Cased Set of Hydrostatic Bubbles by Lovi of Edinburgh

Cased Set of Hydrostatic Bubbles by Lovi of Edinburgh



A small mahogany case containing a set of glass Hydrostatic Bubbles for testing the gravity of liquid. The bubbles are shaped as a hollow glass ball with a stem leading to a smaller ball. They are numbered to the top of each ball.

Nine glass bubbles remain from the original set of twelve and all are numbered from 22 to 34. The inside of the lid has a paper label noting the numbers and the proving gravity they relate to. There are 6 strengths, with two bubbles allocated to each. The lowest numbers, 22 and 23, are for Double Whisky; 24 and 25 are for Double Rum; 26 and 27 for Double Brandy & Gin; 28 and 29 for Hydrometer Proof, 30 and 31 for Glass Proof and finally 32 and 34 for Very Weak. The bubbles that are missing are numbers 23, 28 and 30.

Hydrostatic Bubbles are also referred to as Philospohical Bubbles, Gravity Beads, Aerometrical Beads and Hydrometer Beads. They were invented by Alexander Wilson of Glasgow in 1757, seem to be particular to Scotland and only used up to the turn of the 1800 when they were superseded by more accurate measures. Sets bearing the names of Gardner & Laurie, James Corte, James Brown and Telfer & Afleck all from Glasgow are also known although, like this set, none are complete.

This set stands out from the others in that the name to the label, Lovi, is from Edinburgh. The National Museums of Scotland have in their collection a publication entitled 'A Short Introduction To The Use Of The Patent Aerometrical Beads' by Isabella Lovi, dated 1805. Isabella was the widow of Angelo Lovi an instrument maker from Milan who emigrated to Scotland in 1772. She patented her improvements to Wilson's Hydrostatic Bubbles in 1805 and issued the book at the same time. Aside from the 12 bubbles for use in alcohol proofing noted on this set, she made boxed case of 363 beads, also in the Museums of Scotland's collection. They could be used for testing a wide variety of liquids from milk to concentrated sulphuric acid.

The case interior is fitted with a dark red velvet covered shelf with holes to fit the bubbles. The interior of the bottom half of the case has a mahogany edge which extends above it to form a lip to hold the top in place. Just over half of this lip is missing through damage.

These sets are relatively hard to find and are interesting for the fact that they tend to be Scottish and were used for only a short period of time. Circa 1810.


Height 3 cm / 1 14"
Diameter 7.5 cm / 3 14"

Circa 1810


Mahogany & Glass




Lovi of Edinburgh


Scientific Instruments


National Museums of Scotland


ex. Andrew Crawforth Collection


3 Bubbles missing, Damage to case lip.