Impression in sealing wax, “J.W.” with an eye and “Observare”

Watt, James

Impression in sealing wax of “J.W.” with an eye and “Observare” over

This item is part of the contents of the workshop that Scottish engineer James Watt developed at his home, Heathfield, at Handsworth, Birmingham, from c.1795 through to his death in 1819. Although Watt is best known for his work on the steam engine, his workshop contains a wide variety of objects from many different projects, from chemistry to sculpture-copying.

The description of the item was written by Edward Collins, the land agent responsible for Heathfield when the workshop was given to the Science Museum in 1924. Collins could not always identify what he was looking at, but always described what he saw clearly. This has allowed his descriptions to form the basis of subsequent research.

This impression is Watt's personal motto, worked into the design for a seal with which he could secure paperwork and correspondence. The motto is significant in that it represents Watt's method of careful scientific observation, by which he achieved the ground-breaking results for which he is so well know, in projects ranging from the steam engine through to chemistry and much else.


James Watt's Garret Workshop
Object Number:
Major J.M. Gibson-Watt