Monday, April 27, 2015

The Skinner sale April 25, 2015 Vera Rubin globe collection

     Skinner Auction house in Boston held a Clock, Watches, and Scientific Instrument sale April 25th 2015 that included a very nice collection of globes from American Astronomer  Vera Rubin.
     A little background on this remarkable woman who assembled this great collection of globes, Vera Rubin is as mentioned an Astronomer who holds degrees from Vassar, Cornell, and Georgetown, she is also the recipient of The Presidents National Medal of Science ( 1993) , among many other awards.  Ill say I knew nothing of Dr. Rubin until I read up on her before the Skinner sale, but the more I read the more fascinated I was.  The description of her Astronomical study, even in the simplified Wiki format flummoxed me. Suffice it to say that we need to celebrate women like Vera Rubin as role models for our daughters, and perhaps celebrate the Kardachians a bit less...........
     Did I mention she collected globes........well yes, and they were part of a recent auction. The Sale with a link here: Skinner Sale    Featured about a dozen lots of antique globes, and celestials.  Being an astronomer you will not be surprised that many of the globes offered were of the celestial variety.
     One of the most noteworthy in my opinion were a pair of globes from George Phillip and sons London please follow the link here:  Phillips 6 inch globe pair  This delightful pair was estimated at $400-$600 but blew those numbers away with a hammer price of $1,722 including premium.  Now that's a lot of money for a small pair of globes from the 1920's......Or is it?   You see this lot demonstrates the power of having a pair. Collectors love a pair of items, the magic of a set! That, and exceptional condition drove this  lot to the lofty price Given that assembling a pair would take an incredible amount of time searching, more than justifies the price.
     I want to mention one more standout Lot 212 a Gilman Joslin 16 inch celestial table globe linked here:  Joslin 16 inch celestial globe   I want to use this globe to illustrate desirability.  This globe checks all the boxes:  great condition,  hard to find size, and celestial sphere rarity, sold for $2,700 this was a bargain considering that at 125-130 years old these don't come up very often, I'm betting the buyer owns the terrestrial counterpart, even if not whoever bought this globe bought one of the nicest examples of a Joslin celestial globe you will find, and the impressive 16 inch size only adds to the rarity of this beauty.
     I encourage you to follow the links, and browse this sale, globes start at lot 211 but there are many more great scientific instruments and such that are related. These auction archives are the best way I've found to get a sense of what's available in the antiques market, as well as where prices are falling for different categories of antiques and collectibles ( always a moving target)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Globe conservation and protection part 2 Renaissance wax review

     I'm always looking for ways to protect my collection from environmental concerns, weather that be sun exposure  ( previous post)  or the subtle effects of dust, handling, and humidity.  I'll admit that I might be a little late to the party on this one : Renaissance wax, this product is a microcrystalline wax developed by the British Museum in the 1950's as a polish, and protectant for it's collection.
     Ok so I was introduced to this product by Omniterrum and then again by another friend and collector who was using it with his collection. Well I thought ....I gotta try this stuff.  So I ordered a 200 ml jar of this wax, and I got started.
     This wax is oil based ( and it smells the part)  but surprisingly even indoors vapors and fumes are not a problem. Upon first opening the package I thought I might have to setup in the garage to use this stuff, not so, no lingering odor whatsoever.  The same can't be said for most furniture waxes, boy your whole house smells for 3 days after you've waxed the credenza.....but I digress....
     Lets start with some before and after pictures shall we:
RandMcNally base before
RandMcNally base after

Rand McNally base after wax
    So these two pictures above  show a before and after application of Renaissance wax. The pictures do not necessarily do this product justice the after is defiantly cleaner, and brighter but without being glossy and plastic looking, a muted sheen that adds to and accentuates the existing patina.  Here is another picture of another globe base that had always troubled me.
     This globe base on the right is from a 1930 Rand McNally library globe a nice globe, but the base had always been it's weakness. Despite my best efforts the base of this globe was always a bit drab, the richness of the wood lost in a dull finish. Enter the Renaissance wax and a little elbow grease and a glowing deep shine was resulted.
     Below another globe base with a dramatic deep shine, a Weber Costello base:
Weber Costello base after wax

You're probably wondering what about the globe orb? Well yes this product is indeed safe to apply right onto the surface of the orb itself, I have already treated 3 of my pieces and there is a definite difference in the before and after, but not enough of a difference that my phone camera was able to pick up. This product is defiantly most dramatic on metal and wood. However The wax was able to impart a sheen and lend a depth to the colors of the globe orb. It is not a cure all. if the shellac is missing, or very warn this product is not going to replace the missing finish. What it will do is enhance the old finish, protect from dust, dirt, and the general environment as well as lend a slight sheen to the finish. All said a nice result for the time and effort. Best of all it is safe, and already trusted by museums world wide. 

     Now that you have seen the potential results lets get down to the nitty gritty. The how to segment...

For best application you will need pure cotton cloths, at least two, one for application and one for buffing. Try and find lint free cotton cloths, old t-shirts actually work really well.  I have been told that for buffing the wax nothing beats a horsehair brush, a reader and fellow collector has tried this with great results, but use 100% horse hair only, no synthetics!   When it comes to wax application, a little goes a long way. I can't stress this enough don't get carried away applying a thick film of wax, all you are doing is wasting product and wasting time buffing off the excess. Remember 99% of a good wax job is in the removal of the wax leaving a microscopic invisible film behind.
     Unlike furniture wax, or car wax for that matter this wax dries very quickly after application, minutes not hours are involved in letting this stuff cure.
     Some specific tips related to application to a globe orb:
1. take your time, most damage to antiques occurs during routine handling, so plan ahead and slow down.
2. Be careful, apply wax with a light touch, you don't have to buff the wax into the globe, a light easy motion works best.
3. when buffing the wax, go slow, be gentle, this product removes easily, and if you used the proper amount there will be not too much to take off
4. Remove all the wax, but don't over buff, unlike a wooden or metal piece you are not going to burnish the wax less is more here!
5. Before you tackle a delicate surface like a globe orb practice on something less delicate like a piece of furniture, or  similar. Get some familiarity it really is a versatile product.

Finding this wax is easy, I purchased from Amazon, but there are many outlets that sell it, expect to pay $20 US plus shipping, and that 200ml container will probably last you years even if you use it all over the house!
     I'm probably going to go further with this product, but will I use it on every piece of my collection?  Not the mean time I think I'll just sit back on the davenport and admire progress so far.

P.S Is that the Paw Patrol lookout tower in the background of my pictures?  Yes...Yes it is....

As always I'd love to hear from fellow collectors, comments always welcome, or drop me a line via email.  happy hunting...

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Andrews celestial globe.......the stars aligned to find this one!

     I want to share something that, when I saw it I thought " wow I never figured that I'd find that."  A12 inch full mount A.H. Andrews celestial globe.
A.H. Andrews full mount celestial globe
     This find reminds me of exactly why I love this hobby so much.  A perfect blend of art and science, equal parts sculpture and scientific instrument.  Dare I say the definitive American celestial  globe.
     This globe stands an impressive 22 inches tall, and is a full mount on a substantial baluster turned base.  Metal fittings are all brass the plaster orb is covered with a blue, gold and black celestial gore showing star placement, and Greek constellations.  The Andrews cartouche is clearly an overlabel I suspect that the gore printing was handled in The U.K.  The horizon ring is an unusual 12 sided design a distinct feature of Andrews products from the latter 1/3d of the 19th century.   Andrews Is also distinctive for their wonderfully intricate turned bases, and the thoughtful use of substantial brass fittings.  The meridian ring is also of brass with degree graduations.  Jules Verne?  Steampunk?  Yeah maybe a little, but isn't that great!  A Chicago globe in it's highest form, beautiful.......
Unique 12 sided horizon ring
Close up cartouche

     Let's talk condition,  this Andrews celestial globe is in wonderful overall condition, the map is wonderfully intact, the wooden and brass fittings are all present and accounted for, even the 2 brass set screws that hold the horizon ring in place are present, these are often missing.  The brass is old and original, not brightly polished, nothing overly renewed just left alone.  The horizon ring is intact, and does show age and some foxing as is often the case when paper is mounted directly to wood; pictures seem to accentuate it. In person it is very unobtrusive nothing I would work to remove.  The 12 sided horizon ring even retains most of the red accent paint it originally had, but the guilt edging is mostly gone. There is evidence of some  repairs to the globe surface, and the shellac has certainly been redone, a professional job, and not at all unexpected in a globe of this vintage.  As a package, a wonderful example.
     The moment I found this globe for sale, I went to work researching others like it.  I reviewed past sales, and auction histories in online databases, as well as sales archives at the larger U.S. Auction houses, of course dealer archives were searched as well.  Why is any of this important?  Well as exhaustive as I was I could find few Andrews globe sales at all, and only one other celestial globe sold in the past decade.  That globe, sold in 2010 was in poor condition, but it's cartouche matched exactly. The mount was different, but consistent with Andrews offerings of the time period.  I found no further records of this model in terrestrial or celestial format, in my extensive search. Note this other example and matching cartouche in the two pictures immediately below. I have seen several 8 inch wooden base Andrews globes for sale over the years, but I have yet to see a 12 inch Andrews wooden base globe available until this one.

matching cartouche ( auction 2010)
Andrews celestial sold 2010

       The Andrews sales catalog from 1881 lists this model, with picture for the price of $25  please see the globe at the bottom left of the scan below.
      So what does any of this mean?  Well simply this is an uncommon globe, both terrestrial, and celestial examples are few and far between;  concerning celestial spheres from American globe manufactures, Murray Hudson writes that celestial globes are much less common, he puts the ratio of terrestrial to celestial spheres at over 100 to one!
     American globe manufactures, especially the fledgling Chicago globe makers, were concerned with volume sales, mass marketing was their goal. Factory production is only cost effective if you can move a lot of units. this meant 2 things. First a focus on school ( read high volume). Second it meant that the traditional European standard of a "set" of two globes went out the window.  So these manufactures never really sold globes as a set, they sold individual globes, celestial always offered as an option, but by volume a small part of the business.
     Warning.  Opinion ahead.......  Many U. S. Globe manufactures had their own terrestrial maps engraved, but for the comparatively low volume celestial business I'm betting they contracted out with an established manufacturer probably in the U. K.   I imagine at any given time at Andrews, as terrestrial globes dominated, they kept a few celestial spheres on hand for the odd order that came through.
     Something else to realize is that as we look at Andrews as a globe manufacturer, this was only a small part of their business, their main focus and the bulk of their sales came from school furnishings.
Globes for Andrews were like Apple TV, a relatively small niche product, still a great quality product but the phone ( or in this case school desks ). Paid the bills.
     So how old is this treasure of American ingenuity?  Answering that question took some long hours researching. What we know with strong certainty is that A.H. Andrews as a globe maker existed roughly from 1867 until 1896. Remember that previous to 1867 This company was Hollbrook, and after 1896 Andrews sold their globe division to C. F. Weber.    The Andrews catalog of 1881 states that celestial globes are newly available.  The cartouche of this globe is an over label probably of a Johnson celestial gore ( just a guess) , but it does not suggest C. F. Weber successors to Andrews as would have been the case post 1896.  So this globe was made some time between 1881 and 1896  narrowing the manufacture date further would take more research. Suffice it to say it was made during Andrews heyday period when they dominated Chicago globe making.
The globe on the left $25 in 1881
 Celestial advertised ( New )  1881

     I really enjoy sharing this globe with you, I just love hunting for these old relics of Americana.  Now all I have to do is track down the terrestrial...........