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Inventory no. 46988 - Epact entry

Epact number: 95371

Gunner's Sight and Level

circa 1600; possibly Nuremberg
Gilt brass; 72 mm in height

Main text

Gunner's sights and levels usually have both a plummet and a vertical sighting device. The plummet indicates elevation against an arc scale when the instrument is set up along the length of a gun barrel; the sight is used when the instrument is set up transversely across the barrel. This example prevents the plummet obscuring the sight by combining the two into a single freely-swinging arm.

Although the instrument is unsigned and has no obvious indication of its origins, the majority of such sights and levels were produced in Germany. Moreover, the divisions of the scale on the sighting arm correspond to Nuremberg inches, and this may indicate the place of manufacture.

Source museum: Museum of the History of Science, Oxford
Museum number: Inventory no. 46,988

Detailed text

The instrument consists of an arched base into which an arc and plummet support are screwed.

The arch has a transverse groove running across its middle point, which may have been intended for sighting along the barrel of a gun.

The levelling arc is slightly more than 60° with a scale of equal parts running 24 to 0 to 24, divided to 4 and 1 and numbered by 4. When the instrument is placed longitudinally on a gun barrel, elevations are indicated by the pointer on the hinged sighting arm.

Unlike many gunner's sights and levels, in which there is both a plummet and a separate vertical sighting scale, these two elements have here been combined, presumably to avoid the inconvenience of the plummet obscuring the sight when the instrument is level.

The freely moving sighting arm is mounted at the top of the two supports, which are undecorated except for outline engraving. The slotted sighting arm has a sliding sight which moves against a scale from |1/2| to 2|1/2|, divided to |1/2|, |1/4| and eighths. The divisions correspond to Nuremberg inches.

The instrument is incomplete and a carrying ring would presumably once have been fitted into the hollow socket at the top.

Provenance: presented by Claude Fry (accession number 24-16a).

See J. Bennett and S. Johnston, The Geometry of War, 1500-1750 (Oxford, 1996), p. 36.

Stephen Johnston

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