Item Preview
Late 18th/Early 19th Century


Collection of John Adams (1757-1807), of Edmonton, England, who maintained a practice of instruction in navigation and mathematics. Descended directly through his family. Included are his fine octant, a framed engraving of himself, a couple of letters in his possession and a splendid silver medal he was awarded. 1) Ebony and brass "T" frame octant, circa 1806, signed "Gilbert & Sons London" on the 12" brass radius arm. Fitted with screw clamp, inset ivory 0-90 degree scale, pinhole sight, solar filters, auxiliary telescope with eyepiece, fine rotary adjustment of the index mirror rather than the horizon mirror, handle and feet. Complete with original keystone-shaped box with the partial trade label of "Gilbert & Sons, late Gilbert & Wright, No. 148 Leadenhall Street ..." selling "Improved achromatic plated and brass telescopes, Octants...". The octant dates from 1806, when "Gilbert & Sons" took over from "Gilbert & Wright". Length of radius arm 12". Scale arc 9.5". 2) Print of John Adams by J.T. Smith, published in 1795, with a paper fragment showing the signature "J. Adams". (Fragment previously attached to the back of the print.) Framed 11" x 13". 3) Group of letters that reveal astronomical and mathematical practices of the day. One, written in 1779 to an unknown recipient, is from Jonathan Wheatcroft of Paxford (in the Cotswolds), reporting on his failure to observe a new comet, even with his "2-1/2" Foot Improved Achromatic Dollond telescope. Another is from Charles Small of Ferryhill, writing to Jonathan Lindsay of London, discussing complicated problems in plane geometry, complete with proof and various kind words about colleagues and family. Complete with remains of a wax seal, and early postal markings. 4) Silver presentation medal "Arts and Commerce Promoted", inscribed "To Mr. John Adams, 1785" for "Artificial Horizon Improved". In the Society's records, twelve pages were devoted to Adams' improvement. In seeking an instrument capable of measuring arcs up to 180 degrees, for use with his new horizon, Adams turned "to Messrs. Gilbert & Wright, who immediately presented me with an improved Quadrant, by which the fore and back observations are equally facile and just". Medal in excellent condition, in its original wood case lined in green velvet and covered in shagreen. Diameter 1.75".
Condition: Condition is excellent as found with normal wear from use and age, noting spotting to the lacquer and loss of one thumbscrew.

  • Provenance: John Adams, and thence by descent through the Adams family. Gorrings, East Susex, United Kingdom, April 2007. Acquired by Tesseract, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, at the above sale. Acquired by the Kelton Foundation from the above, March 2008. The Kelton Collection of Marine Art & Artifacts. John Adams worked in Edmonton, Middlesex, seven miles north of London. In 1782 he revised and corrected James Atkinson's epitome of the Whole Art of Navigation. In his preface of that year, Adams explains "The present reviser, having been eight years in the fea fervice, and eighteen a teacher of this art, enables him to say ... that he has now rectified what was amifs; alterered [sic] what was diforderly; explained what was obfcure; ftruck out what was not abfolutely neceffary; and copioufly added where it was wanting, ...".

Accepted Forms of Payment:

American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Money Order / Cashiers Check, Personal Check, Visa, Wire Transfer


We require prompt payment and removal of your purchases as stated in Paragraph 12 of the Conditions of Sale. If you plan to pick up your purchases, please call ahead and we'll make every effort to have your items ready. Our physical address is 1483 Route 6A, East Dennis, MA. Pick up of smaller items at our Mystic, CT location is also available with advance notice.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to provide shipping quotes until the invoice had been paid in full.
In house shipping is offered exclusively though UPS. All items are shipped with UPS insurance (max. $50,000). UPS insurance is billed at $2.70 for the first $100 and at $0.90 per hundred afterwards. Eldred's charges a minium $15 handling fee per package plus actual UPS shipping charges.
COLLECTION OF PURCHASES: Delivery or shipping arrangements must be made within seven (7) days from the close of the auction for all purchases. All items must be removed from Eldred's facilities within fourteen (14) days of the end of the auction. All items remaining after fourteen days may be subject to a $15/per item/per day storage fee. No items will be released unless storage fees are paid in full. Items remaining over thirty (30) days from the close of the auction may be sold for the buyer's account minus auction and storage fees.

The Marine Sale Session I
August 4, 2022 9:30 AM EDT
East Dennis, MA, US


You agree to pay a buyer's premium of up to 25% and any applicable taxes and shipping.

View full terms and conditions

Bid Increments
From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $2,999 $100
$3,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $29,999 $1,000
$30,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 $99,999 $5,000
$100,000 + $10,000