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Narratives

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

20. Although the earliest quadrants and levels were designed to be inserted into the muzzle of a gun, the gunner who did so risked exposure to enemy fire. Instruments which indicated the elevation of a gun at the breech end were less dangerous for their users. Many such levels survive, in a great range of forms and styles. Even when they were undoubtedly not intended for active service, breech levels had another advantage: they could readily be incorporated into combination instruments. This elaborate and finely gilt instrument is just such a combination: not only does it juxtapose several gunnery functions but its hinged upper section carries a horizontal sundial and a small compass in addition to a decorative plummet.

The main upright plate of the instrument has its own plummet with a short levelling arc, supported on a hinged leaf which can be swung round to either side of the upright. When folded out, the level reveals a table lettered in red which provides data on shot and powder for various types of artillery. The upright also carries an accompanying graphical table and has a central slit for a sight which is now missing. Like Erasmus Habermel's gunnery instrument (catalogue no. 17) the sight scale is graduated not only with numbers (in this case for inches) but also letters from A to M. The whole upright sits in a graduated slot in the arched foot and can be laterally adjusted, with its position fixed by two screws. The foot itself has two hinged end-pieces which raise or lower the instrument.

Taken with its tooled, leather-covered case, the instrument has clearly been crafted for visual appeal. Ulrich Klieber, its maker, is primarily known as a clockmaker working in Augsburg, but several gunnery instruments signed by him survive.

Height: 156 mm

Inventory no. 35,522

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