the top and has a key slot for setting the correct pressure on the scale, a slide to lift the nib from the paper and dust slide which reveals the adjustment for slow & fast in relation to the clock movement. The centre of the housing is stamped with the Richard Freres trademark with Brevete SGDG. The word brevete means patented in French with the initials SGDG meaning Sans Garantie Du Governement (without governmental guarantee), a legal requirement of the French Government from 1844 until the mid-twentieth century. This mark was applied to all French goods that were manufactured for export during the period. There are some further serial numbers included to the top which are undecipherable except for “24H” which would presumably denote the length of time the movement would continue to run after being fully wound.

The instrument is still maintained within its original three sectioned mahogany box with the remaining two sections containing a number of spare papers, original key and original ink bottle with paper label written in French and the initials R.F. denoting Richard Freres.

This fascinating piece of meteorological history was devised for use by surveyors, travellers, explorers and airmen. Its portability and size would certainly allude to those uses and its relative rarity would suggest that they were probably confined to that niche market. However, they were certainly retailed by famous makers such as Negretti & Zambra and T. Cooke & Sons Ltd where they appeared in the latter’s catalogues just prior to the First World War. The Brevete mark would also denote that this particular example was originally sold in the UK but no retailer’s marks remain.

The maker of the instrument was the famous Jules Richard (1848 – 1930), the son of Felix Richard, Eugene Bourdon’s (of barometer fame) original partner. It must also be assumed that Jules Richard was also its inventor as all other examples in existence are marked to his company. Having trained under his father, and numerous other scientific and clock manufacturers, Richard made his own name in the 1870’s in the manufacturing of telegraph equipment, also working closely with the French scientist EJ Marey on electrical and photographic recording techniques. Following the death of his father in 1876, he took over the family business and in 1882, he formed a partnership with his brother Max under the name of Richard Freres. This partnership was dissolved in 1891 but the company maintained its partnership name with Jules taking sole control of the business until 1921 when it was listed as a public company.

The Science Museum has a similar and less well preserved example in its collection.

Circa 1915.

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