Collections and projections: Henry Sutton's paper instruments

Catherine Eagleton*, Boris Jardine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


In this article we consider printed paper mathematical instruments, in particular those which are reversed because they were produced by inking and taking an impression from an instrument, rather than by printing from a copperplate. Describing a previously unnoticed group of paper instruments by Henry Sutton, we outline their provenance and what is known of Sutton's life. The reverse-printed instruments do not have the same practical uses as the instruments from which they were printed, so we examine their place within seventeenth-century mathematical culture and collecting in order to understand why they were made and owned. We end by suggesting that studying these apparently useless instruments has enabled better understanding of printed paper instruments more generally, by forcing us to think outside the usual categories of theory/practice and useful/useless. Considering the roles of gentleman-mathematicians and collectors shows that the reverse-printed instruments were not useless at all, but instead were valuable objects in their own right.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the History of Collections
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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