Reading list

This reading list is intended to be an entry point for those who would like more information on one or other of the fields of scientific instrument collection. It has been compiled from suggestions by various members of books that they have found useful. It is by no means comprehensive nor does it judge the merits of items included or excluded.

By its nature many of the entries are no longer in print but second hand examples are frequently available on the internet as are sometimes downloadable versions. Better still many are available in libraries.

Further suggestions would be welcome – provided the proposer has no personal interest in the suggested publication.

More detailed and academic information can be sought through the online bibliography of the Scientific Instrument Commission.

This list starts with general books and then gives books for specific fields. Lastly are the museum catalogues so those seeking an entry point should look in all three locations.


  • 19th Century Scientific Instruments, Turner, G. L’E, Philip Wilson for Sotheby’s, 1983, ISBN: 0855671703; and in USA: University of California Press, 1983/4, ISBN: 0520051602
  • Brass & Glass, Scientific Instrument Making Workshops in Scotland, Clark, T. N., A D. Morrison Low & A. D. C. Simpson, National Museums of Scotland, 1989, ISBN: 0948636068
  • Collecting and Restoring Scientific Instruments, Pearsall, R., David & Charles, 1974, ISBN: 0715363549 (An idiosyncratic view with methods to be followed only with extreme caution)
  • Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550-1851, Gloria Clifton, Zwemmer & National Maritime Museum, 1995, ISBN: 0302006346 ( The authoritative and comprehensive source of information about instrument makers)
  • Early American Scientific Instruments and Their Makers, Bedini. S. A., Ranco Cordova, 1986
  • Early Scientific Instruments: Europe, 1400-1780, Turner A., Sotheby’s, 1987, ISBN: 0856673196
  • Irish National Inventory of Historic Scientific Instruments, Mollan, C., Samton 1995, ISBN-13: 9781898706052
  • Feinmechanik aus Kassel, 225 Jahre F.W. Breithaupt & Sohn, Festschrift und Ausstellungsbegleiter, Verfasst nach Archivalien, Biographien und Instrumenten im Firmenarchiv und im Hessischen Landesmuseum in Kassel, L. von Mackensen, Kassel, 1987. ISBN: 3870130229
  • Les Instruments Scientifiques aux xviii et xviii siecles. Dumas, M., Presses Universitaire de France, 1953
  • Scientific Instruments of the 17th and 18th Centuries and their Makers. Dumas, M., Portman Press, 1989 (English language edition of above)
  • Making Scientific Instruments in the Industrial Revolution, Morrison-Low, A., Ashgate, 2007, ISBN-13: 6812094209034
  • Science Preserved, Holbrook, M. et al, Science Museum (HMSO), 1992, ISBN: 0112900607
  • Scientific Instruments 1500-1900, An Introduction, Turner, G. L’E, Philip Wilson, 1998, ISBN: 0856674915 and in USA: University of California Press, ISBN: 0520217284 (An excellent starting point with a useful list of further reading)
  • Scientific Instruments, Harriet Wynter & Anthony Turner, Studio Vista, 1975, ISBN: 0289704030

Astronomy and time

  • A Dial in Your Poke, Cowham, M. A., 2nd edn 2011, ISBN-13: 9780955115523
  • Astrum 2009: Astronomy and Instruments, Italian Heritage Four Hundred Years after Galileo, I. Chinnici (ed.), Sillabe, 2009
  • G.F. Brander 1713-1783, Wissenschaftliche Instrumente aus seiner Werkstatt, A. Brachner e.a., München, 1983
  • Sundials: History, Theory, and Practice, Rohr, R. R. J., Dover, 2000, ISBN-13: 9780486291390

Drawing and Maths

  • A History of the Logarithmic Slide Rule and Allied Instruments, Florian
    Cajori (1910), Astragal Press reprint 1994, ISBN: 1879335964
  • Collecting Drawing Instruments, David Riches, Hexagon Press, 2012, ISBN-13: 9781906600587
  • A Descriptive Treatise on Mathematical Drawing Instruments, Stanley, W. F. R. (1878), Kessinger Publishing Rare Reprint, ISBN: 0548826528 (print on demand)
  • Drawing Instruments 1580-1980, Hambly, M., Sotheby’s, 1988, ISBN: 0856673412
  • Slide Rules, Their History, Models and Makers, Peter M Hopp, Astragal Press,1999, ISBN: 1879335867
  • The Mathematical Practitioners of Tudor & Stuart England, 1485-1714, Taylor, E.G.R., Cambridge, 1967
  • The Mathematical Practitioners of Hanoverian England, 1714-1840, Taylor, E.G.R., Cambridge, 1966
  • An Index to The Mathematical Practitioners of Hanoverian England, 1714-1840, Taylor E.G. R., Bostock K., Hurt S., Hurt, M., London, 1980

Electrical and Electronic

  • Electrical and magnetic instruments, Lyall, K., Whipple Museum of the History of Science, 1991


  • Antique Medical Instruments, Bennion, E., Sotheby’s, 1978, ISBN: 0856670529


  • Engineering Metrology, Hume, K. J. , MacDonald & Co., 2nd Edn. 1963
  • The Rule Book, Measuring for the Trades, Rees, J. and Rees, M., Astragal Press, 2010, ISBN-13: 9781931626262


  • Aneroid barometers and their restoration, Collins, P.R. Baros Books, 1998, ISBN: 9780948382116
  • Antique Barometers an Illustrated Survey, Banfield, E, Baros Books, 1976 plus several reprints to 1996, ISBN: 094836204X
  • Barometer Makers and Retailers 1660-1900, Banfield, E, Baros Books, 1991, 2000, ISBN: 0948382066
  • Barometer makers and retailers 1660-1900,  Banfield, E., Baros Books
  • Barometers wheel or banjo, Banfield, E, Baros Books
  • Barographs, Collins, P.R. Baros Books
  • Care and restoration of barometers, Collins, P.R. Baros Books (the two restoration books contain photographs of barometers)
  • The History of the Barometer, Knowles-Middleton, W. E. ( A wide ranging study in terms of history,   varieties, and background- a good starting point. Baros Books have published a number of books on barometers and are to be recommended)


  • Collecting Microscopes, Turner, G. L’E., Christie’s Collectors Series, Studio Vista, ISBN: 028970882 6
  • Early Microscopes: a Descriptive Catalogue. Fournier, M. Museum Boerhave Communications, 2003 ( Deals primarily with Dutch microscopes with a wealth of photographs of the collection)
  • Microscopical Mounts and Mounters, Bracegirdle, B. Quekett Microscopical Club 1998, ISBN: 0951444131
  • Notes onModern Microscope Makers, Bracegirdle, B., Quekett Microscopical Club 1996 ISBN: 0951444174 (“Modern” is a relative term here – Most entries fall into the 19th and early 20th centuries)
  • The Great Age of the Microscope. Turner, G L’E. Adam Hilger 1989, ISBN: 0852740204 ( a reasoned catalogue and extensive introduction to the microscopes in the Royal Microscopical Society collection)
  • The Microscope. Hogg, J. George Routledge and Sons Ltd 1911 (A useful introduction to the state of the art at the time of publication. This was the 15th edition and the series of publications can be used to see the development of the instruments)
  • The Microscope and its Revelations, Carpenter, W. B. ed. Dallinger W.H. 8th edn.  J & A Churchill 1901 (all the editions of this work are useful giving insight into the development of microscopes through the latter 19th century)
  • Singular Beauty. Simple Microscopes from the Giordano Collection. Giordano, R. 2006 (This exhibition catalogue is beautifully illustrated and provides a good source of information on these instruments)
  • Compass Chronicles, Takacs, K., Schiffer, 2010, ISBN: 9780764333965
  • Nautische Antiquitäten, Randier, J Delius Klasing Bielefeld.  1976. ISBN-13: 9783768801874 (or any of the translations or other works by him)
  • Taking the Stars, Celestial Navigation from Argonauts to Astronauts, Ifland, P. Krieger , 1998, ISBN-13: 9781575240954
  • The Divided Circle: a History of Instruments for Astronomy, Navigation and Surveying, Bennett, J. A, Phaidon 1987, ISBN-13: 9780714880389


  • Instrumentenkunde der Vermessungstechnik, F. Deumlich, M. Seyfert, Berlin, 1957 (or any of the later editions, which are all updated versions)
  • Surveying and Levelling Instruments Theoretically and Practically Described, Stanley, W. F. (1901), Kessinger Publishing Rare Reprint, ISBN: 1437153933 (print on demand)
  • Practical Surveying, Usill, G.W., Crosby Lockwood and Son (First published in 1888, reprinted/revised many times, at least until 1947. A good descriptions of instruments current at the times of publication and of their use – the standard college textbook on the subject for more than 50 years. Plenty available on ABEBooks for a few pounds)

Teaching and Demonstration Equipments

  • Learning by Doing: Experiments and Instruments in the History of Science Teaching, Heering, P. & Wittje, R (eds), Franz Steiner Verlag2011, ISBN: 3515098429, ISBN-13: 9783515098427


  • The Telescope – A Short History, Dunn, R., National Maritime Museum 2009 ISBN-13: 9781906367046, (a very useful introduction)
  • The History of the Telescope, King, Henry C., Dover 2003, ISBN: 0486432653; ISBN-13: 978-0486432656

Museum Catalogues

  • Modern museum catalogues are no longer the dusty lists of the past and often provide a comprehensive entry into a subject. Their illustrations can be invaluable aids to identifying objects. The reader however must always remember that nothing is infallible
  • Astrolabes at Greenwich, A Catalogue of the Astrolabes in the National Maritime Museum, K. van Cleempoel, 2005
  • Catalogue of Sun-dials, Nocturnals and Related Instruments, Turner, A. J., Museo Galileo, 2007
  • Der Mathematisch-Physikalische Salon Dresden zu Gast im Maximilianmuseum Augsburg, Plassmeyer. P. & Emmendörffer C., Welten Glanz, 2009
  • Early Microscopes – a Descriptive Catalogue, Fornier M., Museum Boerhaave Communications 2003 ISBN: 9062921434 (A very useful descriptive catalogue of the earlier microscopes in this marvellous collection)
  • Western Astrolabes, Historic Scientific Instruments of the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, Volume I, Webster, R., & Webster, M., Adler Planetarium, Chicago, 1998
  • Eastern Astrolabes, Historic Scientific Instruments of the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, Volume II, Pingree, D., Adler Planetarium, Chicago, 2009
  • Gli strumenti di fisica dell’Istituto Tecnico Toscano Ottica (Physics Instruments in the Tuscan Technical Institute -Optics), Brenni, P., Giunti, 1905, ISBN: 8809207519
  • I Medici e le Scienze, Strumenti e Macchine Nelle Collezioni Granducali, Camerota, F. & Miniati M., 2008 (this title contains the best pictures of the Florentino instruments)
  • Museo Galileo, Catalogue of the Museo Galileo’s Instruments on Display, Florence, 2010
  • Museo Galileo: masterpieces of science, Camerota F., Giunti, 2010, (Also in Italian)
  • Museo Storia della Scienza – Catalogue of Microscopes, Turner, G.L’E., Giunti 1991, ISBN: 8809202082
  • Sextants at Greenwich, A Catalogue of the Mariner’s Quadrants, Mariner’s Astrolabes, Cross-staffs, Backstaffs, Octants, Sextants, Quintants, Reflecting Circles, and Artificial Horizons in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, Mörzer Bruyns W.F.J., 2009
  • Sundials at Greenwich, A Catalogue of the Sundials, Nocturnals and Horary Quadrants in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, Higton, H. with contributions from Silke Ackermann, Richard Dunn, Kiyoshi Takada and Anthony Turner, 2002
  • The Billings Microscope Collection, Putle, H. (ed.), Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, 1974
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