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 18th century, probably by Jean Chapotot. This photograph shows the instrument from above.

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.

Dials of these are known as 'Butterfield' dials after Michael Butterfield, an Englishman who worked in Paris from around 1677 to 1724. Butterfield is supposed to have introduced this form of dial, which is an adaptation of the horizontal dial.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-102-703-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1964.47
Date: 18th century
Material: Silver. Inscription: [Names of twenty towns and their latitudes on back]
Dimensions: 2.25" L overall
What: Sundial, portable
Subject: 20. TIME MEASUREMENT, Sundials (Departmental Classification)
Who: Chapotot, Paris (Maker)
Where: France, Paris
Description: Portable sundial of silver, Butterfield type with an adjustable bird gnomon, by Jean Chapotot, Paris, 18th century
  • For Butterfield dials, see Turner, G. L'E. Antique Scientific Instruments. Poole: 1980. pp 21-2 
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