Book Shop
Tuesday 22 January 2013

The Society has the following books available for purchase. To make an order or receive a postage and packaging quote, please contact the Society’s executive officer, Peter Thomas, on: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or using the postal address provided here


Francis Watkins and the Dollond Telescope Patent Controversy, by Brian Gee, edited by Anita McConnell and A.D. Morrison-Low.

Francis Watkins was an eminent figure in his field of mathematical and optical instrument making in mid-eighteenth century London. Working from original documents, Brian Gee has uncovered the life and times of an optical instrument maker, who - at first glance - was not among the most prominent in his field. In fact, because Francis Watkins came from a landed background, the diversification of his assets enabled him to weather particular business storms - discussed in this book - where colleagues without such an economic cushion, were pushed into bankruptcy or forced to emigrate. He played an important role in one of the most significant legal cases to touch this profession, namely the patenting of the achromatic lens in telescopes.

The book explains Watkins's origins, and how and why he was drawn into partnership with the famous Dollond firm, who at that point were Huguenot incomers. The patent for the achromatic telescope has never been satisfactorily explained in the literature, and the author has gone back to the original legal documents, never before consulted. He teases out the problems, lays out the evidence, and comes to some interesting new conclusions, showing the Dollonds as hard-headed and ruthless businessmen, ultimately extremely successful. The latter part of the book accounts for the successors of Francis Watkins, and their decline after over a century of successful business in central London.

This book will be launched at the Society’s AGM, June 21st - 22nd 2014, at Bletchley Park. The book will be priced at £65 + p&p for members and £76.50 + p&p for non-members.

The society has a very limited number of pre-launch copies to sell to members at the reduced price of £55 + p&p, limited to one copy per member.


Collecting Drawing Instruments, by David Riches (Hexagon Press, 2012)

Drawing instruments have been an important design tool for thousands of years; examples exist from the ruins of Pompeii, buried in the ash from the eruption of Vesuvius in the first century. Yet the advent of computer aided design in the late twentieth century has largely rendered them redundant for architectural and engineering drawing. David Riches recognised that they were fast becoming obsolete as a tool of professional engineers and draughtsmen when he was an engineer in the defence industry, and in 1995 began collecting them. Since then he has collected over 360 cases of drawing instruments as well as many individual items and trade catalogues, and has extensively researched them. In recent years the number of collectors has grown but until now there has not been a major work on collecting them. This book fills that gap and describes the instruments, their development since the eighteenth century, their makers and the different characteristics of those from each of the main manufacturing countries. Also considered are the collecting itself and the care of the collection. Above all, it is aimed at the ordinary collector with a finite budget and the instruments and sets described and illustrated are from the author's own collection.

Price: £29.99 + p&p


Adams of Fleet Street, Instrument Makers to King George III, by John R. Millburn (Ashgate, 2000)

‘G. Adams in Fleet Street London’ is the signature on some of the finest scientific instruments of the eighteenth century. This book is the first comprehensive study of the instrument-making business run by the Adams family, from its foundation in 1734 to bankruptcy in 1817. It is based on detailed research in the archival sources as well as examination of extant instruments and publications by George Adams senior and his two sons, George junior and Dudley. Separate chapters are devoted to George senior’s family background, his royal connections, and his new globes; George junior’s numerous publications, and his dealings with van Marum; and to Dudley’s dabbling with ‘medico-electrical therapeutics’.

The book is richly illustrated with plates from the Adams’s own publications and with examples of instruments ranging from unique museum pieces—such as the ‘Prince of Wales’ microscope—and globes to the more common, even mundane, items of the kind seen in salesrooms and dealers—the surveying, navigational and military instruments that formed the backbone of the business. The appendices include facsimiles of trade catalogues and an annotated short-title listing of the Adams family’s publications, which also covers American and Continental editions, as well as the posthumous ones by W. & S. Jones.

Price: £70 + p&p


Making Scientific Instruments in the Industrial Revolution, by A.D. Morrison-Low (National Museums of Scotland & Ashgate, 2007)

At the start of the Industrial Revolution, it appeared that most scientific instruments were made and sold in London, but by the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851, a number of provincial firms had the self-confidence to exhibit their products in London to an international audience. How had this change come about, and why?

This book looks at the four main, and two lesser, English centres known for instrument production outside the capital: Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield, along with the older population centres in Bristol and York. Making wide use of new sources, Morrison-Low, curator of history of science at the National Museums of Scotland, charts the growth of these centres and provides a characterisation of their products. New information is provided on aspects of the trade, especially marketing techniques, sources of materials, tools and customer relationships. From contemporary evidence, she argues that the principal output of the provincial trade (with some notable exceptions) must have been into the London marketplace, anonymously, and at the cheaper end of the market. She also discusses the structure and organization of the provincial trade, and looks at the impact of new technology imported from other closely-allied trades.

By virtue of its approach and subject matter the book considers aspects of economic and business history, gender and the family, the history of science and technology, material culture, and patterns of migration. It contains a myriad of stories of families and firms, of entrepreneurs and customers, and of organizations and arms of government. In bringing together this wide range of interests, Morrison-Low enables us to appreciate how central the making, selling and distribution of scientific instruments was for the Industrial Revolution.

Price: £65 + p&p


Jesse Ramsden (1735–1800): London's Leading Scientific Instrument Maker, by Anita McConnell (Ashgate, 2007)

Jesse Ramsden was one of the most prominent manufacturers of scientific instruments in the latter half of the eighteenth century. To own a Ramsden instrument, be it one of his great theodolites or one of the many sextants and barometers produced at his London workshop, was to own not only an instrument of incredible accuracy and great practical use, but also a thing of beauty.

In this, the first biography of Jesse Ramsden, Anita McConnell reconstructs his life and career and presents us with a detailed account of the instrument trade in this period. By studying the life of one prominent instrument maker, the entire practice of the trade is illuminated, from the initial commission, the intricate planning and design, through the practicalities of production, delivery and, crucially, payment for the work.

The book will naturally be of immeasurable interest to historians of science and scientific instruments but, as it also sheds light on the increasing commercialisation of the scientific trade on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution, should also interest social and economic historians of the eighteenth century.

Price: £65 + p&p


A Dial in your Poke, 2nd ed., by Mike Cowham

Revised and Extended. The book discusses the history of the portable sundial from its earliest conception through to the eventual decline in the late 19th century. Illustrated with more than 300 photographs in full colour with many dials never previously shown.

Price: £49.50 + p&p


Sundials of the British Isles, edited by Mike Cowham

A description of some of the most interesting sundials to be found in the UK and Ireland. A beautiful hardback book with 500 photographs and contributions from 28 authors.

Price: £48.50 + p&p


Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, CD-ROM set

This 2‑CD set contains issues 1 to 81 of the Society’s Bulletin, in pdf format, with an index.

Price: £30 + p&p

Last Updated on Tuesday 10 June 2014, 11:50am
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