There is an extensive literature on the history of what we now term scientific instruments. As a result, we know a great deal about how devices such as telescopes, clocks and astrolabes were made and used, especially those dating from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Many of these artefacts survive to be studied and written about because they have been gathered into collections, often in museums. This special issue of Journal of the History of Collections reflects upon the meanings and values of such collections; by way of introduction, here I lay out the genres and themes in the historiography of scientific instruments.
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