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Diptych Dial
Attributed to Paul Reinmann
Later 16th century; Nuremberg
Ivory and gilt brass; 40 x 30 x 8 mm

This very small dial is decorated all over with cherubs, female and male figures, fruit, leaves and geometric patterns. All the engravings and inscriptions are filled with black colour.

On the lower leaf near the hinges are the initials 'P R' and the maker's mark, a crown, which allow this instrument to be attributed to Paul Reinmann.

The outer surface of the upper leaf contains a volvelle for the conversion of common hours into Babylonian hours according to the length of day. It consists of a movable gilt brass disc with an index with the common hours numbered 4 to 12 to 8. This corresponds to a scale with the Babylonian hours on the surrounding circle, numbered 1 to 16. The index points to a scale of the length of day in hours numbered 8 to 16. Depending on the hour chosen the other two scales show the corresponding common and Babylonian hours.

The inner surface of the upper leaf contains a vertical string gnomon dial with the hours numbered anticlockwise 6 to 12 to 6. In the centre is the shield of arms of the Holzschuher family of Nuremberg.

The inner surface of the lower leaf contains a horizontal string gnomon dial (the hours numbered 5 to 12 to 7) with an inset compass. The compass is bridged by a brass bar with a pivoted index in the form of a hand.

The outer surface of the lower leaf is engraved with a depiction of the Adoration of the Shepherds.

The dial has a close fitting brass container with a hinged lid.

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. 37, no. 82. On commissioned instruments see P. Gouk, The Ivory Sundials of Nuremberg, 1500-1700 (Cambridge, 1988), p. 103.

Silke Ackermann

British Museum, London
Registration no. MLA 1871,11-15.14

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