Diptych sundial (detail)

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made in Dieppe, France

Postcard of Diptych sundial (detail).
© National Museums Scotland

Diptych sundial (detail)

Diptych sundials have two plates hinged together, and in use open out to form a right angle, with the string hinge operating as a gnomon. This ivory example was made in the 17th century in Dieppe in France. The photograph shows the inside of the base.

There is a sunk compass with a list of 22 places and latitudes on paper and a horizontal sundial around the compass. These are mostly French, although London at 51 degrees and Madrid at 40 degrees are among those abroad.

By placing exotic locations on the latitude list, the compass maker encouraged the purchaser to believe that he could travel as far as North Africa (Alger) or even the East (Goa). It was a skilful marketing ploy.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-001-022-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1924.11
Date: 17th century
Material: Ivory, paper list, brass strut and disc. Inscription: [On base] List of places and latitudes
Dimensions: 2.75" x 2.25"
What: Sundial, universal, portable
Subject: 20. TIME MEASUREMENT, Sundials (Departmental Classification)
Where: France, Dieppe
Description: French portable universal sundial in ivory, book form, base with sunk compass, horizontal dial and list of places and latitudes, with equinoctial dial on lid, unsigned, Dieppe, 17th century
  • For a comparable example, see Lloyd, Steven A., Ivory Diptych Sundials 1570-1750. London & Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard, 1992. p 136 
  • Turner, G. L'E. Antique Scientific Instruments. Poole: Blandford, 1980. pp 22-3 
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