Europe in the sixteenth century experienced a period of unprecedented vitality and innovation in the spheres of science and commerce. The Americas had been discovered and the colonizing nations had an urgent need for mathematical instruments for navigation and surveying. The Elizabethan age saw the establishment of the precision instrument-making trade in London, from 1540, a trade that would become world-famous in the succeeding two centuries.The first of a group of London makers was an immigrant from Flanders, Thomas Gemini, succeeded by the Englishman, Humfrey Cole.It has proved possible to find over 100 surviving mathematical instruments, signed and unsigned, made by a group of London makers during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. This book describes these instruments in detail, together with the methods by which unsigned instruments are attributed. It tells how the skills of dividing and engraving on brass developed in parallel with the map-making and printing for which the Low Countries were the most important centre. There was already a demand in Elizabethan England for these skills, since accurate measurement was crucial to the professions of navigation, surveying, fortification, and gunnery. England, at war with Spain, eager to exploit the riches of the New World, and, at home, experiencing the re-distribution of monastic property to individual landowners, urgently needed these new professions.
This skilfully conceived and splendidly realized volume pieces together, in true detective fashion, the evidence for the birth of a flourishing scientific instrument trade in london in the period 1540-1620 ... It is a fine model for the presentation of instruments within a broader cultural context. (Journal for the History of Astronomy
provides illuminating studies of individual instrument types, studies that frequently break new ground in their depth and thoroughness ... the book will be the essential work of reference on the topic for decades to come, and no library that covers the history of science or technology should be without a copy ... an example of how the data locked up in material culture can be realized and a richer vista of the first Elizabethan age opened to view. (Annals of Science