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image X99

A Malacca cane, containing drawing instruments and a 5ft measuring rod


Cane with rosewood and brass

Museum number: X99

Curatorial note

This hollow walking stick with brass covered tip is also a case for architects equipment. The handle unscrews to reveal a pair of 30" folded rods with divisions in inches which form a single five foot rule for taking measures. The rosewood handle itself is in the form of a drawing instrument case 7½ in (85mm) high provided with a pair of brass dividers, 4 inch ivory scale, 3 inch brass mounted pencil and a brass ruling pen (broken). One item is missing. A 7/8" diameter metal compass, glass covered, is set into the cap of this unusual case.

There has been some confusion about this item which was identified by the late Maya Hambly in her (unpublished) Catalogue of the Drawing Instruments at Sir John Soane's Museum as being the 'Hollow stick containing a pair of "Five Feet Rods"' listed in the 1837 inventory as in the Breakfast Room desk1. However, this stick could never have fitted into the desk, which at that time only had drawers, and it contains only a single five-foot rule, not a pair. In fact this is another item, listed in the 1837 inventory as being in the Breakfast Room Strong Closet, described as 'A walking stick with compass and instruments, said to have belonged to Sir Christopher Wren'. Sadly, Soane seems to have been sold this item with a fake provenance as the scale would indicate a date of c.1800 since it combines divisions for decimals of an inch and fractions of an inch to the reverse side, common from this date. Soane's Note Book [his diary] records a payment on 28 August 1822 for this item: 'Pd..Wren's stick 4/6 [to] Fish'.

1 Maya Hambly, Catalogue of Drawing Instruments in Sir John Soane's Museum, unpublished typescript, Sir John Soane's Museum, No. 5. There is no 'hollow stick' containing two five foot rods in the collection today, just this walking stick.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Bought by John Soane from a Mr Fish on 28 Aug 1822 for 4s 6d.

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk