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Christie’s science sale goes from Astrolabes to the Apple-1


An upcoming auction at Christie’s will span centuries of scientific discovery, from 18th century astrolabes to the Apple-1 computer.
The auction will offer scientific artefacts alongside natural history specimens dating back millions of years, and manuscripts, artworks and photographs documenting the earliest days of global exploration.

Leading the sale is an original Apple-1 computer, built in 1976 by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in the tiny Palo Alto garage where they founded the world’s biggest corporation.

Having built and sold approximately 200 Apple-1 computers, Jobs and Wozniak then encouraged customers to trade them in a year later for a discount on the much-improved Apple-2. Those that were returned were destroyed, leaving just 66 examples that are known to have survived to this day, with many owned by institutions such as the Smithsonian.

This example was bought in 1977 by Joe Torzewski, later the founder of the Apple-1 Owner’s Club, for the original retail price of $666.66, and includes the highly rare original owner’s manual. Having then been acquired by the present owner in 2004, it will now cross the block at Christie’s with an estimate of £150,000-£250,000 ($213,150-$355,250).

At the other end of the spectrum is an 18th century astrolabe – essentially an analogue celestial computer used for measuring time, altitude and triangulating location using the movement of the sun, moon and stars. This highly decorative and finely engraved example is as much a work of art as a scientific instrument, and is valued at £60,000-£100,000 ($85,260-$142,100).

Further scientific objects of interest will include a George III orrery, built by W & S JONES of London in 1794, estimated at £8,000-£10,000 ($11,368-$14,210); and a rare set of apparatus designed by James Ferguson in 1800 to demonstrate the principles of Newtonian mechanics, valued at £15,000-£25,000 ($21,315-$35,525).

Elsewhere the sale includes everything from 50 million-year-old giant fossilised palm fronds and iridescent ammonites, to Napoleonic-era naval engineering plans and mid-18th century English table globes.

The Christie’s Travel, Science and Natural History sale takes place in London on April 21.


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