Barometer, made by Balthazar Knie

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in Edinburgh

Postcard of Barometer, made by Balthazar Knie.
© National Museums Scotland

Barometer, made by Balthazar Knie

This double barometer was made by Balthazar Knie (c. 1738-1817)in Edinburgh in 1800. He was Edinburgh's most prolific and influential mid-18th century specialist barometer maker. Born in Bohemia, he then emigrated to Cork, arriving at Irvine on the Ayrshire coast in 1774. He produced a variety of barometer designs, possibly tailored to meet the need for attractive symmetrical furniture, especially in a city such as Edinburgh where the New Town was being constructed along restrained Classical lines from 1768 onwards and providing opportunities for those supplying a consumers' luxury market.

The barometer consists of a U-shaped tube with closed mercury reservoir at top right, and mercury/alcohol reservoir at bottom left. The silvered brass barometer scale is graduated from 28.3 inches to 31.8 inches in inches, subdivided to one-hundredths. The scale is marked: 'Stormy / Much rain / RAIN / CHANGE / FAIR / Sett. Fair / Very Dry', with a metal index on a brass rail to the left of the scale. An alcohol thermometer is set in the centre of the instrument, marked from 22 to 91 degrees Fahrenheit.

This example is unusual, in that it is dated. It is a double barometer, based on the Dutch form of 'bakbarometer', and Knie first advertised its design in the 'Caledonian Mercury' in February 1789. A number of other Edinburgh barometer makers produced instruments to the same design, but it remains unclear whether they had any strong business links with each other.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-000-290-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1967.159 E
Date: 1800
1875 - 1900
Material: Inscription: 1/2 In / Johnston / Tottenham
Dimensions: 0.50" objective
What: Objective, microscope / case
Subject: 22. PHYSICS, Light (Departmental Classification)
Who: Johnston, Tottenham (Maker)
Where: England, London
Description: Half-inch objective, in a case, made in the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century and signed by Johnston of Tottenham
  • Bryden, D.J. Balthazar Knie, a provincial barometer maker. Connoisseur 179 (1972), pp 172-5. 
  • Goodison, N. English barometers 1680-1860. Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1977, pp 170-175. 
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