Diptych sundial (open)

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made in Dieppe, France

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

Diptych sundial (open)

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 (pictured here open) was made in the 17th century in Dieppe in France. It is unsigned.

Inside the base is a sunk compass with a list of places and latitudes on paper. Around the compass is a horizontal sundial. Inside the lid is a circular brass disc (a 'lunar volvelle') graduated from 1 to 31, working inside a ring graduated 1-12 twice.

In the 16th century ivory diptych sundials came from three main centres: Nuremburg and Augsberg in Germany, and Dieppe in France. However, those made in France were rarely signed or dated.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-102-672-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 similar 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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