Portable sundial (front)

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made in Paris

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

Portable sundial (front)

This silver portable sundial was made in Paris in the early 18th century, probably by Michael Butterfield, an Englishman who worked in Paris from around 1677 to 1724. This photograph shows the front of the instrument.

The dial is adaptable for use in a range of latitudes between 40 and 60 degrees. The folding gnomon is adjustable for latitude against a degree scale engraved on its side. Its support is shaped like a bird, whose beak acts as an indicator on the scale.

Michael Butterfield is supposed to have introduced this form of dial, which is an adaptation of the horizontal dial. He made a wide range of sundials and other instruments and enjoyed royal patronage. Russia's Peter the Great visited his workshop in 1717.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-102-667-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1923.21
Date: Early 18th century
Material: Silver / leather covered wooden case. Inscription: [A list of places with their latitudes]
Dimensions: 2.44" x 2.06"
What: Sundial, portable / case
Subject: 20. TIME MEASUREMENT, Sundials (Departmental Classification)
Who: Butterfield, Paris (Sundial maker)
Where: France, Paris
Description: Silver portable sundial, engraved on the back with a list of places with their latitudes, in a leather covered wooden case, by Butterfield, Paris, early 18th century
  • For Butterfield dials, see Turner, G. L'E. Antique Scientific Instruments. Poole: 1980. pp 21-2 
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