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  • William Colenso's microscope sent by J D Hooker goes up for sale in NZ auction
  • Post author
    Paul Fraser
  • Colenso'smicroscopesentWilliam

William Colenso's microscope sent by J D Hooker goes up for sale in NZ auction

We've talked before about the value of memorabilia from explorers such as Captain Cook, but of course he was not the only man to explore the region of Australia and New Zealand. A range of scientists especially botanists sought out forms of life unfamiliar to them there.

Of these one of the most notable was a Christian missionary, printer and later politician William Colenso.

The Cornish-born Colenso headed out to New Zealand in his early twenties to work as a printer's apprentice and his work included some landmark documents: the first printing of the Treaty of Waitangi, and a translation of the New Testament into the Maori language.

Colenso was a prolific writer both on scientific and theological subjects, publishing several books and submitting over 100 scientific papers during his lifetime. Heading out on treks in the name of both missionary work and botany, he was also MP for Napier in his middle age.

Now a range of memorabilia connected to Colenso is to go under the hammer courtesy of a Napier collector, C L Thomas, whose rare books and related materials collection features the explorer and scientist prominently.

William Colenso microscope J D Hooker
William Colenso's microscope, sent by J D Hooker

Perhaps the stand-out lot is a lacquered brass dissecting microscope. Held in a wooden case which is lined with purple velvet and covered with leather, the five lens microscope was sent to Colenso at his request by his friend Joseph Dalton Hooker.

Hooker, whom Colenso met in 1841 as a result of the ships for Sir James Clark Ross's Antarctic Expedition visiting, is a celebrated scientist in his own right. However, he is probably best known as being one of Charles Darwin's very closest friends and confidantes before and throughout his presentation of the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.

Colenso worked with Hooker for a while, and corresponded with him for a full five decades.

The microscope, which Colenso received in 1885, marked the start of a resurgence in the aging scientist's work. William Colenso was not one of those who faded away in his 70s and 80s, as the 'Transactions and proceedings of the New Zealand Institute' from 1885 to 1899 (the year of his death) records.

The microscope is in very good condition, and somewhat modestly estimated at NZ$5,000 in the March 21 auction in Auckland.

Collectors on the lookout for the memorabilia of scientists and explorers should take a look at the scientists' autographs we have in stock, including those of Albert Einstein, Charles Babbage and Thor Heyerdahl (he of the legendary Kon-Tiki expedition).

  • Post author
    Paul Fraser
  • Colenso'smicroscopesentWilliam