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Polyhedral Dial
Signed by Hans Tucher
Dated 1582; Nuremberg
Brass and wood; 58 x 58 x 62 mm

This cuboid dial is made of silver and brass plates on a wooden block. The silver top plate has at its centre an ivory compass, with the names of the cardinal points abbreviated 'SE', 'OR', 'ME', 'OC' and the maker's mark (a hunting horn) punched. Around the compass is engraved a square, and in its spandrel spaces are four blowing putti. The cardinal points are indicated 'SEPTENTRIO', 'ORIENT'(an additional [NT] has been scratched off), 'MERIDIES', 'OCCIDE{NS}'. On the borders of the plate are common hour lines for a dial which now lacks its triangular shaped gnomon. The hour lines are engraved from 4 to 12 to 8, divided to the half hour indicated with lines and to the quarter hour indicated with dots.

The first of the four side faces of the cube has a silver plate, on which is a pierced gilt lunar volvelle with rotating arm for converting lunar and solar times. Four blowing putti are engraved in the spandrel spaces.

The second face has a pin gnomon dial with folding pin, engraved 'NIDERGANG' and indicating common hours from 1 to 7, and with the symbols of the zodiacal signs Cancer, Capricorn, Libra and Aries zodiac symbols. The third face has a pin gnomon dial with folding pin, showing the length of the day indicated from 8 to 16, and the symbols of the twelve zodiacal signs. The fourth face has a pin gnomon dial with folding pin, indicated 'AVFFGANG', with common hours engraved from 5 to 11 and the symbols of the four zodiacal signs Capricorn, Cancer, Libra and Aries.

On gilt metal rims on the tops and bottoms of the cube sides are two inscriptions. The first reads 'WEN DAS SONNEN STO[Vumlaut] CKLEIN RECHT SOL WEISEN SO RICHT ES NICHT NAHE BEY EISSEN 1582' ('when the small sun-stick shall be right, it shall not be next to iron), where the maker means 'the dial' for 'the sun stick'. The second inscription reads 'DER SPO[Vumlaut]TER SOL NICHS VERACHTEN DEN ER KANS BESSER MACHEN ('don't laugh at things unless you can do better') HANS DVCHER ZV NVRN{BERG}'.

The instrument was purchased in 1857 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. 32, no.65.

Ilaria Meliconi

British Museum, London
Registration no. MLA 1857, 5-23.2

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