In which you will find:-
A Handful of Dates for Other Early 19th Century Barometer Makers
Buying your First Mercury Barometer: a few tips
Specialist Dealers and Restorers
Useful Books and Websites
A HANDFUL OF DATES FOR OTHER EARLY ITALIAN BAROMETER
BUYING YOUR FIRST ANTIQUE
What should you buy? Understand that I am not writing
for people who are buying a barometer as an investment. Buy something you like; something that begs you to take it home
and that will suit your house. A lot of people will want a barometer bearing the signature of their home
town or somewhere nearby. Below you'll find a link to the Webster Signature Database, and a search by location
will at least tell you if there is likely to be such a barometer. It won't tell you where to find one,
but you'll know if it might be worth searching and waiting. The database isn't foolproof, but it
helps. Searching images online, using the term 'barometer' and the name of the town, will pull up
barometers for sale - but it will also tell you the ones you missed when they were sold by dealers (who often show their sold
archive) or auction houses.
Buy the best quality you can afford, and read on re the costs of restoring,
Look at online websites of specialist dealers to get a real feel for what is out there and what they cost. Browse
auction catalogues and vist the better quality antique fairs, such as Antiques for Everyone, at the NEC, or the Harrogate
Antiques Fair at...Harrogate. Even if the stock may be as far above your touch as it is above mine, it will show you
- if you don't already know - what a fine stick or wheel barometer from a particular decade looks like.
Yes, it will leave you full of lust and envy, but so will an afternoon's window-shopping at John Lewis. Acquire
a copy of one of Edwin Banfield's books. Antique Barometers - An Illustrated Survey is a good starting point,
unless you have already made up your mind between stick, wheel or barograph. See below for more details of these books.
The price for a working antique barometer starts at around £200 . Note that I wrote 'working' .
A car can work but look rather tatty. Unless you have won the lottery, forget about 17th
and most 18th century barometers. Christies sold a Queen Ann period specimen by Daniel Quare for £20,000
ex-commission and VAT on the commission. But even early 19th century (Regency) barometers can be affordable. I've
recently seen a Sheraton, in fully restored/display condition, for £495. Later barometers are likely
to be cheaper.
At the moment prices seem to be depressed. Good news for buyers.
barometer in wonderful and original condition and signed by a well known maker will be expensive. You
hear antiques experts on TV extolling the glories of Georgian furniture that has passed down one family and acquired a glorious
patina. Many barometers are restored, and some have had bits replaced, often tubes and bits of pediments or stringing. That's
not unexpected - we all need a bit of help as we get older. It's just good to be told, or
to recognise for yourself, what's been done, because then the barometer is honest, even if, from
an investment perspective, the value may have been reduced. But when the restoration equivalents
of the face-lift, liposuction, Botox, Grecian 2000 etc become excessive, the barometer loses authenticity, though
it may still be an attractive object. Beware of barometers made up from miscellaneous
components taken from scrapped barometers and with a dial or level plate that bears the name of a maker who never saw any
of the other bits and would not have liked them if he had!
It goes without saying that all sorts of quality issues will
be reflected in the price. Why is one 1810-period barometer several times the price of another? The type
of veneer and the quantity and quality of decoration affect the price. Outline stringing (simple, or rope/chequered
etc), line inlay, crossbanding, paterae (especially unusual motifs) etc will all increase desirability, though some
veneers, such as flame mahogany, can stand on their own feet without elaborate decoration. The shape of the case
and, in the case of wheel barometers, the diameter of the dial are important. Good engraving is worth looking out
for as it really heightens the appeal. The name of the maker is also a factor. English names may be more expensive, though
the funny thing is that some barometers with English-sounding names were made by Italians whose names have been anglicised.
Francis Molton of Norwich is a good example. Unusual barometers have a rarity value that increases the price. It's
often just enough to look at a barometer and simply know you are looking at something special.
Beware of anonymous barometers, especially in that Sheraton style, because they may be Victorian
or later copies – not fakes, just repro – and they tend not to be signed. They have different engraving
etc: much larger, darker engraving of the weather indications, and heavy engraving around the centre of the dial.
This is fine if they are appropriately priced, of course.
However, there are unsigned early 19th century
exceptions out there that would grace any home. You just have to do the homework, which is where Banfield's books are
so good. No, not good - they are indespensible.
Where to buy?
The choice is between the reputable
specialist, the local antique shops, or the antique auction.
You may pay less than if you buy from a dealer, only provided you know what you are doing. Remember
- Buyer's Premium adds around 20% to the hammer price, depending
on the auction house policy. That's £20 for every £100. And VAT is levied on that premium. A £300
barometer could cost you about £375
- The auction house is not
allowed to post a barometer with mercury in the tube - you have to collect it or arrange specialist collection. Transportation
is not straightforward and if not done properly can smash the tube, leaving you with a car covered in glass
and mercury. (The movement of the car can cause the mercury to rise and fall so violently that, if it rises quickly it can
smash through the top of the tube. You can get a specialist to plug the tube which makes it transportable - but still
not postable. If done badly, plugging can push air into the tube, which is very bad
news, and, even if it doesn't, when you get the barometer home, you have to set it up.
- A 400-mile round trip by car will add serious ££ to the cost. That £375 can be pushing £440
by the time you take it out of the car after having filled the petrol tank and stopped for a coffee or two.
- If the barometer is in perfect working order and attractive enough to hang straight on the wall you may be lucky.
Just do serious homework before you start bidding, and know when to sit on your hands. It may not be as
easy as you think, unless you have the temperament of Yoda from Star Wars. One very experienced barometer dealer told
me that he once bid on the wrong lot and ended up buying a doll with one arm.... Go to some house clearences first and buy
a cheap trinket or pot that you can donate to the charity shop, just so you get the feel for bidding.
- It is infinitely better to see the instrument for yourself than to bid
from a picture in a catalogue. Believe me: I have been to view barometers on viewing day having first seen them in the online
catalogue - and some have looked terrible. I am not accusing the auction houses of photoshopping the images; it's
just that when you set up lighting for photography you bring up a shine on the veneer that gives a richness to the wood
that may not be there. You don't want to overspend if you are bidding online or by phone, because your
winning bid may be followed by an unexpectedly high restoration bill. So do look at the barometer on viewing
or sale day. And if you are disappointed, don't buy it. Better to have wasted the petrol than the cost of the
- If it requires restoration beyond, say, rethreading the weights, you ought
to think of circa £300 restoration costs, and be aware that it could be more depending on the amount of work
that is necessary and the rate charged by the restorer. If you are prepared for £300 you'll get a pleasant
surprise if it's less, and you shouldn't get a heart attack if it's more. Remember it’s a highly skilled,
labour intensive task. Most auction houses will send you hi-res images and a condition report, and some will let
you take your own pictures. If you can get images of the front, back, sides, tube, each dial etc, and especially of any obvious
damage – you can send them to a restorer and get at least a ball-park figure before you waste time going to the auction.
Then compare it with the cost of a similar instrument from a specialist dealer. If you take a chance, and that
£440 barometer is going to cost a further £400+ to clean the case, replace some missing bits, resilver the dials,
and refill or replace the mercury tube, you've spent over £800 at least. What is the barometer actually
worth? Would you have had to pay £800 in a dealer's showroom for it? Of course, if it bears
the name of one of your ancestors, you may be more than happy to pay over the odds. If you find a good stick barometer
with curved glass that's cracked, beware. The replacement glass will have to be handmade for your restorer. Ouch, as they
say. That's not to say that the barometer won't repay restoration, just to warn you.
In my humble opinion it's not a good place for the novice
as many of the sellers either do not have a clue or else try to get away with asking high starting or BIN prices
for inferior instruments that you probably won't have the chance to see first and would get more cheaply in a conventional
auction. I recently saw a very tatty specimen - one that might have been good for demonstrating the
construction and working of a barometer - but although it appeared to have mercury in the back, the dealer
was offering to post it for £12. I did contact the seller, and received the answer that it had some silvery liquid
in the tube but he didn't know what it was...Imagine receiving that package... You see onion tops
described as rare Regency instruments; 1810 sticks described as early 18th century; tatty 5-glass instruments catalogued
as early 19th century. Ebay is crammed with undesirable, if not hideous, barometers, Out of 2,600 lots I flicked
through recently, there were no more than about 10 mercury barometers and among those was just one attractive
Sheraton and a very desireable Francis Molton (the latter was being sold by an antique dealer who also
had a shop where the barometer could be viewed)
General Antique shops
term covers a very wide spectrum of business, from (in Britain) LAPADA or BADA members down to what
can look rather like junk shops.
- Some may sell only one or two undistinguished
instruments needing restoration, and the staff may know nothing about barometers at all. Do your homework.See above, under
- Some will stock a few barometers, often to complement their furniture showroom,
and have a specialist restorer who repairs/restores them, and who will deliver your purchase and set it up for you. As
you may not know this, do your homework and ask questions.
- You may get a gem, especially a local
- Some only stock the upper end
of price and quality; others offer a good range of periods and prices to suit all tastes and pockets.
- You will get good advice. Good barometer dealers are passionate about their stock.
instrument will come fully restored, working, and with a guarantee. You may well even get images of the instrument being restored
- assuming it needed restoring.
- Many dealers will bring the barometer to your house and set
it up for you, especially if you don’t live too far away. This may be an extra cost to you or an
integral/negotiable part of the selling price.
- You will pay a premium, but know exactly
what you are getting. A reputable dealer (if you're not sure, look for members of an association such as LAPADA,
the London and Provincial Antique Dealers' Association), or BADA (British Antique Dealers Association) will not
take advantage of a buyer's inexperience to pass off a common 1850s onion top as a rare George III specimen. Those
who repair clocks as well as barometers may be members of the British Horological Institute. I've put
a list of reputable UK specialists below, but there are undoubtedly many others, and I
would be very happy to include them on the site..
|In need of some TLC
|Missing stringing, filthy case, dirty, dull brass bezel.
RESTORING YOUR BAROMETER
I bought my Ortelli because
I thought it would be a good idea to try restoring a barometer. Anyone who knows my capability with any tools that do not
belong in the kitchen drawer will realise it would have been a very bad idea had I gone through with it. Fortunately
for the barometer, I realised as soon as I had it in my arms that it deserved far better, and I had already got
cold feet after buying and intently studying by
Philip R Collins. So ended my flirtation with restoration (though it did teach my husband and me how to rethread a barometer,
a skill which has proved useful).
If you have a barometer that needs restoration, don't just hand it
over and run! The current trend for antique collectors is to want things in original condition, but if you are buying
something as a decorative item for your home you will probably want to balance aesthetic appeal and authenticity. Discuss
with the restorer how you want the finished instrument to look. Do you want it to look brand new, with gleaming dial and brass,
or are you more comfortable with something mellow. Personally, I think the trick is to remove the ravages of time while
preserving the warmth and beauty of age - so, no, I don't want the brasswork and silvering to blind me. A
good restorer will give good advice; and they will be very keen to preserve the patina of the veneer - though sometimes, tragically,
it may have to be stripped back. If this should happen, you will become the custodian of the barometer as
if it were new, and it will be your duty to allow the long process of patination to begin all over again. Like planting an
acorn, you will not see it come to maturity in your lifetime. Just do it for posterity.
SPECIALIST DEALERS AND RESTORERS IN BRITAIN
The list is in
no particular order and is rather geographically skewed! Some names are of dealers I know and would trust, others
are dealers whose stock and information indicates they are specialists. Many have interesting articles about barometers,
too. If you are a specialist in this field - dealing in just barometers or clocks and barometers and
offering real client service - and want to be on the list, please let me know through the contact form on
the home page. I suppose I have to make the usual statement that listing a particular business does not imply a personal endorsement.
However, Andy Firth of AWF Restorations and Andrew Foott have restored three of my four barometers and made
lovely jobs of all three, and I have no hestitation in recommending them to anyone in the area.
dealers don't necessarily have showrooms or workshops open 6 or 7 days a week - some work from home and, in
any case, will go off to buy stock, exhibit at antique fairs or set up clocks and barometers in the homes of clients.
If you would like to view stock or want to discuss restoration, it's essential to check opening hours and/or make
contact through websites, email or telephone first.
Ho Ho Bird Fine Antique Clocks
and Barometers. (Cheshire/Greater Manchester/ Derbyshire area)
Telephone: 0161 408 2473 or 07734 680692; http://www.hohobird.com/
Visit the website
Alan Walker Fine Antique Barometers,
Halfway Manor, Bath Road, Halfway,
Newbury, Berkshire, RG20 8NR
Telephone: 01488 657670;
43 Church Street, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, DE6 1AJ,
Telephone: 01335 345633 http://www.hg-barometers.co.uk/
It's About Time,
863 London Road, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex SS0
Telephone 01702 472 574 firstname.lastname@example.org://www.antiqueclock.co.uk/
Ye Olde Clock Shop, Staffordshire.
Telephone: 01785 713576;
The Packhouse Antiques Centre, Runfold,
Surrey GU10 1PJ
Phone: 01252 548 288
visit the website
Jones Barometer Services
Landline phone: 01205 722257
Mobile: 07711 245921
Visit the website
M C Taylor - The Clockshop
995 Christchurch Road
Tel: 01202 429718
The Barometer Shop
New Street, Leominster,
Herefordshire, HR6 8DP
Tel: 01568 610200
Fax: 01568 610200
Old Time Antique Clocks and Barometers,
Norfolk BR15 2UL
Tel. 01508 532188
visit the website
your barometer safely on the wall. But now it needs another one to keep it company and to check it against. Three would be
better... plus a handsome cased pocket aneroid.
ESSENTIAL BOOKS AND USEFUL WEBSITES
The standard work used to be Nicholas Goodison's English Barometers 1680-1860. It deals
primarily with the great English makers of the 18th century and while it is very interesting in its own right it is
probably not the book for the average enthusiast who is unlikely to come across or be able to afford the rare and unique instruments
made by the names with which the the author deals.But it's a lovely book. Being out of print, it can attract high prices
- I've seen a copy advertised on Amazon UK for as much as £350. But it is still possible to pick it up for
less than £10 - go to the great international used book website www.addall.com where many copies at a wide range of prices are listed. And if you have spare £47,000 you can snap up a
first edition of Pride and Prejudice as well.
Of more practical use
for barometer spotters are the following, and the best place to get them (especially if you like to support UK companies who
don't have complex tax arrangements) is the publisher, Baros Books. http://www.barosbooks.co.uk/
Click here to visit Baros Books
Books by Edwin Banfield
Barometers, an Illustrated Survey
Barometers: Stick or Cistern tube
Barometers: Wheel or Banjo
Influence on English Barometers from 1780
Barometer Makers and Retailers 1660-1900
Barometers: Aneroid and Barograph
Books by Philip R Collins
Aneroid Barometers and
The Banfield Family Collection of Barometers
Restoration of Barometers
FitzRoy and his Barometers
Baros also publish:
Knowles Middleton: The History of the Barometer . This is probably a fascinating
tome, but I'm ashamed to admit that my scientific understanding is limited so it really goes over my head. It
does not deal with makers as human beings nor with barometers as decorative objects of beauty.
Zambra: A treatise on Meteorological instruments (first published 1864)
Details of all books
are on the website
The Webster Signature Database
This is a excellent resource. The page doesn't look very
friendly, but it allows you to search for a maker (signature) and find what is known of their output. You can also search
by location, so if you want to know if you are ever likely to find a barometer with your home town engraved on it, this is
the place to look. If you want to find a York barometer you will have to wade through a lot of New York results as well; if
you are American, you have to discount the York, England hits, but other than that it is wonderful. Also good if you can read
the town but not the maker's name in the dial in, say, a photograph. Or if the maker's name has been mangled
by the engraver.
Search the Webster database
Friends of antique meteorological
I know it's in German, but it's very good . It includes a list of 18th Century European makers, and you
don't need to read German to understand it. The British ones are culled from Banfield, of course, but there are
many others from France, Germany, Netherlands etc, and the link to the page is: www.freunde-alter-wetterinstrumente.de/12barges04.htm
Visit the website now
As well as being a dealer and restorer, Horologica has a lot of useful and interesting information and the site is well
worth a look.