MUNICH.- Even during the run-up to the auction, the extensive collection of rare measuring devices, with a focus on instruments from the 19th century, had attracted a great deal of interest. Nonetheless, the torrent of bids that flooded in on 9 November far surpassed expectations, which were sky-high to begin with. Not one of the approximately 85 objects remained unsold. In addition, more often than not, fierce bidding contests saw them eclipsing their catalogue prices.
The collection comprised precision artworks that had been intricately worked with fascinating accuracy and aesthetics by prestigious manufacturers, such as Stanley, C. Collins, Troughton & Simms, all of London, or Fraunhofer, Munich, whose renown reflected their considerable skill. A dazzling array of rare objects were tendered for sale, from microscopes to theodolites, through to globes and sextants. The exceptionally striking theodolites, crafted in brass, glass and nickel, with a swivelling telescope, reflectors and lenses, will not merely grace every specialised collection, but will also add distinction to any aesthetic environment as decoration, far removed from their function.
One particularly elaborate device, produced in 1900 by the Peacock workshop in New Zealand, ultimately fetched 5,400 euros, almost eleven times its estimate of 500 euros. Also enchanting were a pair of miniature globes from 1736, matching terrestrial and celestial globes, covered with hand-coloured copper engravings and mounted in brass frames, which were made by Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr of Nuremberg. No sooner were they announced at 8,000 euros than an exchange of bids flared, sending the price soaring to 15,000 euros. Moreover, a baroque timepiece was no less beguiling. Carved in bone, the dainty, 17th century hourglass finally changed hands for 5,200 euros, its starting price of 1,800 euros notwithstanding. Even a signed alignment device for guns, dating from 1791, was not merely functional but also boasted an exceptionally sophisticated design. Valued at 4,500 euros, this brass work now takes pride of place in a new collection for 4,600 euros.
These final prices are testimony to the fact that our longstanding fascination with "Measuring the World" shows no signs of waning. Man's instinctive desire to catalogue, regulate and understand the world has been one of humanity's driving forces since time immemorial, a system that was established well before the era of Johann Carl Friedrich Gauß (1777 1855) and Alexander von Humboldt (1769 1859).
A special issue documenting the collection that has just been sold at auction now pays tribute to the widespread interest in strikingly beautiful precision instruments for measuring space and time. Available at the beginning of next year, the special issue forms part of the auction house's new publication series and may be ordered from Hermann Historica at www.hermann-historica.com..