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Astronomical Compendium
Signed by Christoph Schissler
circa 1550; Augsburg
Gilt brass; 60 x 65 x 12 mm closed

The lid of the box is laid out as a 'wegweiser' with the eight main directions and corresponding weather prognostications and the rising and setting of the sun indicated as 'schen - mitternacht - nort, schen kalt - nord ost, schen - auffgang - ost, halb schen - sud ost, Gewilckig - mittag - Sud, Regen - sud west, Trieb - nidergang - west, schne schaur - nort west'. A circular aperture in the centre reveals the magnetic compass underneath. A 12-hour scale around the central hole is numbered 1 to 12 starting in the south. A thin metal bridge between 3 and 9 has a slot in the centre for the wind vane (partially broken). A small central arrow is turned to indicate the direction of the wind.

Opening the lid reveals a universal equatorial sundial plate, numbered twice clockwise 1 to 12. The pin gnomon is missing.

Underneath this plate is a horizontal string gnomon dial with the hour lines marked 4 to 12 to 8 and a scale of latitudes (marked 'ELEVATION POLI') 0? to 60?, numbered by 10 and divided to 1 on the right hand side. The dial can be adjusted for different latitudes with the help of a supporting arm hinged to the upper plate.

The signature of the maker 'CRISTOF SCHISLER AVGSPURG' is given on the left hand side of the dial.

An inset magnetic compass shows a magnetic deviation of circa 10? east of north.

The bottom is inscribed with a list of 24 European places with their latitudes as follows: 'Granata 38', 'Lisibona 40', 'Nablas 41', 'Portugal 42', 'Parsalona 42', 'Venedig 45', 'Mailand 45', 'Lionn 45', 'Ofenn 47', 'Orlienz 47', 'Augspurg 48', 'Paris 48', 'Trier 48', 'Cosniecz 48', 'Salczburg 48', 'Nuernburg 49', 'Crackau 50', 'Franckfurt 50', 'Anntorf 51', 'Pressla 51', 'Cassell 52', 'Wittenburg 52', 'Danczgen 55', 'Copenhage<n>'.

All the inscriptions are done in raised lettering.

The instrument was purchased in 1855 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. 121, no. 350.

Silke Ackermann

British Museum, London
Registration no. MLA 1855,9-4.1

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