The Spring auction season is slated to be a busy one at Grogan and Company Fine Art Auctioneers
. In April, the Dedham based auction house will present the Elli Buk Collection, one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Scientific Instruments and Technological Achievements ever assembled. Elli Buk (1949-2012) was legendary in the world of collectors who knew him as a self-made, prolific collector, curator and expert on scientific instruments and the history of technology. Over a period of forty years, Elli exercised his passion for acquiring objects from every possible collecting genre, including, but not limited to, microscopes and telescopes; medical devices and quackery; patent models and salesman's samples; early projectors, still and movie cameras; motors, electrical devices and machinery; globes and surveying instruments; telegraphy and telephones; televisions and radios; as well as objects from our industrial past and household items such as typewriters and sewing machines.
"There are many individual items in this auction which are show stoppers, such as Marconis own experimental model magnetic detector, an early Riker Motor or an 8 foot Henry Fitz Telescope, but the real essence of the collection is the sheer diversity and quantity of items Mr. Buk amassed over his forty year career," commented Grogan and Company President, Michael Grogan, "We have over 2,000 lots displayed in 15,000 square feet of gallery space. This exhibit is truly a sight to behold. The list of collections within the collection is almost endless."
Elli grew up in Brooklyn, where he was exposed to opera, music and art, however, it was his love of biology, chemistry and physics that inspired him to begin collecting. In 1978, Elli opened E. Buk Art and Antiques at 151 Spring Street in SoHo where his store window become a highlight for passersby. Science fiction writer, William Gibson included a reference to Elli's window in a blog he wrote in 2001 for the National Post. Titled "Mr. Buk's Window", Gibson describes Elli as "a marvelously idiosyncratic antiques dealer in SoHo....Gazing into E. Buk's window, for me, has been like gazing into the back reaches of some cave where Manhattan stores it's dreams." Elli rented objects from his collection to television shows, Hollywood movies, advertising agencies, fashion shoots, and store windows. He loaned his prized objects to various exhibitions that wanted to celebrate the artifacts that built their industry and the collection has been written up in numerous publications including The New Yorker and Architectural Digest.
One of Elli's prized possessions was an eight foot Telescope on Stand made by Henry Fitz of New York (1808-1863). The eight foot telescope, created by the first American telescope maker, is estimated to sell for $8,000-12,000. Another impressive 19th century innovator, Edward Howard, created a Fine American Gold Bullion Scale, which is stamped E. Howard & Co. of Boston, and also bears a presale estimate of $8,000-15,000.
One of the most important items in the auction is Guglielmo Marconis own experimental model of his Magnetic Detector, known as The Rutherford-Marconi Detector, circa 1900. This unique wireless apparatus was fashioned by Marconi from the winding spring mechanism of a telegraph inker. He used the apparatus in his early tests for what became his patented model in 1902. The Wireless Detector, with impressive provenance, bears a presale estimate of $20,000-30,000. The history of communication is further explored through an extensive collection of televisions and radios, including a 1939 General Electric Model HM171, estimated at $3,000-5,000 and an early Atwater Kent Breadboard Radio Receiver, estimated at $2,000-3,000. A rare sound device created by 19th century German inventory Max Kohl consists of a collection of Helmholtz Brass Resonators mounted on a 39 x 29 inch mahogany board and is estimated at $25,000-35,000.
The history of photography and cinema is explored through the vast selection of box cameras, lantern projectors and movie cameras. A Victorian zoetrope with a collection of animated strips and five mounted photographs of Muybridge's print, Animal locomotion, are purported to have been in the collection of American artist Thomas Eakins at one time. Another highlight is a very rare set of Eadweard Muybridge zoetrope strips, titled "Attitudes of Animals in Motion", copyright 1882, in their original cylinder. The set, which was illustrated in Eadward Muybridge, The Father of the Motion Picture, by Gordon Hendriks is estimated at $5,000-15,000. Eadweard Muybridge's photographic study of animals in motion is what led to the motion picture industry. Thomas Eakins was teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art while Muybridge was at the University of Pennsylvania. Eakins was so taken with Muybridge's work, that he is said to have created his own Zoetrope and used it in his lectures at the PAFA. In addition to painting, Eakins was well known for his photography as well.
Highlights from the large selection of 19th century microscopes include a W. H. Bulloch Brass Double Pillar Microscope, estimated at $4,000-8,000 and a Large Hugh Powell Microscope, circa 1841, bears a $5,000-15,000 estimate. One of the most curious devices in the collection is a Violin Vibrophone, considered a rare medical quack device used to cure Tinnitus, a disorder manifested by the perception of sound within the ear that is not heard externally. The violin shaped mechanism manufactured in Brooklyn New York at the turn of the century is estimated at $5,000-10,000. Many laboratory teaching devices, medical instruments, x-ray tubes and light bulbs are sprinkled throughout the collection.
A large selection of patent models and salesman's samples include a Rare Firefighter's Aerial Ladder Apparatus, created by John A. Lee of Chattanooga in the mid 19th century, estimated to fetch $5,000-10,000; and a Daisy Wheel Reaper, with a parquetry basket, made by M. Clifton of Ithaca, New York, estimated at $3,000-5,000 and a Brass Model of a Wolfe and Yarian Printing Press with eagle decoration, bears an estimate of $5,000-10,000.
One of the mainstays of the collection is a large assortment of early motors, machinery and electrical devices. Two Riker Motors, manufactured by the Riker Electric Motor Co. of Brooklyn, New York under an 1891 patent, will be featured along side examples by important early examples by Frank Perret and the Crocker-Wheeler Electronic Co. Riker pioneered the use of electrical motors in transportation. A large assortment of cast iron stamps, seals and presses, as well as typewriters, sewing machines and globes will also be featured in the first two sessions.
Ephemera offerings include an important assemblage of the original Morris & OConnor Architectural drawings, blueprints and plans for the R.M.S. Queen Mary, estimated at $5,000-20,000; while Anglophiles may be interested in acquiring the Brass and Wood Toilet, with a Blue and White Porcelain Basin, salvaged from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's Yacht, 'The Victoria and Albert II', launched in 1855 and scraped in1904.
Another feature of the collection is an impressive assortment of Industrial items that lend itself to the growing "Steampunk" design movement. Steampunk designers refurbish items from the Victorian and Industrial past, such as brass, iron, wood and leather, to create new designs that balance form and function. Early machinery with gears and levers abound throughout the collection and will surely inspire Steampunk enthusiasts.
Elli's art collection was diverse and included many SoHo artists, including Martin Wong, Ernest Rosenberg, Mike Leaf and David Hare. Four 18 x 24 inch sign language paintings by venerated Realist Martin Wong, titled Silence, Voices, Money, and Danger, bear a presale estimate of $12,000-15,000; while Underdog, an oil on plastic by street artist Ernest Rosenberg is estimated at $500-700. A collection of sculptures, paintings and drawings that Elli acquired directly from the studio of well known Surrealist artist, David Hare includes Naked Sing Clarity, a 36 x 48 oil on canvas, estimated at $3,000-5,000 and Seated Female, a 82 ½ inches tall metal and plaster sculpture, estimated at $5,000-7,000. One of the more unusual items is 'Dean', an eight foot, scrap metal, folk art tin man created in the 1950's by George Dean, a tinsmith from Terre Haute, Indiana. 'Dean' bears a presale estimate of $5,000-10,000 and is included in Archie Green's book 'Tin Men' published by the University of Illinois Press in 2002.
The Elli Buk Collection exhibition will begin on Saturday, April 20th and run through Wednesday, April 24th from 9 a.m. - 4p.m. The collection will be auctioned in four sessions beginning Thursday, April 25th. "Anyone interested in the history of science and technology, the Industrial Revolution and manufacturing history should not miss this opportunity," states Grogan, "It is unlikely that we will see another comprehensive collection like this in our lifetime."