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Diptych Dial
Ulrich Schniep
Dated 1579; Munich
Brass, silvered copper; 58 x 40 x 13 mm

The outer part of the upper leaf of this brass dial is engraved with seven rings. The outermost one is inscribed 'tabula lon{g}itudinis diei et ingressum solis {in}XII signa zodiaci'. The second is inscribed with 'Dies Mens' and the numbers 17, 5, 22, 10, 27, 14, 5, 12, 21, 9, 7, 13, 30, 17, 5, 12, indicating the day of the month in which the length of the day is as stated in the fourth ring. The third ring is inscribed with 'Menses' and the abbreviated names of the months, then the fourth ring with 'Hora' and the numbers 9 to 16 to 8, indicating the length of the day. The fifth ring is inscribed with 'signa' and with the names of the zodiac signs starting with Aquarius. The following ring with 'Dies' and with the numbers 10, 8, 10, 10, 11, 12, 13, 13, 13, 13, 12, 11. The innermost ring is inscribed '[star] ELEVATIO POLI 49 GR'. The months of February, March, August and September have two numbers each in the rings indicating the day of the month and the length of the day, since the sun travels faster on the ecliptic and the length of the day varies in less than a month. The spandrel spaces are decorated with strapwork.

The inner side of the upper leaf has a 'wegweiser', inscribed 'SE', 'OR', 'ME', 'OC' and rotating arm. On the outer circle it is inscribed 1 to 12, 1 to 12 and on the external side '[star] weg [star] zaiger [star] [star] 15 [star] V [star] S [star] 79 [star]'.

The inner part of the lower leaf has a silvered brass plate with compass viewing hole. The compass, at the centre of the leaf, is inscribed 'S', 'OR', 'M', 'OC' and magnetic deviation is indicated. Glass, ring and needle are missing. On the silvered leaf are engraved common hours, from 4 to 12 to 8, with a sun effigy engraved below the compass, and scrollwork decoration. The string, working as a gnomon but now missing, was tied to a small hole in the upper part of the folding plummet-holder.

The outer part of the lower leaf is engraved with strapwork decoration, as are the sides of both leaves. The catch for closing the instrument is missing, and there are two catches for keeping the instrument open when in use.

The instrument was presented by A.W. Franks in 1871 and is described in F. A. B. Ward, A Catalogue of European Scientific Instruments in the Department of Medieval and Later Antiquities of the British Museum (London, 1981), p. 43, no.104.

Ilaria Meliconi

British Museum, London
Registration no. MLA 1871, 11-15.11

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