ART AND SCIENCE COMBINED: A TRULY EXCEPTIONAL 17TH CENTURY GRAPHOMETER
Stock Number: 9207
FOR SALE: Antique 17th century, magnificent graphometer, probably German. A most important surveying instrument of a most beautiful design, featuring floral decor and cherubs, initialed "MS" with armorial, composed of a thick brass plate with alidade and sight vanes. There is a finely engraved suspension point, polygonal scales, regular polygons, and a transversal readout. A functional and gorgeous graphometer.
12" (30 cm) wide main plate
C. 17th century
Country of manufacture
ART AND SCIENCE COMBINED: A TRULY EXCEPTIONAL GRAPHOMETER, probably German, 17th century, the brass instrument 12” (30 cm) across, the thick main plate pierced and engraved with the most exuberant decoration of swirling stems, blooming flowers and winged putti. An elaborate engraved floral wreath surrounds the little glazed (French) compass, and a second wreath surrounds the initials “M.S.” and a heraldic design. The suspension point is finely engraved with drapery, and there are two fixed sight vanes. The semicircular arc is divided every degree, and there is a concentric “polygonal” scale numbered from 4 to 12, twice, aligning with the angles formed by adjacent sides of regular polygons (thus 90° for a square, 60° for a hexagon, 30° for a 12-sided dodecagon, etc.) A lower 7” long scale of equal parts has a transversal readout grid at each end. The plate is mounted with finely shaped alidade bearing two sight vanes and, very unusually, a vernier scale divided on a brass segment sliding in a dovetailed slot which runs around the whole instrument. There is a large staff mount underneath, with universal joint permitting both horizontal and vertical use. Condition is fine with some roughness to the surface, and the reverse now quite dark.
Certainly the finest graphometer we have had, this has masterful execution of its rococo designs. The feeling is definitely 17th century German, despite its French compass rose. It is tempting to attribute the initials to that exceptional innovative maker of instruments, Michael Scheffelt (1652 – 1720) of Ulm, who made splendid graphometers, and who authored a book on the sector. But more likely these are the initials of the as yet unidentified burgher who commissioned this piece.
Only a very few such highly pierced and decorated graphometers and Holland circles are known (see, e.g., Item 130 in the Nachet collection, also with figural supporters to the compass). It is a surveying instrument befitting royalty.$31,000.
Ask the Dealer
David and Yola Coffeen both have enjoyed academic careers, as planetary astronomer and as linguist/educator. But since 1982 (yes, 1982!) they have been full-time dealers in early scientific and medical instruments, under the name Tesseract. Selling primarily by catalogue (over 100 issued so far) they also have a web presence at www.etesseract.com, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.