Go back to article: Reading, writing, drawing and making in the 18th-century instrument trade


When George Adams assembled a large collection of philosophical instruments for King George III in the early 1760s, he drew on a variety of printed books as sources of experiments and instrument designs. Most important of these was Mathematical Elements of Natural Philosophy by the Dutch mathematician and philosopher Willem ’s Gravesande, whose own collection of instruments is now in the Museum Boerhaave in Leiden. Papers in the Science Museum archives reveal the specific practices through which Adams used books such as Mathematical Elements in the course of his business. These techniques included commonplacing, a widespread method for organising information in the early-modern period; and physically cutting and pasting fragments from engraved illustrations into new drawings, as part of the process of design. These practices connected mobile print with local networks of production. They fundamentally shaped the group of instruments Adams made for George III, and constitute a material link between two important collections of 18th-century instruments: those of ’s Gravesande in Leiden, and those of George III at the Science Museum in London.

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/140103/019