Odds and quads

These very different nautically themed objects both come from the collections of the University of Sheffield.

June 16, 2011

The brass sextant, dating from about 1820, was taken on the first of HMS Beagle's three survey expeditions to South America between 1826 and 1830 (the second voyage had Charles Darwin as a passenger and led to the groundbreaking observations that formed the basis for the theory of natural selection).

The sextant belonged to Lieutenant James Kirke, who bequeathed it to his great-nephew, one of the first students at Sheffield in 1907, who donated it to the university in 19.

The elaborate glass ship, sitting with its lifeboat under its original dome on a sea of what seems to be glass fibre, is a rare undamaged example of a mid- 19th-century collectible "frigger" or "whimsy".

It forms part of the Turner Museum of Glass, left to Sheffield in the 1940s by William Turner, a chemist and glass technologist, who was keen for students to learn to appreciate the aesthetic as well as the technical properties of glass.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to: matthew.reisz@ tsleducation.com.

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