Portable sundial (back)

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made in Paris

Postcard of Portable sundial (back).
© National Museums Scotland

Portable sundial (back)

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

The octagonal plate is engraved front and back with local latitudes. The concentric circles of places and their latitudes are engraved on the base of the compass box. The exotic places - from Lima in Peru to Batavia in the Dutch East Indies - would flatter the owner of the sundial by persuading him that he was well-travelled.

Jean-Baptiste Delure's signature is found on a number of surviving 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: 000-190-002-054-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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