A ‘Star-Finder’ celestial globe of the type used by Scott and Shackleton on their polar expeditions is one of the most historically significant scientific instruments to be offered at The Canterbury Auction Galleries.
The Cust’s Star-Finder, invented by Admiral Herbert Edward (1855-1938) will be offered in the saleroom’s Summer auction on Tuesday 2nd and Wednesday 3rd August.
Admiral Purey-Cust was a Royal Naval officer who was appointed Hydrographer of the Navy from 1909 until his retirement in 1914. He became a Rear-Admiral in 1910 and an Admiral on the retired list in 1919. The instrument was used in conjunction with a star chart he published in 1897.
Hydrography deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of oceans and other bodies of water and the prediction of their change over time, for the primary purpose of safe navigation. The role of hydrography officer was essential during any expedition in previously uncharted or poorly charted waters.
Astronomical details on the globe show stars represented by dots of various sizes , while constellations are represented by contour areas and stars are named and connected by lines.
Not surprisingly, Cust’s Star-Finder globe was among the navigational tools taken with them by Captain Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton on voyages during what became know as the “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration”.
The Star-Finder that travelled with them on their National Antarctic Expedition, of 1901–04, better known as the Discovery Expedition is now in the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, while another example is in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
The Star-Finder globes were constructed by Francis Barker & Son, a maritime compass and sundial maker with retail premises at 12 Clerkenwell Road London.
The example in the Canterbury auction will be sold with a the three-quarter length photograph showing Admiral Purey-Cust in full naval uniform, signed and dated 1919, in a gilt metal easel pattern frame, and his gilt brass cased pocket barometer by Dixey, New Bond Street, London, inscribed “Herbert Edward Purey-Cust R.N. from M.A. 1870”, in maroon leather travelling case.
The three objects have been has been consigned to the auction by a member of Admiral Purey-Cust’s family and together are estimated at £500-700.
The sale has a number of pieces that will appeal to collectors, notably a striking 18th century Japanese Suji Cabuto or Samurai warrior’s full face helmet, which is both menacing and – because of is huge bushy moustache – amusing, more than justifying its place on the front of the auction catalogue. Taken to one of the saleroom’s free Friday valuation mornings, the helmet is expected to sell for £1,500-2,000.
Equally menacing is a pair of late 18th century gentleman’s flintlock pistols made by the London gunsmiths GriffIin & Tow, the name being engraved in the pistols’ lock plates along with decoration of a stand of arms and floral work. The 7.5-inch plain steel barrels are marked with a crown over the initials “CP” and a further crown over “V” and “I.G”. Displayed on behalf of the owner at the recent London Arms Fair, where they aroused much interest, the pistols are estimated at £3,000-4,000.
An object carried as a reminder of the inevitability of death, or “memento mori” as it is called, is a fine late 18th century gentleman’s gilt brass cased pocket watch by the important London maker of fine and beautiful clocks and unusual watches, George Flote of Islington.
The watch is numbered 127, and dated 1791, while the white enamel dial is finely decorated in black with a central shield-shaped cartouche inside which is a cockerel, an owl and a skull and crossbones. The cartouche is flanked by a standing figure of “Father Time” and a classical female blowing a trumpet, all above a ribbon swag marked “Memento Mori”.
A small central circular dial has Arabic numerals and fine gold hands, while a large central half-second indicating sweep second hand formed as a gold arrow. The brass double opening case reveals a movement duplex escapement with a finely pierced and engraved watch cock, the centre set with a rose diamond and the lower section decorated with oval profile of a gentleman. With a later ivory handled winding key, the watch is estimated at £2,000-3,000.