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Inventory no. 47897 - Epact entry

Epact number: 34574


Signed by Erasmus Habermel
Late 16th century; German
Gilt brass and wood; 552 mm in length

Main text

The survival of a surveyor's level from the 16th century is very rare. This example works by part filling the V-shaped trough with water and, when the inclination of the trough has been adjusted by the action of the cranked handle so that the readings on two short vertical scales at either end are the same, sighting through the instrument gives the surveyor the level.

The survival of an original tripod is also very unusual. The instrument can be taken off its mount and the wooden legs of the tripod folded to a circular section and clamped by two brass rings, so as to be easy to carry.

The construction of this instrument is hardly in keeping with the robust character usually demanded of a surveyor's level.

Source museum: Museum of the History of Science, Oxford
Museum number: Inventory no. 47,897

Detailed text

The level indicator is a gilt brass v-shaped trough with target lines on the inner surfaces and screw-fitted end pieces to retain the water and accommodate the sights, which are combined pinhole and pinhole-and-circular-window sights. The inner surface of each end-piece has a short vertical scale 0 to 3, divided to 1, subdivided to |1/2| and to |1/4|, numbered by 1. The outer surfaces of the trough are decorated in a manner typical of Habermel with rectanguloid shapes and stars, and one is signed: 'Fecit E:habermel.'

The trough is carried by a cradle supported above a horizontal pivot and toothed arc adjustable in inclination by an enclosed pinion moved by a brass crank with a turned wooden handle. The pivot and arc are carried by a turned cylindrical mount, which fits into a pierced and decorated cylindrical housing, supported on the hinged brass end-pieces of a hardwood tripod. The tripod stand has pointed brass feet and the legs are shaped to fold to a circular section, where they can be held by two brass rings.

Jim Bennett

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