Music and the macabre

Bidders from around the globe were attracted to Tennants’ auction of Scientific and Musical Instruments, Cameras and Tools on 7th June with its mix of good quality period musical instruments and a diverse range of scientific lots encompassing macabre curiosities and collectors’ items.

Two themes shone out in the sale. Firstly, good period violins proved much in demand, exemplified by the top lot in the sale. A Genoese violin, made by Agostino de Plani in 1778 achieved a hammer price of £6,500 – well above the modest estimate of £1,500-2,000. A good example by a rare maker, the de Plani attracted international interest; after multiple bidders in the room and online dropped out, five phone bidders battled it out before the violin was sold to a German buyer. Also selling strongly was a French violin by maker J. B. Collin Mezin, which sold for £3,400 against an estimate of £800-1,000, and a bow from leading manufacturer W. E. Hill & Sons, which sold for £1,600 against an estimate of £300-500.

Secondly, in the scientific section of the sale, there was a marked preference for the macabre amongst buyers; prices for Victorian specimen skulls and medical instruments rose well over estimate. These curiosities included a partly cut away human skull in a glass display case which sold for £1,100 against an estimate of £400-600, and a Surgical Instrument Set by S. Maw, Son & Thompson, including a trepanning drill, which made £650 against an estimate of £200-300.

Equally as fascinating were a collection of Prepared Microscope Slides, with rare, early examples by good makers such as C. M. Topping, and W. F. Stanley. The collection made £600 against an estimate of £200-300. However, buyers were looking towards a lighter note at the end of the sale, with amusement machines selling for solid prices; an American Mutoscope, an early motion picture device, sold at its top estimate of £900, and a reproduction ‘Shake with Uncle Sam’ personality and strength telling machine made £800.

The sale resulted in a total Hammer Price of £67,270, with 92% of the 347 lots sold.

We are currently accepting lots for the next sale of Scientific & Musical Instruments, Cameras & Tools on 1st  September, please contact us on 01969 623780 or enquiry@tennants-ltd.co.uk for details.



Genoese Violin, made by Agostino de Plani in 1778: Sold for £6,500
(top left) A Medical Specimen Human Skull: Sold for £1,100