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Dating your antique orrery

Dating your antique orrery

Here are some ways to date an antique Orrery. Be warned though, many changes may have happened to the Orrery since it was first made. The original globe could have been lost, and another one fitted. The owner could have had it updated by having newly discovered planets or moons added on. The makers name could have been removed, and the retailers name added instead. Any number of changes could have been made by inexperienced repairers, so look at all of the signs of age before coming to a conclusion.

Dating by the Planets and their moons

Before 1610 the Sun, Earth and Moon, and the five 'naked eye' planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) were all that were known. With the development of the telescope more and more objects in the solar system were discovered over the next four hundred years. The appearance of any of these will give a 'made (or added) after this' date.

  • 1610 – 4 moons round Jupiter
  • 1655 – 1 satellite round Saturn
  • 1671 – 2 moons round Saturn
  • 1672 – 3 moons round Saturn
  • 1684 – 5 moons round Saturn
  • 1781 – Uranus discovered
  • 1787 – 7 moons round Saturn, and two round Uranus
  • 1846 – Neptune discovered, and then one of its moons
  • 1848 – 8 moons round Saturn
  • 1851 – 4 moons round Uranus
  • 1877 – 2 moons round Mars
  • 1892 – 5 moons round Jupiter
  • 1898 – 9 moons round Saturn
  • 1905 – 7 moons round Jupiter
  • 1908 – 8 moons round Jupiter
  • 1914 – 9 moons round Jupiter
  • 1930 – Pluto discovered
  • 1978 – 1 satellite round Pluto

Dating by the details on the globe

If you think that the globe is the original one, then it would have been new when first fitted. Have a close look, as many globes are dated, and this could save a lot of work. If there is no date on the globe, then look for these clues. Look for the maker's name, and follow this up by looking in books on globes such as:

  • Elly Dekker and Peter van der Krogt – ‘Globes from the western world’
  • Tom Lamb and Jeremy Collins – ‘The World in Your Hands’

Visit: http://georgeglazer.com/globes/globeref/globemakers.html for historical information on globemakers.

Look for features on the globe that can be dated, such as:

  • Tasman's voyages in 1642/43
  • Cook's Voyages, the first in 1770
  • The United States moving westward from 1783 to 1848, and the earlier renaming of New Amsterdam to New York
  • Tasmania shown joined to Australia until 1802
  • Brazil becomes independent in 1822
  • Wilkes Land named in 1842
  • Russian America renamed Alaska in 1867
  • Soviet Union formed in 1922

Dating by the maker of the orrery

Most Orrery makers were also instrument makers, and there are many reference books that list scientific instrument makers e.g:

  • Silvo A Bedini – Early American Scientific Instruments and Their Makers
  • Gloria Clifton – Directory of British Scientific
  • Instrument Makers 1550 – 1851
  • Maurice Dumas – Scientific Instruments of the 17th and 18th centuries and their Makers.