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Inventory no. 70405 - Epact entry

Epact number: 48823

Diptych Dial

Signed by Paul Reinmann
Dated 1599; Nuremberg
Ivory and gilt brass; 95 x 155 x 20 mm

Main text

The extensive decoration on this fine instrument includes a vignette of a putto with his left elbow resting on a skull, symbol of death and of the passing of time, and a sand glass on the side, two Roman soldiers holding pennants and some foliage with birds.

The decoration and the many different devices for telling the time suggest that the instrument was an expensive object rather than an everyday commodity.

Source museum: Museum of the History of Science, Oxford
Museum number: Inventory no. 70,405

Detailed text

The outer part of the upper leaf has a wind rose with 32 directions with compass viewing hole, combined with a pierced lunar volvelle with a window to view lunar date and time correction. The brass plate, which has a sun face at the centre, may also be used as an equatorial dial (pin missing). The names of the cardinal points are in the corners and in the spandrels are figures of birds. There is a list of 26 towns (with respective countries) and latitudes.

The inner part of the upper leaf has a pin gnomon dial for the length of the day and of the night marked in black from 8 to 16, for the declination of the sun indicated by the symbols of the zodiacal signs, and for Babylonian hours marked in red from 1 to 11. The decoration consists in a sun effigy and in a vignette of a putto reclining on a mound with his left elbow on a skull, a sand glass on the side and a village in the background. The brass plate is marked 1 to 12 twice. The vertical string gnomon dial has common hours numbered from VI to XII to VI and marks for the half and quarter hour. The borders of the leaf are decorated with foliage. At the bottom is the signature 'PAVLVS REINMAN NOREMBERGAE FACI'.

The inner side of the lower leaf has a compass (ring missing) with the maker's mark (a crown) punched twice. The string gnomon dial marks common hours from 4 to 12 to 8 to the half and quarter hour. The date '15 99' is at its centre. In the spandrels are cherub heads, and on the borders the same foliage as in the upper leaf. Below the compass is a scaphe dial for Italian (numbered in black from 8 to 23) and Babylonian hours (numbered in red from 1 to 16) with a sun face at the centre. On the sides of the scaphe are two Roman soldiers holding pennants.

The outer part of the lower leaf has a table of latitudes. On the left edge is engraved a table of epacts from the year 1600 and on the right edge is a brass arm with an unequal scale of latitudes, from 20° to 70° divided to 2° and numbered by 10°, and a hole for stowing the pin (missing).

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

Ilaria Meliconi

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