Astronomical compendium

London, England, AD 1593

Made for Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, the lover of Elizabeth I

Astronomical compendia are a collection of different, small sized instruments in one box. They provided the user with a multitude of options in a handy format, but were also a very expensive item which was clearly meant to show off the owner's wealth.

This very elaborate example was made by the Elizabethan maker James Kynvyn at the end of the sixteenth century. It consists of a nocturnal, a latitude list, a magnetic compass, a list of ports and harbours, a perpetual calendar and a lunar indicator. The compendium could be used for timekeeping as well as for establishing high tide at particular ports and for calendrical calculations. However, the nocturnal has been incorrectly restored at some point, and this part of the compendium is now useless.

The arms of Robert Devereux (1567-1601), second earl of Essex, and a lover of Elizabeth I, are on the inside of the cover.

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More information


F.A.B. Ward, Catalogue of European scientif (London, The British Museum Press, 1981)


Diameter: 59.000 mm
Thickness: 27.000 mm

Museum number

M&ME 1866,2-21,1



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