Online Scientific Instrument Trade Catalogues

This page offers many web links where it is possible to find online scientific instrument trade catalogues. Please note that these links provide immediate access to the list of catalogues at a particular institution and not to the home page of the institution that is making them available.

  • Smithsonian Institution Library, Washington D.C., U.S.A.
    The Smithsonian Institution present a impressive series of American and European catalogues (1800-1914) of firms producing physical, astronomical, optical, meteorological, electrical, chemical, surveying, and other instruments. Most of the “great” makers of the 19th century are found at this website.
  • Mathematical Instruments
    Dedicated to mathematical instruments, mechanical instruments for drawing, measuring and integrating made by Swiss instrument makers (Coradi, Ott, Kern, etc). It comes with a section dedicated to literature.
  • Analog Weather
    Dedicated to meteorological instruments, this website shows the owner’s collection of “weather instruments” and includes sections on Meteorological trade catalogues and recommended literature on the topic.
  • Osservatorio astronomico di Palermo “Giuseppe S. Vaiana”, Palermo, Italy
    The library of the astronomical observatory of Palermo preserves an important collection of catalogues (late 19th century to mid 20th century) essentially dedicated to astronomical, surveying, optical and meteorological instruments.
  • Catalogues at the Museu de astronomia e Ciências Afins, Rio de Janeiro
    The Museum of Astronomy and Science of Rio de Janeiro has one of the most important collection of scientific instruments in South America. The Museum also preserves more than one hundred scientific instrument catalogues (from 1874 to 1965 circa) of the best English, German, American and French makers of astronomical, physical, optical and surveying instruments.
  • Max Planck Institute for History of Science, Berlin, Germany
    “The Virtual Laboratory” of the Max Planck Institute for History of Science in Berlin is an extremely rich and articulated website dedicated to “esperimentalization of life” which also present a series of trade catalogues (partially preserved in private collections) of firms producing apparatus for experimental psychology, physiology, acoustics, physiotherapy and medicine.
  • Scales and Weights
    This private website by Matthias Hass from Germany present a very important historical documentation concerning the history of scales and weights. In it, it is possible to find a rich collection of catalogues (pre-view and download possible).
  • Jakob Kern, Aarau, Switzerland
    The firm founded by Jakob Kern in 1819 produced thousands of surveying, topographic and astronomical apparatus, as well as drawing instruments. Kern was certainly one of the most important Swiss manufacturer of scientific instruments of the 19th and 20th century. This website presents online Kern’s illustrated catalogue of 1878.
  • Museum Optischer Instrumente (I)
    First website by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Timo Mappes, dedicated to the products of the German optical industry like Fraunhofer, Utzschneider Liebherr from the 1800s to the 1920s with an extensive list of German reference literature, followed by catalogues.
  • Museum Optischer Instrumente (II)
    Second website by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Timo Mappes, dedicated to the products of the German optical industry like Fraunhofer, Utzschneider Liebherr, now from the 1800s to the 1940s with an extensive list of German reference literature and catalogues.
  • The web site of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM) presents online an important number of books related to science, technology, electricity, universal exhibitions which are found in its library, including this Catalogue Général and the Catalogues de Constructeurs.
  • Gallica of Bibliothèque Nationale de France has a collection of almost 10 million digital documents on-line, including those on instruments.
  • Lèon Laurent, Paris
    The Parisian instrument maker L. Laurent (active 1872-1892), who was one of the successor of the famous Soleil dynasty, specialized in the production of optical instruments. His 1878 catalogue is available at the website of Gallica, which presents online thousands of books, images, and various documents preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale Française.
  • Kinematics Models for Design, Cornell University
    Kinematics models (and models of machines) were common in the mechanical and physical cabinets of the second half of the 19th and early 20th century. The firm J. Schröder of Darmstadt and G. Voigt of Berlin following the researches of famous mechanical engineers Ferdinand Redtenbacher (1809-1863) and Franz Reuleaux (1829-1905) and produced an impressive numbers of these didactic instruments. The catalogues of the above mentioned firms (as well as an important number of book related to mechanics) are on-line at the website of the Kinematic Models for Design Digital Library at Cornell University; furthermore this web site contain a large number of KMODDL eBooks.
  • French Trade Catalogues of Medical and Surgical Instruments
    The Bibliothèque Universitaire de Médicine of Paris has a rich website with an important series of on-line publications. Among them one can find a number of French trade catalogues of medical and surgical instruments. (both 19th and early 20th century).
  • American Meteorological Instruments and Slide Rules
    From a web site dedicated to the history of technology and “FTL Design” by Bill Burns, there are the trade catalogues of Henry J. Green and of J. Halden. The former was one of the most important American maker of meteorological instruments, the latter was producing slide rules, drawing and surveying instruments.
  • Keuffel & Esser Slide Rules
    The American manufacturing company Keuffel & Esser specialized in surveying and drawing instruments produced slide rules for over 100 years. Clark McCoy and Michael O’Leary worked together for scanning an impressive number of pages of various Keuffel & Esser trade catalogues from 1881 to 1972.
  • Catalogue of the special loan collection of scientific apparatus at the South Kensington Museum (1876)
    This scientific instrument exhibition, held in London in 1876, presented thousands of modern and historical instruments (and related documents) coming from the most important makers and collections and it was probably the most important of its kind.
  • Astro 30, Section Astronomique, Carl Zeiss Jena
    Since the beginning of the 20th century, the German firm Carl Zeiss in Jena has been one of the most important manufacturer of telescopes, astronomical instruments, domes, and various apparatus for equipping the world’s astronomical observatories. Consisting of nearly 140 pages, the French version of the catalogue “Astro 30” describes and illustrates the Zeiss’s production in this field at the beginning of the 1930s.
  • Glashüttenwerke Jemmlitz & Tschornow von Warmbrunn, Quilitz & Co. (Berlin 1860)
    A very interesting and well-illustrated catalogue of a lesser known German manufacturer and retailer presenting hundreds of physical and chemical apparatus.
  • Index to Contemporary/Early Instrument Literature at the Robert A. Paselk Scientific Instrument Museum
    A selection of documents depicting the use of instruments found in this Museum, which consists of scientific instruments and apparatus used at Humboldt State University (California) over the past 75 years.
  • Catalogues and Manuals at the Stetten Museum of Medical Research, National Institutes of Health. (To request copies of trade literature, advertisements, catalogues, or manuals, you must email the museum curator.)
  • Historische Kataloge für optisches Glas aus Jenaer Fertigung.
    From the “Fernoptik” website provided by Albrecht Köhler of Jena are a few important catalogues of the glass manufacturer Schott and one from Jenaer Glaswerk. Click on the “Glas-Kataloge” link; it is the last line in the webpage’s left column.
  • Catalogue of the Whipple Museum of the History of Science.
    Listing of documents available from the library of the Whipple Museum of the History of Science in Cambridge, UK. The documents are not digitally available.
  • Various online catalogues that provide access to publically available texts, including many useful and important instrument catalogues. Some may already be published by one of the above institutions, however you may find items here that are not easily found elsewhere. So it could be worth a look!

Wanschaff catalog for astronomical, geodetic and nautical instruments from 1884 (Collection N. de Hilster).
Page 9 of the 1884 Wanschaff catalog (Collection N. de Hilster).