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Diptych Dial
Signed by Hans Tucher
Dated 1579; Nuremberg
Ivory and brass; 110 x 65 x 13 mm

The stamped inscriptions on this ivory dial are filled with red, green, brown and black colours. Two brass clasps, now missing, allowed the dial to be closed, two clasps attached to the opposite side hold the dial open while being used. A small rotating plate on the front edge of the lower leaf covers a hole where the pin gnomon was presumably once kept.

In the centre of the outer surface of the upper leaf is an equatorial sun- and moondial. It can be set to the right latitude using a movable brass arm on the outer edge of this leaf which can be hooked with a small index to a corrugated latitude scale on the outside edge of the lower leaf. This scale, marked 'POLVS', runs from 30? to 60?, numbered by 10 and (not very accurately) divided to 2.

The dial consists of a circle with the age of the moon from 1 to 29 and a moon effigy and also a movable brass disc with an index in the shape of a pointing hand. The disc has a 24 hour scale numbered clockwise twice 1 to 12 with a sun effigy in the centre. On the four sides outside the dial is written 'auffgang mittag nidergang mitternacht'. The removable pin gnomon for the dial is missing.

As is often the case on Tucher dials the remaining space on this surface is filled with text relating to the places coresponding to particular latitudes: 'in den landen braucht man den polus 54 grad en seesteten schweten norweten muschgawidterland denemarck bosen'; ' im niderland flanderen praband holland lifland gellerland pumern frisland engelland schotland polen behemerland meichsen hessen sachsen 51'; 'in den landen braucht man den polus 45 grad ffranckreich burgundia venedig lyon mayland genff gend'.

In the upper part of the inner surface of the upper leaf is a pin gnomon dial for Italian hours 13 to 24 and the length of the day in hours from 8 to 16. Above this dial is written 'die spicz zeigt die gancz uhr und des tags sein leng'.

Below this dial is the signature of the maker 'hans ducher zu nurenberg'.

The lower part contains a vertical string gnomon dial numbered VI to XII to VI and divided to 1/2 and 1/4 hours. The string gnomon is missing.

In the centre of this dial is a brass disc with a 24 hour scale numbered anticlockwise twice 1 to 12. This dial could be used as an equatorial pin gnomon dial when set to the right latitude as described above. The pin is missing.

Outside this disc is the date '1579'.

The inner surface of the lower leaf contains a horizontal string gnomon dial and a horizontal pin gnomon dial.

The string gnomon dial is numbered 4 to 12 to 8. A compass well in the centre of this dial is marked with eight points named in German (with east and west confused and a with a magnetic deviation of circa 6? E) as well as the positions of the rising and setting of the sun, midnight and midday. The compass glass and needle are missing.

The pin gnomon dial shows Italian hours and the symbols of the signs of the zodiac, but no lines for these. 'WINTER' and 'SVMER' are marked. Below the dial is its explanation 'die spicz zeigt die gancz uhr und die zw[Olunar]lff zaichen'.

The respective pins on the upper and lower leaves fit into holes in the opposite leaves.

On the outer surface of the lower leaf the text regarding the latitudes on the outer surface of the upper leaf is continued: 'deb polus 42 grad braucht man affria lysibona port hispania rom campania italia turckey'; 'in burgundia britania lothring soffeierland schweiczerland ungerland deutschland osterreich beieren francken wirtenbergerland schwabenland in den landen braucht man den polus 48 grad nurnberg'.

In the remaining empty space the maker's mark, a vertical crowned serpent, is stamped twice.

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. 83.

Silke Ackermann

British Museum, London
Registration no. MLA 1871,11-15.18

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