Collectibles

Bonhams scientific instruments sale preview includes rare Enigma machine

Bonhams scientific instruments...
Bonhams auction house is set to offer for sale a range of historically interesting and significant scientific instruments and curios, including a very rare 1941 M4 4-rotor Enigma machine
Bonhams auction house is set to offer for sale a range of historically interesting and significant scientific instruments and curios, including a very rare 1941 M4 4-rotor Enigma machine
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A rare Matthew Berge brass combined planetarium, lunarium and tellarium, English, circa 1800
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A rare Matthew Berge brass combined planetarium, lunarium and tellarium, English, circa 1800
A 4 1/2-inch J. Lancaster & son brass refracting telescope on stand, English, Late 19th century
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A 4 1/2-inch J. Lancaster & son brass refracting telescope on stand, English, Late 19th century
A 4 1/2-inch J. Lancaster & son brass refracting telescope on stand, English, late 19th century
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A 4 1/2-inch J. Lancaster & son brass refracting telescope on stand, English, late 19th century
A 4 1/2-inch J. Lancaster & son brass refracting telescope on stand, English, late 19th century
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A 4 1/2-inch J. Lancaster & son brass refracting telescope on stand, English, late 19th century
A 15 1/2-inch polyphon disc musical box German, circa 1900
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A 15 1/2-inch polyphon disc musical box German, circa 1900
A 17-inch Lochmann Original 128 tubular bells disc musical box German, circa 1900
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A 17-inch Lochmann Original 128 tubular bells disc musical box German, circa 1900
A 19 5/8-inch polyphon disc musical box, German, circa 1900
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A 19 5/8-inch polyphon disc musical box, German, circa 1900
A 19th century wall-mounted Windmill governor
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A 19th century wall-mounted Windmill governor
A 232CB red bakelite telephone
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A 232CB red bakelite telephone
A 232F green bakelite telephone
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A 232F green bakelite telephone
A 232L ivory coloured bakelite telephone
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A 232L ivory coloured bakelite telephone
A Beilby brass horizontal sundial, English, late 18th century
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A Beilby brass horizontal sundial, English, late 18th century
A brass Gould-type field microscope, English, mid-19th century
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A brass Gould-type field microscope, English, mid-19th century
A brass theodolite, European, early 17th century
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A brass theodolite, European, early 17th century
A Charles Collins brass compound binocular microscope, English, circa 1870
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A Charles Collins brass compound binocular microscope, English, circa 1870
A Charles Collins brass compound binocular microscope, English, circa 1880
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A Charles Collins brass compound binocular microscope, English, circa 1880
A Charles Schmalcalder brass circular protractor, English, 1810-1826
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A Charles Schmalcalder brass circular protractor, English, 1810-1826
A clock or watchmaker's wheel cutting tool
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A clock or watchmaker's wheel cutting tool
A collection of pharmaceutical items, 19th century
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A collection of pharmaceutical items, 19th century
A cylinder music box, Swiss, Circa 1900
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A cylinder music box, Swiss, Circa 1900
A cylinder musical box, Swiss, late 19th century
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A cylinder musical box, Swiss, late 19th century
A decorative bone hour glass probably French, 19th century
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A decorative bone hour glass probably French, 19th century
A decorative brass astrolabe-style instrument, modern
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A decorative brass astrolabe-style instrument, modern
A Denton's patent canal level, English, Mid-19th century
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A Denton's patent canal level, English, Mid-19th century
A Dollond 1 1/2-inch brass refracting telescope, English, early 19th century
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A Dollond 1 1/2-inch brass refracting telescope, English, early 19th century
A Dollond Cuff-type compound microscope, English, late 18th century
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A Dollond Cuff-type compound microscope, English, late 18th century
A double singing bird in cage automaton, French, late 19th century
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A double singing bird in cage automaton, French, late 19th century
A Ertel Werke 3rotor Enigma Enciphering Machine, Munich, circa 1944
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A Ertel Werke 3rotor Enigma Enciphering Machine, Munich, circa 1944
A Falka M-125-3 rotor-based cipher machine, Russian, 1960's, open
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A Falka M-125-3 rotor-based cipher machine, Russian, 1960's, open
A Falka M-125-3 rotor-based cipher machine, Russian, 1960's
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A Falka M-125-3 rotor-based cipher machine, Russian, 1960's
A fine and large set of George Adams senior drawing instruments in walnut case, English, mid 18th century
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A fine and large set of George Adams senior drawing instruments in walnut case, English, mid 18th century
A fine and large set of George Adams senior drawing instruments in walnut case, English, mid-18th century, detail
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A fine and large set of George Adams senior drawing instruments in walnut case, English, mid-18th century, detail
A fine Andrew Ross compound monocular microscope No. 1, English, mid-19th century
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A fine Andrew Ross compound monocular microscope No. 1, English, mid-19th century
A fine George Adams senior mahogany and brass Hadley's quadrant or octant, English, dated 1767
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A fine George Adams senior mahogany and brass Hadley's quadrant or octant, English, dated 1767
A fine George Adams senior mahogany and brass Hadley's quadrant or octant, English, dated 1767, detail
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A fine George Adams senior mahogany and brass Hadley's quadrant or octant, English, dated 1767, detail
A fine George Adams senior mahogany and brass Hadley's quadrant or octant, English, dated 1767, inscription
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A fine George Adams senior mahogany and brass Hadley's quadrant or octant, English, dated 1767, inscription
A fine gilt brass combined nocturnal and vertical sundial, French, circa 1600
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A fine gilt brass combined nocturnal and vertical sundial, French, circa 1600
A fine late 19th century brass model of a Henry Davey Differential Valve Gear, for compound Cornish engines
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A fine late 19th century brass model of a Henry Davey Differential Valve Gear, for compound Cornish engines
A forte piano key-wound cylinder musical box, Swiss, mid-19th century
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A forte piano key-wound cylinder musical box, Swiss, mid-19th century
A forte piano mandolin cylinder musical box, Swiss, circa 1880
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A forte piano mandolin cylinder musical box, Swiss, circa 1880
A forte picallo cylinder music box, Swiss, late 19th century
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A forte picallo cylinder music box, Swiss, late 19th century
A Fowler's "magnum" circular slide rule, English, early 20th century
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A Fowler's "magnum" circular slide rule, English, early 20th century
A Fuller's computing telegraph, American, circa 1870
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A Fuller's computing telegraph, American, circa 1870
A George Adams brass and steel gunner's perpendicular, English, circa 1790
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A George Adams brass and steel gunner's perpendicular, English, circa 1790
A George Adams senior 2 1/2-inch brass Gregorian refracting telescope, English, mid-18th century
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A George Adams senior 2 1/2-inch brass Gregorian refracting telescope, English, mid-18th century
A George Adams senior brass ring dial, English, circa 1770
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A George Adams senior brass ring dial, English, circa 1770
A George Adams senior Cuff-Type compound microscope, English, 1756-1760
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A George Adams senior Cuff-Type compound microscope, English, 1756-1760
A Heath & Co bell-framed sextant, English, late 19th century
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A Heath & Co bell-framed sextant, English, late 19th century
A Heath & Co bell-framed sextant, English, late 19th century, on box
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A Heath & Co bell-framed sextant, English, late 19th century, on box
A J & W Newton 6-inch terrestrial globe on stand, English, published 1818
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A J & W Newton 6-inch terrestrial globe on stand, English, published 1818
A Jacques Canivet brass graphometer, French, dated 1764
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A Jacques Canivet brass graphometer, French, dated 1764
A Jacques Senecal ivory diep magnetic azimuth dial, French, circa 1660
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A Jacques Senecal ivory diep magnetic azimuth dial, French, circa 1660
A Jean-Francois Richer surveying compass, early 19th century
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A Jean-Francois Richer surveying compass, early 19th century
A large Bremond bells-in-sight Mandolin Cylinder Musical Box, Swiss, circa 1880
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A large Bremond bells-in-sight Mandolin Cylinder Musical Box, Swiss, circa 1880
A large late 19th century model of a double frame single cylinder steam hammer
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A large late 19th century model of a double frame single cylinder steam hammer
A late 19th century model of a double frame single cylinder steam hammer
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A late 19th century model of a double frame single cylinder steam hammer
A Le Rebours & Secretan pantograph, French, mid-19th century
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A Le Rebours & Secretan pantograph, French, mid-19th century
A M-209-B encryption machine, supplied by L C Smith & Corona Typewriter Inc., American, circa 1942
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A M-209-B encryption machine, supplied by L C Smith & Corona Typewriter Inc., American, circa 1942
A M-209-B encryption machine, supplied by L C Smith & Corona Typewriter Inc., American, circa 1942
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A M-209-B encryption machine, supplied by L C Smith & Corona Typewriter Inc., American, circa 1942
A mahogany case of microscope specimen slides, English, 19th century
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A mahogany case of microscope specimen slides, English, 19th century
A mahogany case of microscope specimen slides, late 19th century
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A mahogany case of microscope specimen slides, late 19th century
A mandolin cylinder musical box, Swiss, Circa 1880
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A mandolin cylinder musical box, Swiss, Circa 1880
A mid-19th century Tasker & Co hand-operated model of a well head
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A mid-19th century Tasker & Co hand-operated model of a well head
A model twin cylinder five pillar reversing launch engine, built by S. Korm
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A model twin cylinder five pillar reversing launch engine, built by S. Korm
A Mumford full-sized engine-room steam donkey pump
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A Mumford full-sized engine-room steam donkey pump
A Mumford full-sized marine steam donkey engine
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A Mumford full-sized marine steam donkey engine
A musical violinist automaton, French, late 19th century
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A musical violinist automaton, French, late 19th century
A NEMA Type T-D enciphering machine, Swiss, circa 1950
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A NEMA Type T-D enciphering machine, Swiss, circa 1950
A NEMA Type T-D enciphering machine, Swiss, circa 1950
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A NEMA Type T-D enciphering machine, Swiss, circa 1950
A NEMA Type T-D enciphering machine, Swiss, circa 1950
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A NEMA Type T-D enciphering machine, Swiss, circa 1950
A NEMA Type T-D enciphering machine, Swiss, circa 1950
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A NEMA Type T-D enciphering machine, Swiss, circa 1950
A Nergetti & Zamba surveying compass, English, late 19th century
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A Nergetti & Zamba surveying compass, English, late 19th century
A Newton's 3-inch pocket globe, English, 1830-1838
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A Newton's 3-inch pocket globe, English, 1830-1838
A Nicole Freres Key-Wound Cylinder Musical Box, Swiss, mid-19th century
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A Nicole Freres Key-Wound Cylinder Musical Box, Swiss, mid-19th century
A Nicoles Freres mandolin cylinder music box Swiss, circa 1880
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A Nicoles Freres mandolin cylinder music box Swiss, circa 1880
A Paillard & co interchangeable cylinder music box on stand, Swiss, late 19th century
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A Paillard & co interchangeable cylinder music box on stand, Swiss, late 19th century
A Paillard & co interchangeable cylinder music box on stand, Swiss, late 19th century, detail
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A Paillard & co interchangeable cylinder music box on stand, Swiss, late 19th century, detail
A Paillard Vaucher Fils mandolin cylinder music box Swiss, late 19th century
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A Paillard Vaucher Fils mandolin cylinder music box Swiss, late 19th century
A Paillard Vaucher Fils two-per-turn cylinder music box, Swiss, late 19th century
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A Paillard Vaucher Fils two-per-turn cylinder music box, Swiss, late 19th century
A Pistor barrell organ & clock, English, mid 18th century, detail
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A Pistor barrell organ & clock, English, mid 18th century, detail
A Pistor barrell organ & clock, English, mid-18th century
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A Pistor barrell organ & clock, English, mid-18th century
A Powell & Lealand compound monocular microscope, English, dated 1852
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A Powell & Lealand compound monocular microscope, English, dated 1852
A rare electrum and boxwood glover's patent surveying sector, German, circa 1840
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A rare electrum and boxwood glover's patent surveying sector, German, circa 1840
A rare four-rotor M4 Enigma cipher machine, German, circa 1944
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A rare four-rotor M4 Enigma cipher machine, German, circa 1944
A rare George Adams senior brass and mahogany waywiser, English, circa 1760, detail
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A rare George Adams senior brass and mahogany waywiser, English, circa 1760, detail
A rare George Adams senior brass and mahogany waywiser, English, circa 1760
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A rare George Adams senior brass and mahogany waywiser, English, circa 1760
A rare George Adams senior brass and mahogany waywiser, English, circa 1760, detail
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A rare George Adams senior brass and mahogany waywiser, English, circa 1760, detail
A rare Hagelin B-21 electromechanical cipher machine, Swedish, after 1932
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A rare Hagelin B-21 electromechanical cipher machine, Swedish, after 1932
A rare Matthew Berge brass combined planetarium, lunarium and tellarium, English, circa 1800, detail
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A rare Matthew Berge brass combined planetarium, lunarium and tellarium, English, circa 1800, detail
A rare Matthew Berge brass combined planetarium, lunarium and tellarium, English, circa 1800, close detail
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A rare Matthew Berge brass combined planetarium, lunarium and tellarium, English, circa 1800, close detail
A rare Schmidt & Ziegler aneroid barocyclometer
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A rare Schmidt & Ziegler aneroid barocyclometer
A sector and two ring dials
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A sector and two ring dials
A set of Abraham Kruse coin scales, Prussian, circa 1775
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A set of Abraham Kruse coin scales, Prussian, circa 1775
A set of Johann Wilhelm Forsthoff coin scales, German, circa 1780
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A set of Johann Wilhelm Forsthoff coin scales, German, circa 1780
A singing bird automaton, French, 20th century
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A singing bird automaton, French, 20th century
A singing bird automaton, French, circa 1900
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A singing bird automaton, French, circa 1900
A singing bird in cage, French, early 20th century
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A singing bird in cage, French, early 20th century
A size 2 donkey pump by Beccles
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A size 2 donkey pump by Beccles
A small brass copy of a 16th century Ottoman astrolabe1
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A small brass copy of a 16th century Ottoman astrolabe1
A small brass copy of a 16th century Ottoman astrolabe, detail
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A small brass copy of a 16th century Ottoman astrolabe, detail
A small paddle wheel kaleidoscope, English, circa 1900
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A small paddle wheel kaleidoscope, English, circa 1900
A Spencer & Perkins brass pedometer, English, circa 1800
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A Spencer & Perkins brass pedometer, English, circa 1800
A Stanley Fuller's cylindrical slide rule, English, circa 1940
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A Stanley Fuller's cylindrical slide rule, English, circa 1940
A sunshine recorder English, 20th century
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A sunshine recorder English, 20th century
A Thomas de Colmar arithmometer, French, mid-19th century
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A Thomas de Colmar arithmometer, French, mid-19th century
A Thomas Short 5-inch brass reflecting telescope on stand, English, circa 1770
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A Thomas Short 5-inch brass reflecting telescope on stand, English, circa 1770
A Thomas Short 5-inch brass reflecting telescope on stand, English, circa 1770, detail
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A Thomas Short 5-inch brass reflecting telescope on stand, English, circa 1770, detail
A Troughton & Simms transit theodolite English, early 20th century
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A Troughton & Simms transit theodolite English, early 20th century
A very rare silver aide-memoire for accounting and calculation, English, circa 1675
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A very rare silver aide-memoire for accounting and calculation, English, circa 1675
A W & S Jones brass universal equinoctial dial, English, circa 1800
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A W & S Jones brass universal equinoctial dial, English, circa 1800
A W & S Jones brass universal equinoctial dial, English, circa 1800, in case
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A W & S Jones brass universal equinoctial dial, English, circa 1800, in case
A wall-mounted sand half-hour glass, probably French, early 19th century
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A wall-mounted sand half-hour glass, probably French, early 19th century
A William Cary 2-inch gilt brass refracting telescope, English, early 19th century
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A William Cary 2-inch gilt brass refracting telescope, English, early 19th century
An A. Gavard pantograph, French, circa 1840
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An A. Gavard pantograph, French, circa 1840
An Anthony du Chaffat brass protractor, German, dated 1722
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An Anthony du Chaffat brass protractor, German, dated 1722
An attractive Heath & Wing brass parallel ruler, English, circa 1765
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An attractive Heath & Wing brass parallel ruler, English, circa 1765
An early 20th century rare small wall mounted Heinrici hot air engine
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An early 20th century rare small wall mounted Heinrici hot air engine
An Edward Nairne 5/8-inch brass mahogany refracting telescope, English, circa 1870
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An Edward Nairne 5/8-inch brass mahogany refracting telescope, English, circa 1870
An exhibition class model of an Easton and Anderson single cylinder expansion valve gear condensing grasshopper beam pumping engine, circa 1885
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An exhibition class model of an Easton and Anderson single cylinder expansion valve gear condensing grasshopper beam pumping engine, circa 1885
An orchestral cylinder musical box, Swiss, late 19th century
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An orchestral cylinder musical box, Swiss, late 19th century
Companion book for the lock mechanism German navy 1944
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Companion book for the lock mechanism German navy 1944
Model of a waterwheel in brass
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Model of a waterwheel in brass
Cylinder music box, movement Swiss, case Low Countries, early 19th century
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Cylinder music box, movement Swiss, case Low Countries, early 19th century
Engineering accessories
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Engineering accessories
Engineering and drawing instruments
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Engineering and drawing instruments
Rules and drawings instruments, 19th century
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Rules and drawings instruments, 19th century
Surveying and engineering tools
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Surveying and engineering tools
Surveying and navigational instruments
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Surveying and navigational instruments
Three maritime instruments, 20th century, detail
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Three maritime instruments, 20th century, detail
Three maritime instruments, 20th century
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Three maritime instruments, 20th century
Three maritime instruments, 20th century
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Three maritime instruments, 20th century
Three scientific instruments
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Three scientific instruments
Two surveying instruments, late 18th century
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Two surveying instruments, late 18th century
A 3-rotor, 1941 German Enigma machine
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A 3-rotor, 1941 German Enigma machine
A 4-rotor, 1944 German Enigma machine
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A 4-rotor, 1944 German Enigma machine
A suntracker device, replete with glass globe
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A suntracker device, replete with glass globe
A c.1770 brass reflecting telescope
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A c.1770 brass reflecting telescope
Bonhams auction house is set to offer for sale a range of historically interesting and significant scientific instruments and curios, including a very rare 1941 M4 4-rotor Enigma machine
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Bonhams auction house is set to offer for sale a range of historically interesting and significant scientific instruments and curios, including a very rare 1941 M4 4-rotor Enigma machine
View gallery - 138 images

An auction of scientific, technological, and musical instruments, soon to be held at Bonhams Auction House in the UK, will headline with a 1941 M4 Enigma machine used by the German military during World War II to send encrypted messages. Unlike the 3-rotor machines whose cipher codes were famously broken by those working at Britain’s Bletchley Park during the war, the 4-rotor model heading to auction is among the rarest of the rare, and is sure to command a high price. Besides cipher machines, however, the sale also offers a range of unusual and sought after examples of scientific instruments and musical automata that should also attract a great deal of interest. We take a look at a few prime examples.

Gizmag recently reported on the sale of an M3 Enigma machine at Sotheby's, which went for a cool £149,000 (US$232,015). Largely intact apart from a missing bulb and some surface rust, this model was extremely sought after by collectors, this being reflected in its high sale price. The M4 model from Bonhams, however, is a four-rotor machine that was produced in even smaller numbers and – after the concerted effort to destroy Enigma machines by the German army as they retreated – is an exceptionally rare model indeed.

A 4-rotor, 1944 German Enigma machine
A 4-rotor, 1944 German Enigma machine

Equipped with a standard qwertz keyboard, these machines represented an exceptionally larger combination of codes than possible in a 3-rotor model. As a consequence, British code breakers did not put their code-breaking machines to work to eventually decipher the possible combinations. Instead, the British armed forces relied on more conventional techniques by raiding German U-boats and weather ships and taking their code books.

Not distributed widely before the conflict was over, the very rare four-rotor M4 Enigma machine has an estimated auction value of between £80,000 - £120,000 ($122,000 - $183,000). Along with this very rare enigma are a range of other enciphering machines from before WWII and on into the 1960s, including a Swedish Hagelin B-21 cipher machine from 1932, and a Falka M-125 three-rotor cipher machine (£7,000 - £10,000/$10,670 - $15,250) employed by Soviet Russia and Warsaw Pact countries during the Cold War.

"It's unusual to find so many different types of cipher machines in one sale," says Bonhams' technology specialist Jon Baddeley. "The German Enigma is, of course, well known, but the others are fascinating variations on a theme and reflect the central role of protecting intelligence before, during and after World War II."

A rare Matthew Berge brass combined planetarium, lunarium and tellarium, English, circa 1800
A rare Matthew Berge brass combined planetarium, lunarium and tellarium, English, circa 1800

Among the other items set for sale at Bonham's are a group of orreries, lunariums, and tellariums that – when a a handle is cranked or a clockwork mechanism set in motion – show the orbit of planets and moons, along with their declinations and phases. The set for auction at Bonhams is a rare Matthew Berge brass combination valued at an auction price of £50,000 - £70,000 ($76,000 - $106,000).

A suntracker device, replete with glass globe
A suntracker device, replete with glass globe

Other interesting objects of note in the sale include a spherical glass orb "sunshine recorder" that used the rays of the sun shone through it and magnified to burn into specific sets of paper placed on a tracking mount to indicate the amount of sunshine received on any given day. Looking like something straight out of a 1950s B-grade science fiction movie, this handsome object would take pride of place on any desk. And, at an auction estimate of around £300 - £400 ($458 - $610), a bit of a bargain compared to some other of the items on sale.

A c.1770 brass reflecting telescope
A c.1770 brass reflecting telescope

If astronomical history and instruments is your passion, there are also a range of celestial and terrestrial telescopes up for grabs. Included in these is yet another rare item in the form of a 5-inch brass reflecting telescope made in England around 1770. Unusual in contrast to the largely refracting telescopes of the day, this instrument adjusts the focus of its primary mirror via a long shaft that extends from near the eyepiece to the top of the telescope. It's estimated to fetch around £2,000 - £3,000 ($3,050 - $4,575).

With many more items of historic and technical interest going under the hammer – from musical automata that play tunes and move in time, to scientific equipment once the cutting-edge instruments of their day – the auction at Bonhams Auction House will be held on Oct. 27 in Knightsbridge, London.

Source: Bonhams

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