Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions Present a Significant Sale Of Fine Clocks, Barometers and Scientific Instruments (Auction Date: 4th Sept)

Amongst the lots featured in this specialist auction is a truly remarkable survival. Lot 178 (Est. £10,000-15,000) is a table clock crafted during the short lived career, as a watch and instrument maker, of Herman Diedrich Sporing. Sporing was a member of the faculty aboard the H.M.S. Endeavour, under the command of Captain James Cook, a voyage which led to the discovery of New Zealand and Australia in 1770.

The clock itself is brass mounted mahogany, and quarter-chiming. It has a seven pillar triple fusee movement with rise/fall regulation to the verge escapement, and the enamel dial is signed HERMAN DIEDRICH SPORING, LONDON at the centre. Herman Diedrich Sporing was Finnish by birth, but trained as a watch and instrument maker in London (although it appears that he never gained his freedom of the Clockmakers Company). This piece would have been made during Sporing's time in London and has, until recently, spent all of its known life in Sweden, suggesting that it was made for a client in his home country or possibly a family member. It was during his time in London that Sporing was employed by Joseph Banks, the naturalist, to accompany Captain James Cook (then Lieutenant) as one of the 'four gentlemen of the faculty' on his first voyage on H.M.S. Endeavour 1768-71. The primary mission of Cook's voyage was to ensure that the astronomer, Charles Green, was able to undertake observations of the transit of Venus from Tahiti which was due to take place on 3rd June 1769. While in Tahiti awaiting the event, Charles Green's astronomical quadrant was taken by the local islanders. The instrument was disassembled by the local inhabitants, but recovered by the crew. It was at this point that Herman Sporing's horological background was essential in securing the success of Green's observations, as he was able to use his training to successfully reassemble the device. This data, along with other recordings of the same event across the globe, enabled Thomas Hornsby to calculate a fairly accurate approximation of the distance of the Earth from the Sun. From Tahiti, they followed instructions from the Admiralty to seek the position of the Southern Continent eventually heading first to New Zealand, and later to Australia, landing at Botany Bay on 29th April 1770. Here, Sporing's primary role was to produce drawn records of the indigenous flora and fauna, most of the surviving drawings are now held by the British Museum. In this artistic role, Sporing also produced the earliest visual record of the Maori people (New Zealand's native tribe) by Westerners, when they attacked the Endeavour of Motuhora Island (Whale Island).

On Christmas day 1770, the Endeavour embarked on its homeward journey, however, by this stage the crew had been exposed to disease, such as malaria and dysentery. Herman Diedrich Sporing died at sea on 24th January 1771, with the astronomer Charles Green following five days later. This piece is a rare survival of Sporing's short time as a watch and instrument maker prior to his departure with Captain Cook aboard the endeavour. Not only finely crafted and in unrestored condition, this significant piece is a link to one of the foremost characters aboard the H.M.S. endeavour and an important historical link to the discovery of Australia and New Zealand.


Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions are a UK 'top 5' auctioneer of fine art and collectibles. As part of Noble Investments (UK) PLC we are the only UK stock-exchange listed firm of auctioneers and occupy the same stable as coin specialists Baldwin's, and Apex Philatelics. Established in 1759, we have the broadest and most regular calendar of specialist catalogued sales in the industry, numbering over 150 per annum, and provide vendors and buyers alike access to market-leading specialist advice in any number of collecting fields. We operate from salerooms in Donnington Priory (near Newbury), London's Mayfair, Bristol and Godalming.

Dreweatts - 22 August 2013