Jacob Abraham (1772?-1845)

Jacob Abraham, New Terrestrial Globe. 1813. © Daniel Crouch Rare Books

Jacob Abraham, New Terrestrial Globe. 1813. © Daniel Crouch Rare Books

A little quiet on the blog of late, but not for want of activity.  I’ve been working hard both on the online supplement to British Map Engravers and the planned supplementary volume on American Map Engravers.  I spotted this delightful little pocket globe the other day, posted (probably on Instagram) by Daniel Crouch Rare Books.  It’s by a maker (or more likely retailer) I’d not come across before — Jacob Abraham of Bath.   Not very much seemed to be known about him, so I got to work and he has now become the very latest addition to the online Supplement – posted there this morning and repeated here below to give you the flavour.  There now over 200 entries like it on the website, and several more will be added this month, so do make use of it.

ABRAHAM, Jacob (1772?-1845) — Exeter, Bath & Cheltenham

Optician, instrument-maker, globemaker, etc.  Produced New terrestrial globe 1813, apparently with Abraham’s label covering an earlier one by Nicholas Lane; Newton’s new and improved terrestrial pocket globe 1817 — with Abraham’s imprint pasted on beneath the title.  Also produced spectacles, telescopes, microscopes, barometers, orreries, etc.

01A87X1M; Trade card of J Abraham, optician and mathematical instrument maker, 1837.

Trade card of Jacob Abraham, optician and mathematical instrument maker, 1837. © Science Museum Group

Born in or about 1772, perhaps in London, where his mother died at the age of eighty in 1823.  He began in business in or about 1795, probably in Exeter: he is first recorded there, but by 1802 was migrating to Bath to coincide with the fashionable season each year.  In 1802 he was advertising “all sorts of spectacles, mounted in silver, tortoiseshell, or steel; prospect, reading, opera, and Claude-Lorraine glasses; linen-provers, telescopes, and microscopes; goglers to preserve the eyes from the dust or wind, chiefly used for riding; hergrometers [hygrometers] and thermometers; watch compasses, camera obscuras, preservers for young ladies’ and gentlemen’s eyes, particularly those who never used glasses before; concave and convex glasses for short-sighted persons”, etc., (Bath Chronicle, 25 Feb 1802).  By 1808 he was now sharing his time between Bath and Cheltenham.  In 1812, Abraham was one of the leading figures in the establishment of a Jewish cemetery in Bath.

Cheltenham Chronicle, 31st May 1838. © British Library Board.

Cheltenham Chronicle, 31st May 1838. © British Library Board.

The Bath Chronicle of 27 May 1813 related a curious story of the Exeter merchant Lazarus Cohen, Abraham’s brother-in-law, who had been captured by the French on a voyage to Guernsey two years earlier and imprisoned in France, but had now escaped and made his way safely home via Prague.  Abraham announced himself as Optician to the Duke of Gloucester, and to the Duke of Wellington, from at least 1818, and in 1828 the local press recorded a visit to Abraham by the former, with the purchase of several articles, and repeated visits by the latter, with “some very large purchases”, a few weeks later (Cheltenham Journal, 21 Jul 1828 & 1 Sep 1828).  A large portion of the stock was dispersed at auction in 1843, but his son Maurice Abraham (1808?-1872), who later emigrated to Australia, had taken over the business in Queen’s Circus, Cheltenham, by June 1845, probably with the assistance of his sister Sophia (1811?-1884).  The eldest son, Abraham Abraham (1799?-1863), had long been independently established and was a very well-known instrument-maker in Lord Street, Liverpool.  Jacob Abraham died at Cheltenham 20 Sep 1845 at the age of seventy-three.  A lengthy will, noting numerous property interests, survives in NA (PROB 11/2026/136), probate being granted 13 Nov 1845.  There is a trade-card in the Science Museum.  His widow, Hannah Cohen (1764?-1846), died at Cheltenham the following year, reportedly at the age of eighty-two.

Abraham’s various addresses in Exeter, Bath and Cheltenham, etc. are given in full on the Supplement.

About Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

Laurence Worms has owned and run Ash Rare Books since 1971. He represented the antiquarian book trade on the (British) National Book Committee from 1993 to 2002 and has been six times an elected member of the Council of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association. He was largely responsible for drafting the Association’s Code of Good Practice first introduced in 1997 (and its recent update), served as Honorary Secretary of the Association from 1998 to 2001 and as President from 2011 to 2013. He is a former member of the Council of the Bibliographical Society and continues to serve on the Council of the London Topographical Society. He writes and lectures on various aspects of the history of the book and map trades, and has lectured at the universities of Cambridge, London, Reading and Sheffield, as well as at the Bibliographical Society, the Royal Geographical Society, the Warburg Institute, the National Library of Scotland and at Gresham College and Stationers' Hall. He teaches annually at the London Rare Book School, University of London. Published work includes the compilation of fourteen ‘lives’ for the “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography”, a number of articles for “The Oxford Companion to the Book” and the chapter on early English maps and atlases for the fourth volume of “The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain”. Essays on the British map trade are also appearing in “The History of Cartography” published by the University of Chicago Press. His long-awaited “British Map Engravers”, co-written with Ashley Baynton-Williams, was published to critical acclaim in 2011. He also contributed the numerous biographical notes to Peter Barber’s hugely successful “London : A History in Maps”, co-published by the British Library and the London Topographical Society in 2012.
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