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Friday, March 22, 2013

Tiny Timepiece

Sometimes good things come in small packages, which is certainly true for this petite pocket timepiece. It measures only 2 inches across, but I think its interest far exceeds its size.


Ludovico Theodatus Muller, sundial. Brass. Augsburg, 1725-1775. Rosenbach Museum & Library 1954.2082
Nowadays, when folks want to know what time it is, they generally reach for their cellphones. But long before that was available there was the pocket sundial.

Unlike a watch-mechanism, the sun’s angle varies by latitude. To compensate, the hour ring of this 18th-century Augsburg-type equinoctial sundial is hinged, so it can adjusted for different cities. The pocket sundial’s integrated compass facilitates the necessary task of aligning the gnomon (shadow-caster) with the earth’s axis.  

Ludovico Theodatus Muller, sundial. Brass. Augsburg, 1725-1775. Rosenbach Museum & Library 1954.2082
An engraved plate on the reverse specifies the latitudes of Lisbon, Rome, Venice, Vienna, Augsburg, Munich, Nuremburg, Regensburg, Prague and Riga; the preponderance of Germanic cities reflects the piece’s origin and therefore the anticipated travels of its owner. It also bears the initials LTM for its maker, Ludovicus Theodatus Muller.
Ludovico Theodatus Muller, sundial. Brass. Augsburg, 1725-1775. Rosenbach Museum & Library 1954.2082

You can find many examples of similar sundials in the online catalog of the National Maritime Museum in Britain, including other dials by Muller. With that, the time has come to wrap up this post.




Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog






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