Nautical Antiques & Marine Art at Land and Sea Collection™ Dive Helmets, Ship Models, Sextants

Antique Spencer Browning ~ Samuel Thaxter Sextant - Ca 1840 Collector Quality

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This Fine Octant Has Been Sold. Thank you!
 
EARLY SPENCER BROWNING ~  SAMUEL THAXTER  SEXTANT - Ca 1840 MAGNIFICENT

 
 
Presented is a museum quality, a term we don't use often, ebony frame, ivory arc, antique sextant made by  Spencer, Browning & Co. of London, Ca 1840. It is fitted with a peep sight making it an early example from the first half of the 1800's. It is in remarkable original condition and has the label of Samuel Thaxter & Son, No. 125, State St., Boston which is also in excellent original condition. 
 
The arc measures from - 5 to plus 105 degrees. The ivory plate on a cross bar between the two limbs is engraved "Spencer Browning & Co. London", Additionally, in the center of the ivory degree's scale is inscribed in script "SBR", between 50 and 55 degrees, identifying the ivory was engraved by Spencer, Browning of London.
 
THE INSTRUMENT: This beautifully made sextant has a ribbed brass index arm which measures 12 inches long. Note the thumb screw, early form ivory vernier scale, reading from right to left from 0 to 20 arc minutes, a movable peep sight, and a set of three sun shades. The horizon mirror is on an adjustable turntable and can be rotated by an arbor. There is no provision for a handle on this sextant which with the other indicators all of which help date the instrument as a transitional piece between an octant and a sextant.
 
INSTRUMENT CONDITION: The sextant has been recently polished and lacquered in order to emphasize the quality of its workmanship. The ivory pad on the back of the frame is missing as is the original ivory pencil holder. The mirrors, though showing their age with hazing are in good condition and the shade glasses are like new. The ivory arc is in perfect condition, except for some age spotting at the left end. The engraving is sharp and distinct. The index arm clamp and tangent screw are complete. Everything is in good working order. The entire instrument and ebony frame shows as near new. The instrument has its original machinery, and a two hole peep sight.  

              Maker's name
    "SBR" imprint at 55 degrees
                      Index mirror and shades
            Peep sight and horizon miror


THE CASE:
The "keystone" is Mahogany with one minor repair in the lower right corner where a piece of wood has been replaced. The top is slightly warped. It is in otherwise good and strong condition. It does have an age crack on the bottom. It has been refinished. There is a lock, but a the key is missing. A label of Samuel Thaxter & Son, No. 125, State St., Boston which is also in excellent original condition is inside.

                                          Sextant in case showing Thaxter label on lid

Spencer Browning Rust worked in London from 1724 to 1840 when the name was changed to Spencer Browning & Co. after the death of Ebenezer Rust.  The successor, Spencer Browning had offices at a number of addresses on Wapping High Street, London and were in business until 1870. They had an early dividing machine and inscribed arcs for others.
Ref: Gloria Clifton, Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550-1851 (London, 1995), p. 261.
 
SAMUEL THAXTER, ONE OF AMERICA'S MOST IMPORTANT INSTRUMENT MAKER'S HISTORY: The label in the case is of Samuel Thaxter who was born in Hingham, Massachusetts in 1769 and died 1842. He apprenticed to William Williams, maker of a backstaff in 1768 with a King Street, Boston address. Upon Williams' death in 1792 Thaxter took over the nautical instrument making business, moving to Long Wharf, State Street, Boston in 1792. His address was first advertised as "Head of Long Wharf". During the 18th century, prior to the advent of street numbers, a business location was quite often identified by a landmark, such as "At the sign of the Little Admiral" or "Head of Long Wharf." Ref. From Webster's Registry of Instrument Makers, (1792); 125 State Street (1796-1842); both in Boston, Mass."



He is first listed in the 1796 Boston Directory as a mathematical instrument maker.  In the 1822-23 edition, the business is listed as Samuel Thaxter & Son (Joseph H. 1801-1835).  Samuel Thaxter's grandson, Samuel Thaxter Cushing (1821-1882), took over the business around 1843. Upon the death of Samuel Thaxter Cushing, his widow, Abby C. Cushing took over management of the business until 1905 at which time Herbert Risteen Starratt became manager.  The last entry of the company (Samuel Thaxter & Son) in the Boston Directory is 1916."  Ref.  Smart, Charles E.   The Makers Of Surveying Instruments In America Since 1700  Troy, New York:  Regal Art Press.  1962  
A highly desirable and worthwhile example from one of the better known English instrument makers, and sold by Samuel Thaxter, one of America's early and finest instrument makers

                   Classic style keystone case with slight warp to top

Some time after 1780, the addition of a tangent screw, as fitted to this instrument, allowed for fine adjustment and represents one of the two major changes in the basic operation of the octants and sextants for the next 150 years! The second was the fitting of telescopes. As was the practice with octant's of larger size, this sextant was not fitted with a handle or a telescope indicating it is one of the earliest of that type made by Spencer Browning making it a noteworthy instrument by this maker. This is also confirmed by the Thaxter label, since Samuel died in 1840.

SCROLL DOWN TO GALLEY PHOTOS

DIMENSIONS:
Length of frame 12"                          Width of frame at arc   9 5/8"             
Index mirror       44 x 32 mm             Horizon mirror 32 x 22 mm          
Weight sextant   2 Lbs 2 oz
 
QUALIFICATIONS: We are one of the few company's still selling navigation instruments that know anything about them. For purposes of judging whether Joel's opinion counts, he was the editor of the chapter on sextants of the 1977 Edition of "Bowditch", The American Practical Navigator, NAVPUB 9; a member of the U.S. Naval Academy Navigation Symposium Board, 1975 -1978; the author of a book on marine sextants, Cornell Maritime Press,1975, and the founding president of Nautech Maritime Corporation which partnered with Tamaya of Japan in the introduction of the MS 733 Spica, the MS 833, Jupiter, MS 933 Venus sextants and the famous NC-2 navigation computer, in the U.S. market. Joel is a retired Master Mariner, and held a U.S. Navy "D" Qualification as a Senior Skipper - Oceans. For six years he was a Varsity Offshore Coach at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Rarely do you find an instrument that is that is 169 years old in this original condition with a perfect historic label. A superior addition to any collection. 

International buyers welcome, but should inquire first. We have satisfied customers in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Estonia, England, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Malaysia, Martinique, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Nova Scotia, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, USVI and the Eastern Caribbean.

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OUR UNCONDITIONAL NO NONSENSE GUARANTEE: If not completely satisfied with your purchase it may be returned within five days of receipt in its original packaging if without damage. Return items must be insured for their full value. Only a prior email authorization from us for the return is required. Shipping charges are  included in this offer if an error is due to our fault.

International buyers welcome, but should inquire first.  We have satisfied customers in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Estonia, England, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Malaysia, Martinique, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Nova Scotia, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, USVI and the Eastern Caribbean.

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