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Attributed to Erasmus Habermel
Late 16th century; Prague
Brass and copper; 49 mm in diameter

The compass consists of a decorated gilt hemispherical bowl and a silvered brass compass rose. The cover glass is held in place by a copper ring.

The compass rose has a circular scale [0] to 24, divided to 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, and numbered by 1.Within the scale is a cross of direction with the Latin names of the cardinal points: Septentrio, Oriens, Meridies, Occidens. A needle is engraved to indicate a variation of about 81/2? East). The compass needle itself survives and is blued with a brass cap.

The compass rose matches that on signed Habermel instruments very precisely: the division and numbering of the scale; the engraving of the names of the winds; and the form of the needle engraved to indicate variation (in particular the arrow head).

The hemispherical bowl is rather crudely decorated and may be from another source. It has two holes on the meridian line for supports so that the compass could remain horizontal no matter what the inclination of the larger instrument to which it was attached.

From the Michel Collection and then the Billmeir Collection (accession no. 57-84/133).

Stephen Johnston

Museum of the History of Science, Oxford
Inventory number 22794

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