A Colourful Diptych Sundial & Compass by Beringer
Our latest acquisition is this lovely combination sundial and compass that was probably produced in the workshop of the German craftsman David Beringer during the late 18th or early 19th century.
Previously, sundials of this type were luxury items of engraved ivory or metal, but Beringer was one of the first compass makers to realise that using wood and printed paper would bring the price down and widen the market. His workshop flourished between about 1777 and his death in 1821, and his name became synonymous with portable, wooden diptych and cube sundials.
Like this example, many of his pieces were made for the international market or for travelers who would need to use the sundial at different latitudes. The gnomen string can be adjusted for latitudes between 40 and 54, and a list on the lid gives the latitudes for forty-eight cities, including London, Dublin, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin, as well as New York City.
This is a very nice, entirely original, and fully functional example of this ephemeral make of sundial.
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- Similar compasses can be seen in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Royal Museums at Greenwich. For more about how sundials work, see the British Sundial Society.