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astronomical compendium

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    This elaborate, gilt and silvered brass compendium with two outer leaves around a central box contains numerous types of dials, time telling devices, tables, even storage compartments and an astrolabe, with a loose suspension ring structure on top of the central box similar to the throne on an astrolabe.
    1) The OUTSIDE face of the TOP COVER of is engraved in the manner of a QUADRANT. The hour lines are engraved from V to XII to VII. Corresponding Babylonian hours (inscribed 'AB ORTV SOLIS') are numbered 1 to 15 and Italian hours, inscribed 'AB OCCASV', are numbered 9 to 24. Unequal hours are also numbered from I to VI to XI. On the left hand side of the quadrant is a scale engraved with the symbols of the zodiacal signs and marked 'ZODIACVS REVOLVTIONV<M>'. The top edge of the quadrant is inscribed: 'GRADVS ALTITVDINVM', with a non-linear scale of latitudes from zero to 90. The limb of the quadrant is engraved with a scale of degrees numbered 90 to zero (with a fleur-de-lis symbol) to 38. The quadrant is inscribed 'AD ELEVATIONEM POLI 49 graduum' and bears a longer Latin inscription as well.
    Outside the quadrant, parallel to the borders of the instrument, is a SHADOW SQUARE numbered 30 to 100. The plumb bob for the quadrant and the sighting vanes for the shadow square, both now missing, were originally on the hinged side of the instrument.
    The BOTTOM part of the cover is engraved with the names and declination of 15 stars, many numbered: '1. Canis maior de: 15 52 A', '2. Canis minor 6 0 B', '3. Lucida Hydrae 5 0 A', '4. Cor Leonis 13 50 B', '5. Cauda Leonis 16 36 B', '6. Spica Virginis 8 50 A', '7. Arcturus 22 0 B', '8. Cor Scorpij 24 56 A', '9. Aquila 7 34 B', 'Ala Pegasi 12 45 B', 'Venter Ceti 12 12 A', '12. Pleiades 22 52 B', '13 Oculus [Taurus] 15 40 B', '14 Sinist:<er> Pes Orio:<nis> 9 16 A', '15. Dexter Hu Orio:<nis> 6 20 B'. The TOP part of the cover is engraved with a female figure with cornucopia and pillar dial. The spandrel area is decorated with foliage.
    2) The INNER side of the top COVER is engraved with a table of cities and latitudes, headed 'TABELLA LONGIT:<VDINIS> ET LATIT :<VDINIS> OPPIDORVM ALIQVOT INSIGNIORVM'. The coordinates are marked 'Long' and 'Lati' in this order. The cities and coordinates, in degrees and minutes, are: 'Granata 9 30 / 37 50', 'Salamanca 8 46 / 40 15', 'Co<m>plutum 11 16 / 41 40', 'Pintia 10 6 / 40 20', 'Monpellier 24 45 / 43 30', 'Tolosa 20 45 / 43 30', 'Bourdeaux 18 30 / 46 0', 'Valentia 25 15 / 44 30', 'Auignon 24 15 / 43 50, Nantes 18 0 / 47 1', 'Angiers 18 40 / 46 0', 'Parisii 22 25 / 48 0', 'Bourges 10 33 / 42 48', 'Orleans 21 30 / 47 30', 'Geneva 27 15 / 44 50', 'Dole 28 0 / 48 20', 'Pictauium 18 20 / 48 20', 'Louanium 26 2 / 50 50', 'Lleida 26 13 / 52 26', 'Antuerp 25 30 / 51 20', 'Colonia 26 45 / 50 58', 'Treueris 29 0 / 49 50', 'Maguntia 28 15 / 50 8', 'Heidelberg 30 45 / 49 35', 'Argentina 28 0 / 48 46', 'Tubinga 29 45 / 48 45', 'Friburgum 27 45 / 48 42', 'Basilea 27 45 / 47 40', 'Ingolstadiu<m> 32 0 / 48 42', 'Norimberga 31 45 / 49 22', 'Abertonium [no coordinates]', 'Fons Salutis 29 30 / 49 10', 'Potznania 42 58 / 52 44', 'Athenae 51 0 / 37 15', 'Constantinop{olis} 56 0 / 43 5', 'Vienna 38 45 / 48 22', 'Praga 35 30 / 50 6', 'Herbipolis 30 30 / 49 54', 'Iena 32 30 / 51 8', 'Erphurd 31 45 / 51 10', 'Witemberg 33 15 / 51 52', 'Lipsia 33 15 / 51 24', 'Rostochium 33 30 / 54 36', 'Regiomont<anus> 46 45 / 54 17', 'Griphisuuald 35 30 / 54 18', 'Francof:<ortis> ad ode:<r?> 36 0 / 52 33', 'Helmstat [no coordinates],' 'Marpurg 29 0 / 51 0', 'Ticinum 33 0 / 44 28', 'Mediolan:<um> 32 45 / 44 48', 'Padua 35 45 / 45 24', 'Pisis 34 45 / 45 24', 'Ferraria 35 45 / 44 28', 'Bononia 36 30 / 44 4', 'Florentia 36 0 / 42 56', 'Perusa 38 45 / 42 20', 'Roma 40 0 / 42 2', 'Salernum 40 15 / 40 30', 'Senis 36 0 / 42 32', 'Venetiae 36 15 / 45 16', 'Cantuaria 20 50 / 51 20', 'Oxonium 10 5 / 51 51', 'Londinum 19 15 / 51 40', 'Coppenhag:<en> 40 30 / 57 20', 'Cracauia 45 30 / 50 12', 'S. Andreae Scot: [no coordinates]', 'Etenburg 24 48 / 57 13', 'Buda 41 0 / 47 0', 'Belgrad 56 0 / 43 5', 'Helicon mons 49 25 / 37 45'. The table is dated at the bottom.
    3) The UPPER side of the CENTRAL BOX is engraved with a table of 29 stellar latitudes and longitudes, inscribed 'TABVLA STELLAR<IS> LONG<ITVDO> ET LAT<ITVDO> INDICA<N?>S. For each star is listed the Latin name ('Nomina Latina'), the Arabic name ('Arabica', with two exceptions), the zodiacal sign, longitude and latitude in degrees and minutes, the hemisphere ('S{EPTENTRIO}' or 'M{ERIDIES') and the magnitude ('Ma', with one exception) as follows: '1. Canis maior, Alhabor, Leo, 8 35, 39 10, M, 1' ; '2.Canis minor, Algomeysa, Gemini, 20 5, 16 10, M, 1'; '3. Lucida Hydrae, Alphard, Leo, 20 55, 20 30, M,'; '4. Cor Leonis, Kalb eleced, Leo, 23 25, 0 10, S, 1'; '5. Cauda Leonis, Deneb eleced, Virgo, 15 25, 11 50, S, 1'; '6. Spica Virginis, Azimech, Libra, 17 35, 2 0, M, 1'; '7. Arcturus, Alramech, Libra, 17 55, 31 30, S, 1'; '8. Cor Scorpii, Kalb alatrab, Sagittarius, 3 35, 4 0, M, 2'; '9. Lyra, Wega, Capricorn, 8 15, 62 0, S, 1'; '10. Aquila, Alkair, Capricorn, 24 45, 29 10, S, 2'; '11. Ala Pegasi, Enif Alpheraz, Aquarius, 26 15, 21 30, S, 3'; '12. Venter ceti, Batakaitos, Aries, 15 55, 20 0, M, 3'; '13. Pleiades, Athoraye, Taurus, 24 35, 5 20, S [no magnitude]'; '14. Oculus tauri, Aldebaran, Gemini, 3 35, 5 10, M, 1'; '15. Orionis pes Sinister, Algebar Rigel, Gemini, 10 45, 31 30, M, 1'; '16. Dexter humerus Ori:<onis>, Bed Algeuze, Gemini, 22 55, 17 0, M, 1'; '17. Hircus, Alhaiod, Gemini, 15 25, 22 30, S, 1'; '18. Vltima Aquarij, Fomahant, Aquarius, 20 55, 23 0, M, 1'; '19. Extrema flu:<?> erid:<anus>, Acarnar, Aries, 21 5, 53 30, M, 1'; '20. Caput dextr:<us> Gemi:<ni>, Rasalgeuse, gemini, 14 15, 9 40, S [non readable]'; '21. Temon nauis, Canobus, Gemini, 8 5, 575 0, M, 1'; '22. Dorsum Vrsae maio:<ris>, Dubhe, Leo, 13 35, 40 0, S, 2'; '23. Corona Septentrion:<alis>, Alpheta, Scorpio, 5 35, 44 30, S, 2'; '24. Corona meridionalis, [no Arabic name], Libra, 4? 5, 20 20, M, 2'; '25. In ore piscis Notii, [no Arabic name], Libra, 22 55, 23 0, M, 1' '26. Stella Polaris, Alrucaba, Gemini, 21 5, 66 0, S, 3'; 'Caput Algol, Ras Algol, Taurus, 20 35, 23 0, S, 2'; 'In pectore cassiope, Scheder, Taurus, 1 45, 46 45, S, 3'; 'In dex latere p<er>sei, Alchenib, Taurus, 25 45, 30 0, S, 2' Between the first 26 and the last three stars are two rings, the left one inscribed 'CICLVS CLAVIVM AVREVS NVMER<I>' in the centre. Three concentric rings are engraved with the year ('A{nni} C{hristi}') from 1596 to 1614, and the respective Ciclus Clavium ('C C') and the Golden number ('A N'). The right hand ring is lined with 6 concentric circles. The remaining space between the two circles is decorated with foliage .
    4) The LOWER side of the CENTRAL BOX is divided into two parts:
    a) The upper part has 11 compartments for drawing instruments, now empty.
    b) The lower part has a triangular gnomon dial, with a compass on its lower part, engraved 'S', 'OR', 'ME', 'OC'. The hour lines are engraved on a silver plate, labelled 'SICVT VMBRA DIES NOSTRI SUP•<ER> TERRAM •'. Common hour lines are engraved from 4 to 12 to 8 and unequal hour lines are engraved from II to VI to X. The length of day and night are engraved on the left and right hand side of the dial respectively, marked 'Q: DI' and 'Q: NO', from 8 to 16. The declination of the sun is marked with the symbols of the zodiacal signs, engraved on the sides of the dial. The gnomon is of gilt brass and is decorated on both sides, with a heart-shape on the edge.
    Two brass LEAVES a and b, which are hinged and engraved on both sides, cover both the case for the dial and the upper compartments on this side of the central box.
    a) The UPPER side of leaf a has an astronomical TABLE, engraved 'Tabula per 30 annos vera<m> Anni Tropici magnitu:<do> temp<us> Aeq{u}inoctii Verni Praecessione aeq{u}inoctii Locum [Sun] I meridie<m> 11 (?) Martii Differ radicis & reuolut: add: uel subst<?>'. For each year from 1596 to 1625, the table gives the length of the tropical year in hours, minutes and seconds (365 days to be added); the time of the vernal equinox in days, hours, minutes and seconds; the precession of the equinoxes in degrees, minutes and seconds; the position of the sun on the ecliptic at noon on 11th March, in degrees, minutes and seconds; the difference between 'radicis' and 'revolutionis' (?) and whether to add or subtract it.
    The BACK of leaf a has a VOLVELLE with a Rojas projection. The hour lines are numbered 1 to 11, and on the sides are engraved the symbols of the zodiacal signs. The poles, tropics, equator, meridian line and earth's axis are respectively named 'POLVS ARCTIC<US>', 'POLVS ANCTARCTIC<US>', 'TRO [Cancer]', 'TRO [Capricorn]', 'AEQVATOR', 'CIRCVL<US> MERIDIANVS', 'AXIS MUNDI'. The volvelle has an index corresponding to the North Pole. Around the volvelle is a degree scale numbered from 10 to 30, with the names of the zodiacal signs in Latin. On top of the volvelle is a brass square index with folding sights. The sides of the volvelle are engraved with foliate decoration.
    b) Leaf b is engraved on the UPPER side with a triangular GNOMON DIAL (gnomon missing), inscribed 'HORAE AB OCCASV SOLIS HIS NOTIS 11 12 13 & C CO<N>SIGNATAE SU<N>T', with Italian hours numbered from 11 to 23, and 'HORAE AB ORTV [Sun] SIC I II III IIII & C', with Babylonian hours marked from I to XIII. The lower part of the leaf, close to the hinge, has a pin gnomon dial for common hours, engraved in scrollwork from VI to XII to VI. In the centre of the dial is a sun effigy and in the spandrel space is foliate decoration.
    On the BACK of leaf b is a silver VOLVELLE. The fixed part of the volvelle surrounding the silver circle is engraved with a degree scale, numbered from 10 to 90 with zero at the top. The rotating part of the volvelle is divided into 6 rings. From the outermost to the innermost, they are engraved with the age of the moon in days from 1 to 30; the difference between solar and lunar time in hours and minutes (marked 'H M'); an aspectarium with symbols and numbers; a Greek inscription probably representing the position of the planets; the characteristics of the moon phases: '1 QVADRA CALIDA & HVMIDA', '2 QVADRA CALIDA: SICCA', '3 QVAD:<RA> FRIGIDA SICCA', '4 QVAD:<RA> FRIG:<IDA> HVMIDA'; and the lunar hours 1 to 12 twice. The index is inscribed 'LVNA'.
    On top of the silver disc is another pierced VOLVELLE in gilt brass, with a Sun effigy in the centre and solar hours numbered from 1 to 12 twice, around the border. The index is inscribed 'INDEX [Sun effigy]'. The spandrel space is decorated with fruit, foliage and scrollwork.
    Both hinged plates have catches for closing.
    5) The INNER side of the BOTTOM COVER of the compendium has two hinged silver tables on the top and bottom of the leaf and an astrolabe in the centre.
    On the outer border of the ASTROLABE is a scale of hours numbered from I to XII twice. Further to the centre is a degree scale numbered from 10 to 90, with 90 at the zenith. The spandrel space is filled with foliate decoration. The silver rete has 34 star pointers. The east-west line is counterchanged twice, as is the meridian line. The tropic of Cancer band is linked to the Capricorn band with two ties. The ecliptic line is engraved with a degree scale, not numbered, with the names of the zodiacal signs engraved in Latin and abbreviated where necessary.
    The astrolabe has three PLATES; a piece of paper (presumably not original) has been inserted between the plates and the mater to avoid scratching. Two of the plates are engraved like normal astrolabe plates, with equator and both tropic lines, unequal hour lines from 1 to 12, astrological houses numbered from I to XII, the twilight line, latitude lines numbered from 10 to 90 by ten and almucantars every three degrees. The cardinal points are marked 'SE:', 'OR', 'ME:', 'OC'.
    a) The first plate is engraved for 'LAT 46 GR'. The equator line is marked 'AEQVINOCTIALIS', and the tropics are marked 'TRO [Capricorn]' and 'TR: [Cancer]'. The horizon is marked 'Horizon obliquus'. The almucantars are numbered from 3 to 12 by three. The back of the plate is engraved for 'LA 55'. The tropics lines are engraved with the symbols of the respective zodiacal signs, and the twilight line is marked '{LINEA} CREPVS:<CVLINA>'. The equator line is engraved with the symbols of Libra and Aries.
    b) The second plate is for 'ELE:<VATIO> 49 GR', and the tropic lines are marked 'TRO:<PICVS> [Capricorn]' and 'T:<ROPICVS> [Cancer]'. The equator line is engraved 'Aequator', the twilight line is 'CREPVSCVLINA LINEA' and the horizon is 'Horizon obliquus'. The back of this plate is for 'LA 52'. The tropic lines are engraved with the respective symbols and on the equator line are the symbols of Libra and Aries. The twilight line is inscribed 'LINEA AVRORE'.
    c) The third plate has on one side a map of the northern hemisphere from the North Pole to the Tropic of Capricorn, in a polar projection from the South Pole. The borders of the plate are engraved with a degree scale, divided to five and to one, numbered from 10 to 360 by ten. Latitude zero is west of Africa. The back of the plate has a similar projection but without the map. The tropic lines are marked 'Tro: [Capricorn]' and with the symbol of Cancer. The equator is marked 'CIRCVLVS AEQVATORIALIS ET HORIZONTIS', and the twilight zone is marked 'CREPVSCVLINA LINEA'. On the top part of the projection is engraved 'Arctic<us> Polus elevat<io> 90 gr:'.
    The ALIDADE is counterchanged and engraved with a scale of declinations, marked 'DE:<CLINATIO> AVS:<TRALIS>' from 0 to 20 and 'DEC:<LINATIO> SEPT:<ENTRIONALIS>' from 0 to 50. The sighting vanes fold, and the borders of the alidade are lined.
    Hinged to the top and bottom of this side of the bottom cover are two silver plates:
    d) The SILVER PLATE hinged at the top is engraved with 'TABVLA ARCO SEMIDIVRNI ET ALTITVD [Sun] AD ELEVAT:<IO>' with the position of the sun in the zodiac ('Signa', in degrees and probably minutes), the half length of the daily arc ('Arc Se') in hours and minutes, the altitude of the sun ('Alti [Sun]'), in degrees and minutes. The inside of the silver plate has a table of indictions ('INDICTIO Romanoru<m>'), and of Golden numbers ('AVREVS NVMERVS'), from the year 1596 to the year 1618. Underneath the plate is a silver PLUMB BOB, with lined decoration.
    e) The SILVER PLATE hinged at the bottom is engraved with the continuation of the table on the other plate: '49 GR:<ADVVM> VNDE OR<TVS> ET OC<CASVS> [Sun] ET DIEI QVANT:<ITAS> DIGNOSCI'. The back of the plate is engraved 'TABELLA MEDII MOT<US> PLANET<IS> DIVRNVS', with the mean motus of Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury, Sun, Venus, Mars and moon, in degrees, minutes and seconds. Underneath this plate are the signature and date.
    6) The OUTSIDE of the BOTTOM COVER has a silver volvelle in the centre and four calendars with central figures at the four corners.
    On the fixed part around the SILVER VOLVELLE is a scale of hours numbered 1 to 12 and I to XII. The silver volvelle on top is pierced to show some saints' and holy days and weekday letters (?) as follows: 'IAN 1 A Circumc:<isionis>', 'F 6 Epiphaniae', 'D 25 Conuer:<sio> Pau<li>', 'FEB E 2 Purific', 'F 24 Mathiae', 'MAR F 17 Gertr', 'G 25 Annunti<atio>', 'APR A 23 Georgi', 'C 25 Marcus', 'MAI B 1 Philipi', 'E 25 Vrbani', 'IVN E 8 Medar:<dus>', 'E 15 Viti Modesti', 'G 24 Ioan<nis> Bapti:<stas>', 'E 29 Petri et Pau:<li>', 'IVL C 4 Vlrici', 'E 13 Margareth:', 'C 25 Iacobi', 'AVG G 5 Oswald?', 'E 10 Laurenti', 'E 24 Bartholo', 'F 25 Ludouici', 'B 28 Augustini', 'SEP E 21 Mathaei', 'E 29 Michael', 'OCT B 16 Galli', 'G 21 Vrsulae', 'G 28 Sim<onis> Iudae', 'NOV D 1 O<mn>i<u>m Sa<n>ct{is}', 'G 11 Martini', 'E 30 Andreae', 'DEC B 4 Barbar<ae>', 'D 6 Nicolai', 'D 13 Luciae', 'E 21 Thomae', 'B 25 Natiuitat<is>'.
    The silver volvelle itself is engraved with seven concentric rings: the outermost one has a calendar scale numbered from 10 to 30 or 31 or 28 as appropriate, with the names of the months abbreviated where necessary and the total number of their days; further to the centre is a zodiacal scale, numbered from 10 to 30, with the names of the zodiacal signs abbreviated where necessary; on the third ring are star symbols and numerals from 10 to 15, with the right ascensions of the stars tabulated in the upper side of the central plate; on the fourth are the total number of days, hours and minutes at the end of each lunation; the fifth ring is engraved with the lunar days from 1 to 29½; the sixth and seventh (innermost) rings are inscribed with the January date of the first New Moon of the year in days, hours and minutes, for the years 1590 to 1660. On top of this silver volvelle is a decorated gilt brass index.
    At the FOUR CORNERS of the bottom cover are calendric circles decorated as follows:
    a) The top left has a figure of God the Father, with a table of Quinquagesima and its number of weeks and days after Christmas, according to the Dominical Letter and Golden Number.
    b) The top right circle is engraved with the Paschal Lamb and a dove, and with the dates of Easter day and Whitsun according to Dominical Letter and Golden Number.
    c) The bottom left circle is engraved with a bearded man holding an astronomical instrument and a crescent moon, and a table of Dominical Letters and Epacts for the years from 1590 to 1665.
    d) The bottom right circle has a figure of a bearded man with a hood using a pair of dividers, and a table of Dominical letters and years of the solar cycle for 21 years from 1588 to 1670.
    The remaining space on the leaf is decorated with foliage.


  • Producer name

  • Date

    • 1596
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 127 millimetres (Without throne)
    • Width: 75 millimetres
    • Depth: 20 millimetres
    • Length: 165.5 millimetres (Overall length with suspension loop)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

        top cover, outside
      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

        Cernis ut umbra fugax tempus discriminat horis: Talis, Homo, est Vitae cursus et umbra tuae. Tempus abit: Mors limen adit: cape taedia Vitae Dum licet, haud Vitae copia semper erit. Ianua mors vitae est: Vitae memor esto futurae. In Christo ut possis uiuere disce mori
      • Inscription Translation

        (Approx) Recognise that the shadows divide the time into hours and that time is fleeting: A human life is like the way of a shadow. Time flies: Death is like a threshold that you cross. Enjoy life without fear of death. Life does not last forever. Death is the gateway to life: in the future you will remember your life. In Christ we recognise life and die.
      • Inscription Type

        signature and date
      • Inscription Position

        bottom cover, inside
      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Translation

        By work and integrity: Anthon Linden, citizen and goldsmith of Heilbronn, was commissioned by Christoph Leibfried to produce this astrononomical instrument in Wirceburgensis Francus (Wuerzburg) in the year 1596
      • Inscription Comment

        signature of maker, date and place of production, and name of commissioner of work; underneath silver plate hinged at bottom
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

        top cover, inner side
      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Comment

        engraved at bottom of table of cities and their latitudes
  • Bibliography

    • Ward 1981 357 bibliographic details
    • EPACT 1998 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    2016-2017 7 Oct-9 Jan, Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, The British View: Germany – Memories of a Nation
    G35 Germany Exhibition 16 Oct 2014 - 25 Jan 2015
    1999 1 Dec-2000 24 Sep, London, The Queen’s House, The Story of Time
    1997-2007: ‘A Glimpse of a Universe-Scientific Instruments from Renaissance Germany’ (British Museum, Gallery 44)
    1986 21 Jun-19 Oct, Germany, Heidelberg, Heidelberg Castle, Die Renaissance im Deutschland Südwesten

  • Associated names

  • Associated places

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: Astronomical compendium


COMPASS Title: Astronomical compendium

Image description



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