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Barometer, made by Balthazar Knie

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in Edinburgh

Barometer, made by Balthazar Knie
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This domestic mercury stick barometer was made by Balthazar Knie in Edinburgh around 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 has a brass index plate (probably once silvered) signed 'KNIE / Fecit' and marked 'BAROMETER' at the top of the plate. It has a veneered mahogany body with an inlaid border, a leather bellows cistern with clamping screw below, covered by a removable oval wooden cistern cover. The scale is marked from 31 inches to 27 inches, with a vernier to read fractions. The scale is also marked 'Very Dry / Settled Fair / FAIR / Change / RAIN / Much Rain / Stormy.'

With the growth of the consumer society, amongst other goods which permeated down the social scale was furniture. An increasing demand for items at the luxury end of the market which had hitherto been the preserve of the aristocracy, led to an increase in the variety and price range of these goods. A number of Knie straight-tubed barometers are to be found in the substantial houses outside Edinburgh: that at Traquair is dated 1778, and that at Hopetoun House has a surviving manuscript account showing that it cost £2 11s 6d in 1788.

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