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Inventory no. 50854 - Epact entry

Epact number: 72855

Diptych Dial

Signed by Hans Tucher
Dated 1595; Nuremberg
Ivory, brass and silver; 80 x 111 x 15mm

Main text

This oval-shaped dial is extensively inscribed in Latin and German with instructions for proper use and also with the motto 'the critic should despise nothing unless he can make it better'.

The wind rose relates weather to the directions of the winds.

An unusual feature of this dial is the silver suspension chain.

Source museum: Museum of the History of Science, Oxford
Museum number: Inventory no. 50,854

Detailed text

The outer part of the upper leaf of this oval-shaped dial has a wind rose with 32 directions, with the inscription 'NORT [fleur-de-lis] WINDT' marking the north, compass viewing hole and brass index arm. At the bottom is inscribed 'HIC M ARINVS COMPAS SVS SEMI TAM TERRA MARIQVE OSTENDIT' ('this mariner's compass shows the way on land as well as at sea') and on the borders 'DER SPÖDTER SOL NICHTS VER ACHTEN DEN ER KANS BESSER MACHTEN' ('the critic should despise nothing unless he can make it better'). There is one bun foot (another appears to be missing).

The inner part of the upper leaf has a pin gnomon dial for the length of the day marked in red from 8 to 16 and inscribed 'TAGLENG', and for the declination of the sun indicated by means of the symbols of the zodiac signs. The string gnomon dial is adjustable for latitudes 39°, 42°, 45°, 48°, 51°, 54°, 57°. Below the pin gnomon dial an inscription reads 'die löchlein sein die polus heh der land und stett das schnürlein thu in das löchlein der land und stett' ('the slotlets are the latitudes of the countries and townships: place the string into the slotlet of the latitude of the countries and townships'). On the border is 'COMPASSV PROPE FERRVM NON RECTE ASSIGNARE POTEST' ('the compass cannot point correctly next to iron').

The inner part of the lower leaf has a string gnomon dial for the latitudes mentioned above, marked for common hours from 4 to 12 to 8 and with the date '.1.5. .95.' on the top left. At the bottom the latitude is indicated '.' and 'ELEVATIO POLI'. At the centre of the dial is a compass (broken) marked 'S', 'M', 'ORI ENS' and 'OCCI DENS' and with a fleur-de-lis marking north.

The outer part of the lower leaf has a pierced lunar volvelle inscribed 'NACHT VHR' and with decoration of moon and stars. The names of the phases are inscribed in Latin on the ivory. At the top is the inscription 'NACH CAMPAST' and the maker's mark (a serpent) and initials (H D), and four bun feet.

On the edge of the dial are the names of three cardinal points, 'ORIENS', 'OCCIDENS', 'MERIDIES', and a silver suspension chain.

See P. Gouk, The Ivory Sundials of Nuremberg 1500-1700 (Cambridge, 1988).

Ilaria Meliconi

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