Nocturnal (front)

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made in England

Postcard of Nocturnal (front).
© National Museums Scotland

Nocturnal (front)

A nocturnal shows the local time at night, by measuring the rotation of the constellations of the Great Bear and the Little Bear around the Pole Star. This pear wood example was made in England around 1760. The photograph shows the front of the nocturnal.

The instrument consists of three parts with a brass central pivot. There is a long index arm and a middle piece with two scales and two pointers marked 'GB' and 'LB'. The main part has a calendrical scale and is marked above the handle 'BOTH BEARS'.

The stamp 'NEW STIL' on the arm indicates that the nocturnal uses the new style Gregorian Calender which was introduced in England in 1752. It replaced the old Julian Calender.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-102-692-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1944.3
Date: Around 1760
c. 1760
Material: Pear wood. Inscription: New stil [on arm]
Dimensions: 4.25" D (circle); 7.31" radius (arm)
What: Nocturnal
Subject: 3. ASTRONOMY, Nocturnals (Departmental Classification)
Where: England
Description: Nocturnal in boxwood with "New stil" on arm, England, c. 1760
  • For nocturnals in general, see Bennett, J.A., The Divided Circle: A history of instruments for astronomy, navigation and surveying. Oxford: 1987, pp 77-78 
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