The Apograph was invented in 1821 by Andrew Smith of Mauchline in Ayrshire, Scotland in 1821. The Smith family business was a factory in Mauchline making stone 'hones' for sharpening razors, but Andrew was a restless entrepeneur who soon diversified into woodware, transfer printing and other fields, ultimately with a string of inventions to his name and running a second factory in Birmingham.
The copying machine, offered here, was Andrew Smith's first venture outside the family firm's normal product range. It was apparently first shown at a meeting of the Glasgow Philosophical Society on 12 March 1821. It was drawn to David Brewster's attention (David Brewster, scientist and inventor of the kaliedoscope). Brewster's first act appears to have been to give the 'tracer'a scientific name. The 'Apograph'as Brewster named it, had a counter-balanced vertical beam mounted in a universal joint so that it could swing in any arc but not rotate about its long axis. Arms with a tracing point and a pencil (or alternatively an etching point) were attached one above the other. the lower one with the tracing point, rested on the table surface: the upper one rested on a board placed on two brackets. by adjusting the height of the upper arm and the board, the degree of reduction could be changed. By making the writing arm bear on the underside of the board, a reversed image of the design could be produced - the sort of facility that could be expected to be of use to engravers.
The Apograph represented exactly the type of inventive enterprise that Brewster wished to see promoted through his new 'Society of Arts' but this was not yet formed. When it was shortly afterwards, the Society promoted instead the Eidograph invented by William Wallace, the professor of Mathematics at Edinburgh University who coincidently was on the committee of the newly formed society!
I am indebted to Alan Simpson who wrote a long article in the "Book of the Old Edinburgh Club" (1991 pages 47-73) "An Edinburgh Intregue: Brewster's Society of Arts and the pantograph Dispute" for this and much more information.
In 1991 only one example of the Apograph dating from this period was known to exist (others made entirely in brass from 1838 onwards are known). This example was purchased by the Royal Scottish Museum (after 8 years of hunting for an example!)It was originally in the possession of the Earl Spencer who apparently purchased it in 1822. No other example was subsequently found from this early period until the example on offer here which came from Lord Minto's estate in the Scottish borders. The differences between the two known examples are subtle but very interesting. The Spencer example is engraved along the top in fine copperplate "Sold by C.M.Willich 8 Picket St. Strand" and is signed on the bottom arm (again in fine copper plate script),on the brass at the rear "Andw. Smith Inventor & Maker London". The example offered here has no London retailer marked and is signed in a much cruder manner "A.Smith, Inventor & Maker".(see photo). The upper horozontal arm in this example exactly matches that shown in the engraving on Smith's publicity material c.1822 (see photo) with an alternative arm with a 'step' for engraving. The Spencer example uses a combination of the two arms - an obvious improvement. There are other small differences - improvements - in the Spencer example (please email me for details), leading to an inevitable conclusion that the Minto Apograph offered here is the earlier example.
Condition: complete and boxed. The box was missing part of the lid (top and front) these two pieces have been replaced professionally and matched for colour. Lacquor present but marked. Small amount of woodworm (very dead) in one leg but not significantly effecting its strength.
Early Technology is pleased to be able to offer (complete with a copy of the article mentioned above) the earliest known example of one of the rarest drawing instruments known by a British inventor for a museum or private collector.
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