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Globe, Planetary Model, Orrery, New Portable, William Jones, London: Early 19th C. (Sold)

William Jones
Orrery and Tellurian
A New Portable Orrery

London: Early 19th Century
7.5 inches diameter platter, 4 inches high
Mahogany box: 8.5 x 9 x 4.5 inches
Provenance: [Kenneth] Ullyett Collection

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An extremely finely made platter-form alternate orrery and geared tellurian, in original mahogany box, by the renowned British instrument maker William Jones, of W. & S. Jones.

The circular wooden platter has an engraved paper dial highlighted with pink and green hand color. The paper dial has calendar, zodiac names, symbols, and figures, and related calibrations in the outer concentric circle; the four seasons named in banners in the middle concentric circle; and images of the known planets to relative size in the inner concentric circle, from Mercury to Georgium Sidus (the original name of Uranus, discovered in 1781).

Product description continues below.


The brass geared tellurian, the primary attachment to the platter, is intended to demonstrate astronomical phenomena such as the reasons for day and night, seasons, and eclipses, related to the diurnal rotation of the earth, the annual revolution of the earth around the sun, and monthly revolution of the moon around the earth. It is comprised of a central brass (removable) sphere representing the sun. Opposite the sun (and above the outer rim of the platter), the tellurian attachment has a brass moon revolving over a moon phase plate, zodiac ring, and adjustable brass ring, the ivory earth ball with latitude, longitude, and ecliptic lines, and with inlaid small brass circle showing the position of London, within brass crescent “Terminator” to show day and night, turned by an ivory handle extending beyond the platter.

The brass orrery (called a planetarium by Jones), stored in its contemporary small mahogany box (contained within the larger mahogany box), is an alternate attachment. For use it is screwed by threads into the platter (in place of the tellurian) to show relative motion and sizes of the planets (though not to scale) from Mercury to Saturn around the central brass sphere sun. Each ivory planet on individual rod, and its moons as raised on respective L-shaped brass rods, can be turned by hand. Earth has one moon, Neptune has four moons, and Saturn has five moons and a ring.

W.& S. Jones were among the greatest scientific instrument makers in London in the early 19th Century. They were also known for marketing globes by W. & T.M. Bardin. The firm was a successor to John Jones & Son. It was owned by brothers William Jones (1763-1831) and Samuel (1769-1859). According to some sources, Samuel became active about 1810. The orrery bears the name only of W. Jones. Perhaps W. Jones originally made, invented and sold the orrery (as stated in the cartouche), and the firm W. & S. Jones sold the model just with the W. Jones name, as originally imprinted.

W.& S. Jones published a small book in 1812, authored by W. Jones, The Description and Use of a New Portable Orrery, to promote and describe how to use three portable orreries. The present example is the simplest model, illustrated in the book as Plate 1. Jones explains that his orrery consists of “two separate machines, which I call a tellurian and planetarium.” (See p. 26.) By today’s terminology, the so-called planetarium attachment would generally be considered an orrery, and the whole would be considered a planetary model. According to the Preface of the book, this device was designed to be portable and inexpensive, making it particularly appropriate for school and private tutorial use. Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, was devoted to science as an avocation; according to records at Monticello, in 1792 Jefferson bought a “New Portable Orrery” from William Jones.

Cartouche on base: A NEW PORTABLE ORRERY, Invented and Made by W. Jones, and Sold by him in Holborn,/ LONDON.

The box has a brass label identifying it as “Ullyett Collection.”  Presumably this refers to Kenneth Ullyett, a renowned expert on antiques clocks and watches, who wrote numerous books on the subject from the 1950s to 1970s.


Clifton, Gloria C. Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers, 1550-1851. pp. 154-55.

Dekker, Elly, et al. Globes at Greenwich: A Catalogue of the Globes and Armillary Spheres in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. London: Oxford University Press and the National Maritime Museum, 1999.

Dekker, Elly and Peter van der Krogt. Globes from the Western World. London: Zwemmer, 1993.

Jones, William. The Description and Use of a New Portable Orrer., W. and S. Jones, Holborn, London: 1812.

Additional information


19th Century