Portable sundial

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made in Paris

Postcard of Portable sundial.
© National Museums Scotland

Portable sundial

This silver portable sundial was made in Paris in the 18th century, probably by Jean-Baptiste Delure. This photograph shows the instrument folded out.

The dial is adaptable for use in a range of latitudes. The folding gnomon is adjustable for latitude against a degree scale engraved on its side. The sundial is then orientated with the compass, and the time can be read, if the sun is shining.

Jean-Baptiste Delure's signature is found on a number of surveying instruments, mostly sundials. He was father-in-law to the fifth son of the eminent Parisian instrument maker Nicolas Bion. Jean-Baptiste Nicolas Bion carried on both their businesses until around 1770.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-002-053-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1923.23
Date: 18th century
Material: Silver. Inscription: [A list of places with their latitudes]
Dimensions: 2.63" x 2.75"
What: Sundial, portable
Subject: 20. TIME MEASUREMENT, Sundials (Departmental Classification)
Who: Delure, Paris (Sundial maker)
Where: France, Paris
Description: Silver portable sundial, the gnomon in the form of a rod which folds flat, made by Delure, Paris, with a list of places with their latitudes engraved on the back, 18th century
  • For Delure, see Augarde, Jean-Dominique, 'La fabrication des instruments scientifiques du XVIIIe siecle et la corporation des fondeurs' in Blondel, C. et al (ed.), Studies in the History of Scientific Instruments, London: 1989, pp 62-3 
  • For sundials in general, including examples of this type, see Turner, Anthony, Early Scientific Instruments 1400-1800. London: 1987, pp 173-81 
  • Turner, Anthony, Mathematical instrument-making in early modern Paris' in Fox, Robert & Turner, Anthony, Luxury Trades and Consumerism in Ancien Regime Paris'. Aldershot: 1998, p 82 
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