Octant (detail)

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probably made in London

Postcard of Octant (detail).
© National Museums Scotland

Octant (detail)

An octant is a navigational instrument used for measuring angles necessary for determining a ship's position at sea. This is a detail from a wooden octant made around 1760, probably by John Urings, a ship-chandler based in London's Fenchurch Street.

The detail shows the arc and, at the top, an ivory plate inscribed 'I. URINGS. Fecit. LONDON.'

The earliest octants were made of mahogany and had diagonal scales on boxwood, as in this example. The fittings were of brass, and the inlaid ivory plate carried the owner's name, or - as here - the maker's inscription.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-002-072-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1987.150
Date: Around 1760
c. 1760
Material: Mahogany, brass, ivory. Inscription: I. URINGS. Fecit. LONDON.
Dimensions: 470 mm x 390 mm x 90 mm
What: Octant
Who: John Urings, London (Maker)
The Leith Nautical College Collection
Where: England, London
Description: Sixteen inch octant with foresight and backsight in mahogany with brass fitments, made by John Urings of London about 1760
  • For a description of the octant and its use, see Turner, G. L'E. Antique Scientific Instruments. Poole: 1980. p 34; Bennett, J.A. The Divided Circle: A history of instruments for astronomy, navigation and surveying. Oxford: 1987. p 132-4 
  • For Urings, see Clifton, Gloria, Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550-1851. London: 1995, p 285 
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