A very rare and early shagreen-cased gentleman’s writing and drafting set with silver instruments dating to circa 1740. Features a variety of tools including exquisitely decorated silver compass dividers with complete attachments including ink tip, lead holder, and dotting wheel joined by a silver bridge and with fitting extension arm; a silver porte crayon with spiral decoration and carnelian intaglio gemstone depicting a lady in profile; a superb 12 inch silver folding rule with finely engraved floral rosettes and wonderful numeration; silver and steel scissors with file-worked decoration; a pistol grip folding knife with silver handle; silver tweezers with snuff spoon; and an ivory aide-memoire of four large pages with a turned silver hinge. Notations written on the pages by the former owner include the initials “MW,” the name “Sheffield Grace,” and various mathematical calculations.
The shagreen and silver case, at 7 inches in height by 4 inches in width, is unusually large as are the instruments within. It features the pale shagreen typical of the early 18th century and a massive silver hinge with complex moldings and a silver clasp, and is entirely lined with silver on the interior.
Though no assay marks are visible, the decoration of the dividers, rule, and the case itself date it to before 1750. The dividers are of the type made by Thomas Heath and his contemporaries circa 1700-1740, see examples from various sales:
Sheffield Grace (d. 1746), the signature on the card who may also have been the owner of the set, was an Irish nobleman and 4th son of Mary and Michael Grace of Gracefield in County Laois, Ireland (see his portrait in the image gallery). The carnelian portrait stone, used for wax seals, depicts a lady in classical dress and may be contemporary to the case or could date from antiquity, perhaps Roman or Byzantine and later placed in a Georgian setting.
This is an exceptionally rare piece, important for it’s large size, the early period and quality of the silver drawing tools and other instruments, and for the fine carnelian portrait seal.
Good condition in general – ivory pages and shagreen both have minor discoloration and warpage, see images.
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Instrumentum specializes in high quality 17th and 18th century scientific instruments for architecture, mathematics and navigation. We have collected antique instruments for over 20 years with a focus on early and rare European architectural drafting sets, dividers, and rules. If you are interested in something particular please contact us at email@example.com. Image galleries of our inventory can be viewed on Pinterest and Facebook at the following links: