Why 'Epact'?

The name 'Epact' may, if desired, be expanded to 'European pact', emphasizing the accord on which it is built, or even 'electronically packed', reflecting the media in which it is presented. However, the term 'Epact' has principally been chosen because of its resonance with the instruments of the time. In its technical meaning, the 'epact' is a number equal to the age of the moon on the first day of the year. This number was of considerable importance in the middle ages and renaissance as it was necessary for determining the date of Easter, Easter Sunday being the first Sunday after the first full moon in the year (the old year, that is, which began on the 21st March).

Tables of epacts are found on many instruments, as well as, to this day, in liturgical texts such as the Book of Common Prayer. The name Epact thus provides a timely reminder that the instruments and the science they represent existed not in isolation but as an integral part of the culture of their age.

Systematic Information

In the systematic header information, the statement of authorship of an instrument follows the following conventions:

  • "Unsigned" is used if there is no signature on the instrument and no attribution is possible
  • "Signed by [maker's name in standardised form] " is used when the instrument is signed and the maker is widely known. The maker's name in its standardised form is always the same for all instruments by a particular maker, and will not necessarily match precisely the form of the makers name as engraved or punched on the specific instrument in question. The system of standardisation used for makers names takes as its starting point existing reference works, such as Ernst Zinner's Deutsche und niederländische astronomische Instrumente des 11.bis 18. Jahrhunderts (2nd ed., Munich, 1967) and Gloria C. Clifton's Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers, 1550-1851 (London, 1995). Nevertheless, in some cases the form of the names given in these authorities is deemed to be inappropriate, reflecting the advance of scholarship since their publication, and a more up-to-date and currently accepted form of name has been used. In some cases, initials only are given as the standardised form of a maker's name, these cases being where the initials are regarded as a 'known' maker.
  • "Signed ' [maker's name as it appears on the instrument] ' " (note the absence of "by" and the presence of single inverted commas) is used when the signature on the instrument cannot be identified with a known maker, where there is doubt about the authenticity of the signature, where the maker is unknown other than from the instrument in question, and in other cases where the use of "Signed by [maker's name in standardised form]" is judged to be inappropriate.
  • "Attributed to ... " and "Workshop of ... " are used in the conventional way where an instrument is unsigned but an attribution has or can be made to a known maker, on stylistic or other grounds.

The materials given in the systematic information are intended as a guide to the main materials of the instrument's construction and not as an exhaustive list of all materials used.

The part that the dimension or dimensions given in the systematic information refer to is stated and is usually the dimension of most help in gauging quickly the scale of the instrument.

Detailed Descriptions

In the transcription of inscriptions, the following conventions in the use of brackets are followed:

  • Square brackets [ ... ] are used for added commentary or explanation, including, for example, modern equivalents of place names. They are also used to indicate signs or symbols which are not present in the ISO 8859 standard character set and which can therefore not be presented on computer or over the internet without special fonts. Such symbols most commonly include the symbols for the signs of the zodiac.
  • Curly brackets { ... } are used to expand abbreviations implied in the inscription but not indicated there in any way whatsoever.
  • Angled brackets < ... > are used to expand abbreviations specifically indicated in the inscription, such as those implied by superscripted characters or punctuation.

In transcriptions of inscriptions, uppercase and lowercase characters are differentiated. Small capitals are treated as capitals. All spacing is reproduced where it exists, including between initials, but only to a maximum of one space. All ligatures have been ignored, that is, separated. Italics and any other changes of font or weight are not transcribed. The vertical position of characters, including superscripts and subscripts, has been ignored. Line breaks within inscriptions, as opposed to paragraph breaks, have been reduced to spaces.

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