Pocket Case of Drawing Instruments

Pocket Case of Drawing Instruments

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
This 18th-century pocket-sized wooden case is covered with black fish skin. It currently holds ten drawing instruments:
1) A 4" brass semicircular protractor, divided to single degrees and numbered by tens in both directions from 10 to 180. It is marked: Butterfield AParis.
2) A 6-3/4" brass folding combination set square and ruler. The outer edges of the legs have scales for French inches, numbered by ones from 1 to 6. The inner edges are divided to ten degrees and numbered from 5 to 110. One leg is marked: Demi Pied de Roi [half a king's foot] (/) Butterfield AParis. This leg has a slit and pinhole for hanging a plumb line and a rounded cut-out. The other leg is marked: 6 pouces du vin [6 inches of wine].
3) A 6-3/4" brass French-style sector with straight edges. One side has double scales of equal parts, running from 10 to 200 (misnumbered as 120); of planes (unlabeled), running from 10 to 60; and for inscribed regular polygons, from 12 sides to 3 sides. The outer edge of one leg has an unlabeled scale for the size of artillery shot, running from 4 to 24.
The other side has double scales of chords, running from 10 to 180; of solids, running from 5 to 60; and for the specific weights of five metals. The outer edge of one leg has an unlabeled scale for the weight of artillery shot, running from 4 to 24. This side is marked: Butterfield (/) AParis. Compare to MA.321676, MA.321677, and 1985.0580.04.
4) A 4-1/2" brass dotter, for marking a paper so that the lines of the drawing could be filled in later.
5) A second 6-3/4" brass folding combination set square and ruler. The outer edge of one leg has a scale for French inches, numbered by ones from 1 to 6, and a slot, pinhole, and rectangular cutout for a plumb line. This leg is marked: Langlois aux Galleries du Louvre AParis. The other leg has a plotting scale numbered by hundreds from 100 to 900, with a diagonal scale at the left end.
6) A pair of 4-3/4" brass and steel dividers.
7) A pair of 4" brass and steel dividers with a removable point.
8) A brass dotter attachment that would fit the longer dividers if one point could be removed.
9) A pencil point that nearly fits the smaller dividers.
10) A brass and steel pen point that fits the smaller dividers.
As was typical for sets of drawing instruments, there is not a one-to-one correspondence between the slots in the case and the instruments stored in them. Draftsmen often purchased cases and drawing instruments separately, buying only what they actually used. Over time, instruments were also lost or replaced.
Michael Butterfield (1635–1724) was an English instrument maker who worked in France from around 1677 until his death. He was best known for his distinctive sundials. Claude Langlois (d. 1756) and his successors operated a workshop in Paris from 1730 to 1780. The Smithsonian acquired this object in 1959. Henry Russell Wray, the previous owner, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and was a businessman in Colorado Springs, Colo., in the early 20th century.
References: Maya Hambly, Drawing Instruments, 1580–1980 (London: Sotheby's Publications, 1988), 24, 28, 134–135; Adler Planetarium, Webster Signature Database, http://historydb.adlerplanetarium.org/signatures/.
Currently not on view
Object Name
drawing instruments, set of
date made
mid 18th century
Butterfield, Michael
place made
France: Île-de-France, Paris
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
steel (overall material)
leather (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 2.7 cm x 8 cm x 9.5 cm; 1 1/16 in x 3 5/32 in x 3 3/4 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Drafting, Engineering
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Drawing Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object