Tuesday, 8 February 2022

Book Review: At The Sign of The Orrery.

At the Sign of the Orrery: The Origins of the Firm Cooke, Troughton & Simms, Ltd.

by E. Wilfred Taylor and J. Simms Wilson

The publication date is not given in the book. However, the latest events referred to in the text were in 1959, predating the renaming of the firm to Vickers in 1962. The book is believed to have been published either shortly after the events of 1959, or during the 1960s.

About the authors: James Simms Wilson was Managing Director, and later Joint Managing Director of Cooke, Troughton and Simms from 1924 until his retirement in 1956. Edward Wilfred Taylor joined the firm when he left school, and retired as Joint Managing Director also in 1956. For more information about the Simms family, and Edward Wilfred Taylor, see Reference 1.

Note: Since the current copyright status of this book and its images is not known, I have only used low resolution reproductions of the images.

At the Sign of the Orrery gives details of the careers of a number of mathematical instrument makers. These are: John Worgan, John Rowley, Thomas Wright, Benjamin Cole – father and son, and the three founding families of Cooke, Troughton and Simms.

The connection between the earlier makers, according to the authors, was that they had the sign of The Orrery in their trading address – hence the title. There is the suggestion that the addresses, although varying in name, are the same shop. The authors do, however, state: ‘Our story opens in a little shop “Under the Dial of St. Dunstan’s Church in Fleet Street, London’ in the year 1688, and two of the connecting links being of a circumstantial character can hardly be regarded as proved. Thereafter to the present day every link in the chain can be supported by evidence’.

Thee mathematical instrument makers are:

John Worgan2,3,5#451: Mathematical instrument maker, trading Under the Dial of St. Dunstan’s Church, Fleet Street, London, and specialising in surveying instruments and dials. He was freed of the Grocers’ Company in 1682, and records place him working in Fleet Street between 1685 and at least 1700, as well as Fetter Lane in 1693. A Gunther’s quadrant made by John Worgan is in the Science Museum, London. Other examples of his work include compass dials and circumferentors. According to the authors, his premises were taken over by John Rowley. However, while this is confirmed in Reference 3, some doubt is cast by References 2 and 5 since, according to a print dated 1737, there were six or seven shops Under St. Dunstan’s Church, of which the westernmost shop was immediately under the Dial.

John Rowley1,2,5#507: Mathematical instrument maker of London. He was freed of the Broderers’ Company in 1690, and worked in Threadneedle Street, London until 1702 when he is recorded as trading at The Globe, Under St. Dunstan’s Church, Fleet Street. This, according to the authors, is likely to be the same address as Under the Dial of St. Dunstan’s Church, previously vacated by John Worgan. Instruments bearing John Rowley’s name include drawing instruments, pocket dials, artillery scales, dialling spheres, Gunther’s quadrants, globes, planetaria, levels, sextants, and a standard length. He also played a major role in the development of planetary system models, known as orreries. Many instruments bearing John Rowley’s name were to be found in the collection of Charles Boyle, fourth Earl of Orrery (1676-1731), which he bequeathed to Christ Church, Oxford. John Rowley was succeeded in business by his ex-apprentice and employee Thomas Wright.

Thomas Wright1,2,6#143: Mathematical instrument maker of London. He served his apprenticeship with John Rowley, and was freed of the Broderers’ Company in 1715. He started his career working for Rowley, and by 1720 he was trading at the Orrery and Globe, Fleet Street, having succeeded John Rowley in business. According to the authors ‘In the midsummer quarter of 1718 Wright moved to what later became No. 136 Fleet Street, opposite Water Lane, where he continued to work under the sign of the Orrery and Globe until his retirement in favour of Benjamin Cole in 1748…’ According to Reference 2, his address in 1747 was Orrery & Globe next the Globe & Marlborough Head Tavern in Fleet Street. It is entirely possible, and indeed likely, that The Globe, the address occupied by John Rowley’s business, was renamed Orrery & Globe following Rowley’s involvement in the development of orreries, and the existence of many of his instruments in the Earl of Orrery’s collection. Thomas Wright was succeeded in business by his employee, Benjamin Cole.

Benjamin Cole1,2,5#492,6#26,7: This section of the book talks about the father and son, referred to as Benjamin Cole (I) and Benjamin Cole (II) in Reference 1. Benjamin Cole (I) was a mathematical, philosophical and optical instrument maker. He served his apprenticeship with William Cade, and was freed of the Merchant Taylors’ Company in 1719. He worked for Thomas Wright, whom he succeeded in business. He traded at several addresses in London, including The Grand Orrery, Poppings Court, Fleet Street, and The Orrery, next to the Globe Tavern, Fleet Street. His son, Benjamin Cole (II) served his apprenticeship with Benjamin (I), after which they worked together as Cole and Son. Benjamin (II) continued the business under his own name following the death of his father, trading at The Orrery, next to the Globe Tavern, 136 Fleet Street. Note the introduction of a street number. Benjamin Cole (II) was succeeded in business by John Troughton.


John Troughton1,2,3,4 (c1739-1807) served his apprenticeship with his uncle, also named John Troughton, and was freed of the Grocers’ Company in 1764. Among his own apprentices was his brother, Edward Troughton. They traded together as J&E Troughton, and in 1782 John purchased the business of Benjamin Cole (II), and began to trade from the same address At the Sign of the Orrery, 136 Fleet Street.

The book continues with the stories and businesses of the families of the three founders of the firms that eventually merged to become Cooke, Troughton and Simms – Edward Troughton1,2,3,4,7 (1753-1835), William Simms1,2,4,6#1430 (1793-1860), and Thomas Cooke1,4,6#1515,7 (1807-1868).


As mentioned earlier, not all of the claims or implications made in At the Sign of the Orrery are verifiable. By way of correction, or errata, Anita McConnell4 points out there is not a proven connection between either John Worgan or John Rowley and the Troughtons. Also that the claim on p27 that the King of Denmark awarded a ‘Special Gold Medal’ to Edward Troughton has not been verified. And finally she points out that William Simms was not apprenticed to Bennett, as stated on p31.

For an account of the lives and careers of the instrument makers mentioned in this article, and many more, please see Reference 1.

References:

1: Brass and Glass: Optical Instruments and Their Makers. Tony Benson. 2021.

2: Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550-1851. Gloria Clifton. Zwemmer, London 1995.

3: Mathematical Instrument Makers in the Grocers’ Company 1688-1800. Joyce Brown. Science Museum, London 1979.

4: Instrument Makers to the World: A History of Cooke, Troughton & Simms. Anita McConnell. William Sessions Ltd., York, England for University of York 1992.

5: The Mathematical Practitioners of Tudor and Stuart England 1485-1714. E.G.R. Taylor. Cambridge 1954.

6: The Mathematical Practitioners of Hanoverian England 1714-1840. E.G.R. Taylor. Cambridge 1966.

7: Making Scientific Instruments in the Industrial Revolution. A.D. Morrison-Low. Routledge 2016.

All content is © copyright Tony Benson. Images may be subject to copyright.

Thursday, 9 December 2021

Francesca’s Bookshelf: The Common Muse: An Anthology of Popular British Ballad Poetry XVth – XXth Centuries

You may remember from my earlier blog posts that Francesca loves to collect old books of ballads and songs. In fact, with all the necessities of life taken care of, and book collecting as her only real hobby, it’s all she has to spend her allowance on. It’s unsurprising that her collection contains numerous old and very interesting books.

Today, Francesca is browsing The Common Muse: An Anthology of Popular British Ballad Poetry XVth – XXth Centuries. Edited by V. de Sola Pinto & A.E. Rodway. This first edition was published by Chatto & Windus, London in 1957. The objective of the editors was given on the front flyleaf of the dustjacket. The dustjacket is missing from many copies of this book, so I have reproduced the editors’ objectives below for you (click to enlarge it). From this, you would expect the book to contain a wealth of old popular poetry, songs and ballads, and you would not be disappointed.

There is a 29-page introduction, which begins with the words: ‘Though many of our greatest poets knew, used and imitated street songs and ballads, in modern times it is mainly the political and social historians and antiquaries who have so far paid serious attention to them. Literary critics and historians dismiss them as “doggerel” or “journalism in verse”. What was good enough for Shakespeare, apparently, is no longer good enough for us.’


The introduction goes on to give a critical analysis of the genre of songs and ballads in poetry from mediaeval times to the 20th century. The authors discuss varying perceptions of the literary and moral value of these works, at the same time highlighting the wide range of subject and style, from bawdy to romantic, from historical to social commentary. They acknowledge that while the preservation of mediaeval verse can be attributed to broadsheet1 publications, they also owe a debt to ‘folk memory’, since the earliest songs and ballads were composed and sung by minstrels, many of them itinerant, and passed on by word of mouth rather than printing. The critical analysis is an engaging read for anyone with an interest in this kind of poetry.

Following the introduction, the book is structured in two parts. Part I: General has subsections Historical; Social Criticism; Manners and Fashions; Soldiers, Sailors, Highwaymen and Poachers; Portents and Prodigies; Crime and Punishment; Religion. Part II: Amatory has subsections Rural; Urban; Vocational; Clerical; Marital; Wise and Foolish Virgins. As is apparent, this collection contains a rich variety of interesting songs and ballads. Each subsection is prefaced by a delightful woodblock print, and contains a number of songs or ballads.



After browsing for a while, Francesca finds herself reading a song called Don’t Be Foolish Pray.

Young Hodge met Mog the miller’s maid
Who long his suite denied,
And half inclined and half afraid,
Scratched his rough head and cried:-
‘Now Molly while I love you so,
Why still our joys delay,
Come dang it, to the parson go,
And don’t be foolish pray.’

Sweet Moggy with an artful blush
That sham’d the rose’s hue,
Looked round, and cried to Hodge ‘hush hush
Speak softly, softly do:
We shall be overheard I know,
The mill don’t work to day
Be quiet, Hodge my hand let go,
Now don’t be foolish pray.’

Poor Hodge, thus chid, at a stand,
And cried,-‘Well then, good bye,
I’se go to give to Sue my hand,
Since thee do cast off I.’
‘Me cast you off’, cries Moggy ‘no,
The mill don’t work to day;
And so dear Hodge, to church let’s go,
And don’t be foolish pray.’


Francesca rather likes the idea of a blush that shames the rose’s hue, but she’s not quite sure of the wisdom behind Molly’s initial refusal of Hodge’s hand. Perhaps Molly is toying with him. Would Francesca do such a thing herself? She doesn’t really want to have to answer that question.

The song was recorded by the brilliant folk-singer/guitarist Nic Jones on his album Ballads and Songs in 1970. If you’re not familiar with his work I highly recommend you get the album for this, and the other wonderful songs and ballads on it. As a tune for this song he used a part of the tune The Merry Merry Milkmaids from The Dancing Master by John Playford (published in a number of editions from 1651 to about 1728). He also altered the words a little to scan with the tune.

In the sleeve notes for Ballads and Songs, Nic Jones wrote, ‘The printed broadsides are often accused of stunting the growth of folksongs and of solidifying the words by submitting them to print. True as this is in many cases, they also created and diffused a great many songs which possess a deal of charm in themselves. Don’t you be foolish pray is a good example of this, probably created by a townsman with his idealised view of rural life. In many instances, songs such as this appealed very strongly to the country singers and were allotted high positions in their repertories.’

1: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the words broadsheet and broadside both refer to a large sheet of paper printed on one side only. These were used to publish ballads and songs, as well as news items and advertisements, and sold by street vendors, particularly in the Elizabethan age, but continuing until the nineteenth century.

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Now Available - Brass and Glass: Optical Instruments and Their Makers

Brass and Glass
Optical Instruments and their Makers
*** Now available in paperback ***

Brass and Glass: Optical Instruments and their Makers
is an encyclopaedia of optical instruments, and the individuals and companies, both historical and contemporary, who have made them. It contains over 2000 alphabetical entries, including:

Optical instrument makers and brands
Telescopes
Binoculars
Microscopes
Cameras
Navigation instruments
Surveying instruments
Military optical ordnance
Laboratory & educational instruments
Optical terminology

There are appendices containing information on selected related subjects such as optical glass and eyepiece designs.

The inspiration for the book came from my interests in stargazing, photography, microscopy and bird-watching. These involve using telescopes, microscopes, binoculars and cameras, and soon I began to take an interest in classic and vintage optical instruments. I found the lack of reference material frustrating - I would see an interesting looking vintage telescope at auction, but to find out more about the maker I would have to buy extraordinarily expensive reference books, many of which are out of print. Further, the information I sought was frequently scattered around multiple sources, and time-consuming to collate. I wanted an affordable, simple, encyclopaedic reference in which I could find the name of the maker or optical instrument and a concise, but informative article about them. This book is my attempt to remedy that gap in the literature.

Since the invention of the telescope and the microscope in the early seventeenth cetury there have been countless makers of optical instruments. It would be impossible to include an entry for every one of them. However, most makers the general reader will encounter are currently included, and new entries will be added in future editions.

A draft table of contents for the first edition may be found here (opens in a new tab).
Much of the content of Brass and Glass: Optical Instruments and their Makers relates to instrument makers or organisations of the past. However, many are still in business, or have been absorbed into other businesses which are still trading. A list of current websites of, or relating to some of the companies and organisations which appear in the book may be found here (opens in a new tab).

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Coming Soon - Brass and Glass: Optical Instruments and their Makers

Brass and Glass
Optical Instruments and their Makers
***COMING SOON ***

Brass and Glass: Optical Instruments and their Makers
is an encyclopaedia of optical instruments, and the individuals and companies, both historical and contemporary, who have made them. It contains over 2000 alphabetical entries, including:

Optical instrument makers and brands
Telescopes
Binoculars
Microscopes
Cameras
Navigation instruments
Surveying instruments
Military optical ordnance
Laboratory & educational instruments
Optical terminology

There are appendices containing information on selected related subjects such as optical glass and eyepiece designs.

The inspiration for the book came from my interests in stargazing, photography, microscopy and bird-watching. These involve using telescopes, microscopes, binoculars and cameras, and soon I began to take an interest in classic and vintage optical instruments. I found the lack of reference material frustrating - I would see an interesting looking vintage telescope at auction, but to find out more about the maker I would have to buy extraordinarily expensive reference books, many of which are out of print. Further, the information I sought was frequently scattered around multiple sources, and time-consuming to collate. I wanted an affordable, simple, encyclopaedic reference in which I could find the name of the maker or optical instrument and a concise, but informative article about them. This book is my attempt to remedy that gap in the literature.

Since the invention of the telescope and the microscope in the early seventeenth cetury there have been countless makers of optical instruments. It would be impossible to include an entry for every one of them. However, most makers the general reader will encounter are currently included, and new entries will be added in future editions.

A draft table of contents for the first edition may be found here (opens in a new tab).
Much of the content of Brass and Glass: Optical Instruments and their Makers relates to instrument makers or organisations of the past. However, many are still in business, or have been absorbed into other businesses which are still trading. A list of current websites of, or relating to some of the companies and organisations which appear in the book may be found here (opens in a new tab).

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Optical Instruments and Their Makers


It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on my work in progress, so here goes: It’s non-fiction, and the title is Brass & Glass: Optical Instruments and Their Makers.

The inspiration for the book came from my interests in stargazing, photography, microscopy and bird-watching. These involve using telescopes, microscopes, binoculars and cameras, and soon I began to take an interest in classic and vintage optical instruments. I found the lack of reference material frustrating - I would see an interesting looking vintage telescope at auction, but to find out more about the maker I would have to buy extraordinarily expensive reference books, many of which are out of print. Further, the information I sought was frequently scattered around multiple sources, and time-consuming to collate. I wanted an affordable, simple, encyclopaedic reference in which I could find the name of the maker or optical instrument and a concise, but informative article about them. This book is my attempt to remedy that gap in the literature.

It’s up to over 1700 entries now, and I’m working with several subject-matter experts to get critique feedback on the content. That will lead to a new raft of updates and additions then, when that’s complete, hopefully it’ll be close to being ready for publication.

Watch this space...

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Using Crossed Polarising Filters on a Conventional Microscope

A short while ago I posted an article about sugar crystals imaged in a microscope with crossed polarising filters. I promised to show the setup I used to achieve this, so here we are.


What you see here is a Charles Baker microscope with a Cooke microscope lamp providing Köhler Illumination. (The link is to my previous article explaining Köhler Illumination). I've implemented the crossed polarisation very simply.

I have a small polarising sheet that I have cut into two two-inch squares.
I use one of the squares in a filter slot in the microscope light.
And I place the other over the microscope slide, but under the objective lens. This sheet of polarising filter I rotate, while viewing through the microscope, until I see the best contrast.
And the result... I get to see these wonderfully colourful renditions of the crystalline structure of the sugar (see my earlier post).


A microscope used with crossed polarising filters is sometimes referred to as a polariscope.

Polariscope

In general, a polariscope is an optical inspection device used to detect internal stresses in glass and other transparent materials such as plastics, synthetic resins, crystalline materials, etc. A polariscope is composed chiefly of a light source and two crossed polarised lenses. Material to be examined is placed between the two polariscope lenses and viewed through the lens opposite the light source lens. It is commonly used in detecting the optical properties of gemstones.

All content and images © Tony Benson


Monday, 3 February 2020

Köhler Illumination


Köhler Illumination is a form of microscope sample illumination, invented by August Köhler, (see below), that provides even light across the field of view, and a light cone that matches the numerical aperture of the objective lens. It is suitable for either viewing or photography. It normally consists of a collector lens near the light source, together with a field iris, and a sub-stage condenser with a condenser iris. The focus of both the collector and condenser lenses is adjustable, as is the aperture of each of the irises.

The Cooke microscope light you see here has both an adjustable collector lens (the big lever pointing straight up), and an adjustable field iris (the small lever you see further to the right). You can click on the image to see it enlarged.

It also has a knob to adjust how bright the light is, and slots where filters can be inserted. This particular model of light is designed by Cooke to be used with a Cooke microscope, but it can easily be used with any conventional microscope.

The microscope I've shown in the picture above is by Charles Baker. It has a sub-stage condenser and iris, and a sub-stage mirror. The mirror has a plane face and a curved face. The plane face of the mirror is used in conjunction with Köhler Illumination, since the focusing of the illuminating light is achieved by the collector lens and the sub-stage condenser.



Using Köhler Illumination

The collector lens is focused to form an image of the light source in the plane of the sub-stage condenser iris. The condenser lens is focused to form an image of the field iris in the sample plane. The two irises are adjusted to provide the required light cone. Thus, when the sample is in focus the image of the light source is completely de-focused, resulting in even illumination.

Some microscopes have built-in Köhler illumination. In this case, the principle is the same, but the practicalities of the adjustments may be different.

August Köhler

August Köhler, (1866-1948), was a German scientist who made several innovations in microscopy. He is best known for his invention of Köhler Illumination in 1893. In 1900 he began to work for Carl Zeiss, where he continued to work until 1945, three years before his death.

All content and images © Tony Benson