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Backstaff

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made in London

Backstaff
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A backstaff is an instrument with two graduated arcs, formerly used in navigation. This wooden example was made in England in 1726 by Benjamin Macy, a scientific instrument maker based at Hermitage Bridge at Wapping in London between 1713 and 1731.

The backstaff (pictured here horizontal) is inscribed 'Made by Benjamin Macy for Captain William Cochren, 1726'. The vanes on the instrument are replacements.

John Davis introduced the back-staff in 1595. It soon became an indispensable navigational tool, remaining popular until it was supplanted by the radically new design of the reflecting quadrant or octant in the latter half of the 18th century.

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