JW Norie & Wilson Early English Sextant/Quintant Ca 1850

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PRESENTED is a very rare sextant, and one which will appeal to those familiar with the history of navigation. It was made by John William Norie (1772-1843), a mathematician, hydrographer, chart maker and publisher of nautical books, most famous for his Epitome of Practical Navigation (1805), which became a standard work on navigation and went through many editions, as did many of Norie’s works. His known navigation instruments are few, and normally found in museums such as the British National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and the USS Constitution Museum in Boston.Norie began his career working with William Heather, who had in 1765 taken over chart publishers Mount and Page, and who ran the Naval Academy and Naval Warehouse in Leadenhall Street from 1795; the Naval Warehouse provided navigational instruments, charts, and books on navigation. Norie took over the Naval Warehouse after Heather’s retirement and founded the company J.W. Norie and Company in 1813. After Norie’s death, the company became Norie and Wilson, then in 1903, Imray, Laurie, Norie & Wilson. They continue in business as chart makers and were based in London until 1939, and are now headquartered in St Ives in Cambridgeshire.

The quality of the machining and beautifully crafted bronze frame indicate this instrument was made by an advanced instrument maker, one who would stand at the top of his trade. It has been polished and lacquered to emphasize its beauty and importance as an piece of navigation history.


The instrument is in excellent condition. The graduated arc, and all its hardware are present. All three bronze legs are original. All shades are in perfect condition and all sighting tubes and scope are present. The index mirror is in very good condition for its age with minor discoloration. The fine wood case is original to the instrument and shows the expected age and use. It is missing a small brass plaque on the top, but the rest of the hardware in is fine condition.

Horizon Mirror

MARKINGS: The arc is inscribed Norie & Wilson, London and reads 0 to 150 each ten degrees. The vernier reads from the right from 0 to 10 minutes in two minute increments.
DATING THE INSTRUMENT: The instrument dates after the death of J W Norie 1843 when the company merged with Wilson to become Norie & Wilson.

DIMENSIONS:Arc reads – 0 to -150
Length of index arm  9″
1/4″Radius of index
arm   11″
Width of frame at arc  9 1/2″ wide
Seven shade glasses

Weight octant 2 Lbs  14 oz.

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