Plane table surround

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made in England

Postcard of Plane table surround.
© National Museums Scotland

Plane table surround

A plane table is flat board used by surveyors as a surface for sketching in the field. This plane table surround was made in England around 1750. It is made of boxwood and is unsigned.

The graduated surround fitted onto the edge of a plane table, and held the paper in place for the surveyor to make his measured drawings, using a detached straight rule (or alidade), a magnetic compass, and some kind of level, possibly as simple as a plumb-line.

The scales on the plane table surrounds are discussed in surveying textbooks by authors such as Aaron Rathbone and William Leybourn. Although this example is unsigned, it is marketed with a pattern of 6 fleur-de-lys stamps around a double circle surrounded by 4 smaller circles.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-104-296-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1985.70
Date: Around 1750
c. 1750
What: Edge rule, plane table
Where: England
Description: Boxwood plane table edge rule, unsigned, made in England, c. 1750
  • Bennett, J.A. The Divided Circle: A history of instruments for astronomy, navigation and surveying. Oxford: 1987, pp 46-9 
  • For a similar example, see Bennett, J. A., Catalogue 1 Surveying. Cambridge: 1982, item 25 and references 
  • Taylor, E. G. R., 'The Plane-table in the Sixteenth Century'. The Scottish Geographical Magazine. Vol 45, (1929), pp 205-11 
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