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Planetarium instrument eying $120K heading into Oct. 31 sale

Science and technology is a growing area of interest among collectors. Oct. 31 Bonhams will present 74 lots of antique and vintage devices, including a 18th-century planetarium-tellurium.

LONDON — A rare and impressive Benjamin Martin Planetarium is the top lot at Bonhams Important Instruments of Science & Technology sale on 31 October in London. It carries an estimate of £80,000-120,000 ($94,000-$142,000) into auction.

Planetarium 'Ahead of Its Time'


Planetarium-Tellurium, Benjamin Martin, 18th century ($94,000-$142,000). (All photos courtesy of Bonhams)

This rare, philosophical instrument cleverly demonstrates the movement of the earth. Alternatively, it also shows the orbits of the then known planets around the sun by use of a hand-cranked geared mechanism. It bears the signature of the maker, Benjamin Martin of London. He is one of the leading instrument makers in London in the 18th century. One of this many creations, the planetarium is a fine working example of the exquisite output from his workshop in Fleet Street. It dates from 1765-70. During this time, Martin received a commission from Harvard University, Massachusetts, to produce a collection of scientific instruments. The international recognition of Martin’s work further underlines his lasting significance. As history reveals, many of his models appear well into the Victorian era.

Bonhams Science and Technology specialist, Jon Baddeley said: ‘This extraordinary example of Benjamin Martin’s work was truly multi-functional and ahead of its time. Made in the age of Enlightenment, these unusual and rare instruments were often used by the erudite upper classes who were always looking for ways to expand their knowledge of the world around them and share this scientific information at social gatherings.’

• Rare pair of Vincenzo Coronelli 18 ½ inch terrestrial and celestial globes. The Italian pair sits on stands. They were published in 1696. (£100,000-150,000/$118,000-$175,000).
— Three-Rotor Model 1 Enigma Cipher Machine, German, 1933 (£60,000-80,000/$70,000-$94,000).
• Richard Glynne Gilt and Silvered Brass Horizontal Sundial, English, circa 1725 (£25,000-35,000/$30,000-$41,000)

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