138 of 520
Sorted by:
Instrument type

Astronomical Compendium
Late 16th century; German
Gilt brass; 70 x 70 x 15

The outside of the upper leaf of the compendium has a lunar volvelle with a central compass viewing hole. The movable part of the volvelle is pierced to show the phases of the moon visually and in days, and is divided into three rings. The closest to the centre is numbered with hours 1 to 12. The middle ring is engraved with '[cross] INCERMENTVM [sic] ET DECREMENTVM LVNAE', the outer ring is engraved with hours numbered 1 to 12 twice, with dots for the half hours. The whole three-ring assembly has a knob to aid rotation. Around the rotating volvelle common hours are engraved, numbered from 1 to 12 twice, with dots at the half hours. Engraved around it are the initials of the names of the months and their total number of days, and the symbol for the corresponding zodiacal sign. The main16 directions are marked in South German with the characteristics of weather and implications for health of their winds: 'NORT B RINGTH SCHNE', 'WOST NORD WOST ? HAGELL SAVR NITN GESVNTH', 'NORDWOST WOST ? NOWEL FLIS AVGH SEIN', 'WEST ? KALTFEITH VNGESVND', 'WOSTSIDEN SAVR ROGEN GESVNT', 'SID SID ? MATH WARM VNCESVNTH', 'SIDEN GEWILCKI VNGESVND', 'ZID ZID OST VNGESVND DRIEB', 'OST ZID OST HALB SEIN GESVNTH', ' ? OST ? SIEN VND GENSVND', 'OST NORD OST ? GESVND VND DRVCKEN', 'NORD NORD OST ? GESVNTH VND TRVCKEN'. The four cardinal points are marked 'MITNACH', 'AVFGAN<G>', 'MIT{T}AG', 'NIDERGAN' and in the four corners are the seasons' names and their duration in relation to saints' days: 'SVMMER V VRBANIS BIS BARTHOLOMEI', 'HERBST V BARTHOLOM<EI> BIS CLEMENS DAG', 'WINDER V CLEMEND BIS PEDERS STVL FEIR', 'GLENCZ V PETER STVL FEIR BIS VRBANI'.

The inside of the lid has a circular table giving the difference between solar and lunar time in hours and minutes. The outer-most ring is engraved with graphic representations of the phases of the moon, the next ring with the days of the lunar month from 0 to 29, then with hours from 1 to 12 (8 twice) followed by three zeros, the inner-most ring with the minutes. The spandrel spaces are decorated with foliage and arabesques.

Inside the main box is a plate for a universal equatorial dial (the gnomon is missing), with hours engraved 1 to 12 twice, with star symbols for the half hours. A small knob for lifting the plate is soldered on the lower part. The spandrel spaces are finely pierced and engraved, and the borders have a line decoration. The arm for adjusting the latitude, to be inserted below the plate, is missing. On the other side the plate is decorated with a line on the rim and further decoration in the spandrels.

In the main box below this plate is a horizontal dial, with folding gnomon, with a decorated profile. On the edge is engraved '48 GRAT ? 25 MI'. The gnomon is kept, when not in use, by a small silver catch in the form of a hand. The hours are engraved from 4 to 12 to 8 with star symbols for the half hours, and with fleur-de-lis on the hour lines on the inside of the dial ring. At the centre of the dial is a compass (glass broken and needle detached), with magnetic deviation indicated. On the lower right hand side is an unequal scale of latitudes for the universal equatorial on the top, engraved from 25 to 60 by one, numbered from 25 to 60 by five. The rest of the plate is decorated with scrollwork and foliage.

The outside of the lower leaf is engraved with a table of 57 cities and latitudes, from left to right, from top to bottom 'LVBECK 54', 'BREMMEN 53', 'FLANDERN 52', 'LVNDA 51', 'CRACOVIA 50', 'CORFVNNA 49', 'TOLEDA 49', 'NIERNBERG 49', 'INSPRVCK 49', 'PRIYENN 49', 'AVGSPVRG 48' (a 'V' was engraved instead of the 'P'), 'STVCKART 48', 'VLLEM 48', 'BADENN 48', 'PREMMEN 47', 'WVRMS 46', 'VENODIG 45', 'TRENTH 45', 'BARSELANIA 42', 'DANGZIG 54', 'HOLANT 53', 'CLEFF 52', 'ANDARF 51', 'FRANCKFV? 50', 'CALAPRIA 49', 'VALENDA 49', 'HAIDELBER 49', 'VILLAGH? 49', 'ROGENSPV? 49', 'MINIHENN 48', 'PARRIS 48', 'INGELSTA 48', 'LANDAW 47', 'BASSEL 47', 'SPEIRR 46', 'LOAN 46', 'GENFF 42', 'ROMMA 42', 'STATIN ?', 'LICELBVRG ?', 'MEIDENBVRG', 'KOLLN ?' (an 'O' was engraved instead of the 'K'), 'BRAG?', 'LISABANNA?', 'CORDVBA', 'WIRCSBVRG', 'HALL?', 'DAHARA?', BASSAV?', 'WEINN?', 'FREIBVRG?', 'WASERBVRG?', 'IVDENBVRG?', 'GRESTZ?', 'MAILAND?', 'NEAPOLIS?', 'PORTVGAL?'. The latitudes for these last 19 cities correspond to the previous 19. Small 'Libra' symbols are engraved between the cities of Andarf and Franckfurt, Valenda and Heidelberg, Paris and Ingolstadt.

The sides of the box are engraved with foliage and with small vertical lines and dots. The edges of the hinged leaves are decorated.

The dial is housed in a leather box, lined with red leather inside.

The instrument was bequeathed by Octavius Morgan 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. 125, no. 359.

Ilaria Meliconi

British Museum, London
Registration no. MLA 1888, 12-1.294

© British Museum, London. All rights reserved. Information and images provided here may not be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the museum.

Basic URL:

|| Introduction || Essay || Museums || Bibliography || Conventions || Credits || Privacy || Help ||
|Catalogue entries |Handlist || Makers || Places || Articles || Glossary || Search || Home ||