For 40 years the late Elli Buk (1949-2012), of New York, an art and antiques dealer in SoHo, amassed a vast collection of scientific, medical, and technological artifacts spanning two centuries.
His collecting started in his early 20s when Buk became fascinated with machines while repairing machinery in the knitting factory where he worked. At first he collected things he could take apart and put together again to see how they worked. This led to his repairing watches and clocks and to eventually opening in 1978 E. Buk Art And Antiques.
His store window at 151 Spring Street became a highlight for passerbys. In a blog “ Mr. Buk’s Window,” written in 2001 for the National Post, the science fiction writer Willam Gibson wrote that gazing into Buk’s store window was for him, “like gazing into the back reaches of some cave where Manhattan stores its dreams.”
Buk’s 2,121-lot collection, one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of scientific instruments and technological achievements ever assembled, will be auctioned by Grogan and Company at its Dedham gallery next Thursday through Sunday beginning at 10 a.m. each day.
The collection encompasses over 30 specialty categories, including telescopes, microscopes, medical devices, telegraphy, telephones, surveying instruments, terrestrial globes, televisions, radios, patent models, salesman’s samples, early household items, and ephemera, as well as works by SoHo artists Martin Wong, Ernest Rosenberg, David Hare, and others.
Topping the offerings is Guglielmo Marconi’s circa 1900 experimental model of his magnetic detector expected to bring $20,000-$50,000. Considered the father of and inventor of radio, Marconi is credited with sending, in 1901, the first wireless telegraph signals from Poldhu, England, to a receiving station in Newfoundland, Canada.
Other highlights include a rare circa 1850 telescope made by Newburyport-born Henry Fitz (1808-63), the first important American telescope maker ($8,000-$12,000); an early electric motor ($3,000-$10,000) manufactured by the Riker Electric Motor Co. of Brooklyn, a pioneer in the use of electric motors for transportation; and a large-scale pillar microscope made in 1841 by the world-famed British instrument maker Hugh Powell ($5,000-$15,000).
In addition to the scientific and technological offerings there are items as diverse as a toilet from Queen Victoria’s and Albert’s yacht the Victoria and Albert III, scrapped in 1904 ($2,000-
$3,000); a 19th-century snow sleigh with velvet seats ($500-$700); an RCA Victor first color TV set ($1,000-
$1,500); a United States Army field operation table ($400-$600); architectural drawings for HMS Queen Mary ($5,000-$20,000); and the 1870 patent model of the Dover rotating egg beater ($500-$700).
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Marking its 21st year of all-cane auction, Tradewinds Antiques will hold its 42d live auction Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Peabody Marriott Hotel.
The 229-lot auction includes five canes with elephant ivory handles, which are being sold to benefit the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation.
They depict Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and intoxication, being given a goblet of wine by a nude maiden ($4,000-$5,000); Mephistopheles, the demon featured in German folklore ($1,800- $2,900); a full-bodied horse on a rocky path ($3,500-$4,500); the bust of a young girl with curly hair ($3,000-$4,000); and a “lady of the night” in disheveled clothes ($4,500
This also is the estimate for a narwhal and silver cane and for a rare “La Diabolique” cane curio, the weapon used by rioters during the famous 19th-cenury Paris street riots.
A cane described by Tradewinds owner Henry A. Taron, as “one of the most unusual examples we have ever offered,” is the circa 1880s cane that belonged to Dudley Foster, known professionally as “Hop O’ My Thumb” and who never weighed more than 20 pounds. His 20-inch cane, about half the length of the average cane, has a gold-filled handle inscribed “D Foster from Dr. Warren.” The estimate is $2,500-$3,500.
An ivory pique cane dated 1696 and described by Taron as “a superb example of these fine, ancient pieces” has a $5,000-$7,000 estimate.
The more than 50 gadget canes are as varied as a circa 1895 French watch cane ($2,500-$3,500); a 1901 English cane that opens to reveal a silver flask ($1,500- $2,500); an undertaker’s measuring cane ($1,300-$2,000); and a 1920 English cane with a tiny spoon and picks for pipe cleaning which are revealed when a silver mount is pushed ($850-$1,250).
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The guitar, which Don DeMarco kept for his private use throughout his career of recording sessions and concert dates, is a highlight of Skinner’s Fine Musical Instruments Auction next Sunday at noon at its Boston gallery. The estimate is $20,000-$40,000.
The 1962 Exel built in the New York workshop of John D’Angelico (1905-65), regarded by many as the greatest archtop guitar maker of all time, is being sold with its original case.
DeMarco, who was guitarist for Vic Damone for 20 years and also performed with Mel Torme, Liza Minelli, Rosemary Clooney, and many others,, gave the guitar “meticulous care, and it remains in extremely fine condition,” said David Bonsey, director of Skinner’s Fine Musical Instruments department.
Another important offering is the Gibson 1957 Les Paul model that has retained its original rare black pickguard and black pickup surrounds, and is expected to bring $60,000-$80,000.
A 1965 Fender Stratocaster model finished in a rare candy apple-red custom color has been consigned to the auction by its original owner and has a $15,000-$30,000 estimate.
Two cellos are featured in the sale: a 1782 English violoncello bearing the original label of its maker, John Betts ($60,000-$80,000), and a circa 1826 Italian violoncello by Giuseppe Dall’Aglio, of Mantua,, the maker of the 1803 violin that is also being auctioned. The violoncello and the violin each has a $30,000-$50,000 estimate.
Bonsey noted that it is rare to have a violoncello and a violin by the same maker offered in the same sale.
Virginia Bohlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.