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Scientific instrument case

Scientific instrument case

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)

  • Date:

    1400-1500 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Leather, moulded

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Before the development of plastics in the nineteenth century, objects that needed to be strong, light and waterproof were often made of leather by a process known as cuir bouilli. This involved saturating cured hide with water, forming it over a mould and then baking it in an oven to harden the leather. Cuir bouilli objects were decorated using stamps and a range of special modelling tools while the leather was still wet, and sometimes painted or gilded once cooled.

Robust and comparatively light, cuir bouilli was ideal for making travelling cases, intended to protect precious, fragile items from damage. Although this example has always been considered to be a scientific instrument case, for an astrolabe or clock, the case shows similarities to travelling toilet cases for hand mirrors and combs.

Place of Origin

Italy (made)


1400-1500 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Leather, moulded


Height: 20.5 cm, Width: 19 cm, Depth: 6.5 cm


Cuir bouilli

Subjects depicted



Science; Containers; Woodwork; Medieval and renaissance; Leather


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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