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Inventory no. 65544 - Epact entry

Epact number: 93394

Diptych Dial

Signed by Hans Tucher
Dated 1578; Nuremberg
Ivory and brass; 81 x 114 x 15 mm

Main text

This instrument is extensively inscribed with mottoes and instructions on the use of the dial itself.

The inscriptions on this instrument read 'the critic must not despise anything unless he could make it better' and also 'I, called compass, show the way through all countries by day and by night, if one knows how to use me' stressing the usefulness and universality of the dial.

It also has an unusual combination of two basic elements in diptych dials, a lunar volvelle and a wind rose.

Source museum: Museum of the History of Science, Oxford
Museum number: Inventory no. 65,544

Detailed text

The outer part of the upper leaf has a lunar volvelle combined with a wind rose with 16 directions and a twelve-leaf flower at the centre. In the spandrel spaces are engraved motifs of leaves. On the border of the ivory leaf is the inscription 'wen ich kampast recht sol weisen so richt mich nicht nahet [sic] bei eissen' ('if I, compass, am to point properly then do not point me near iron') and 'der spöter sol nichts verachten den er kins besser machen' ('the critic must not despise anything unless he could make it better'). At the top of the leaf is 'ich kampast genandt weis den wehg durch alleland bei tag und nacht wen man mich brauchen mahg' ('I, called compass, show the way through all countries by day and by night, if one knows how to use me').

The inner part of the upper leaf has a pin gnomon dial with Italian hours numbered from 13 to 24 and day length numbered from 8 to 16. Below is a vertical string gnomon dial for common hours numbered from V to XII to VII, enclosing a brass volvelle with a twelve-leaf flower and the date '15 78' at the top. The signature 'hans ducher zu nurnberg' is at the bottom, and on the right is the inscription 'wen gott wil so ist das recht zil' ('if God wills, the right line is [near?]'). On the left is a brass arm for adjusting the latitude.

The inner part of the lower leaf has a compass with the cardinal points named in Latin and the maker's mark (a snake). The horizontal dial has common hours numbered from 4 to 12 to 8 and dots and lines for the half and quarter hours. Below, a pin gnomon dial indicates Italian hours numbered from 9 to 23 and the declination of the sun with the symbols of the zodiacal signs. The inscription reads 'die spiczen zaichen die zwölff zaichen und die 24 uhr tagleng' ('the tips show the twelve signs and the day length out of 24 hours'). On the right is another inscription 'die raoten rislen sein die polus grad newen anff [sic] der seiten' ('the red engraved lines on the side opposite are the pole degrees') and on the left an unequal scale with 'polus grad' inscribed allows to adjust the latitude from [0°] to 90° by 2°, numbered by 10°.

On the outer side of the lower leaf there is a list of cities and their latitudes, and on the front edge is a hole for stowing the pin.

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

Ilaria Meliconi

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