Offered here is a magnificent 1802 Christian Hurtin Minute Compass (#28) – a true work of art.
The 1837 painting shows Henry Houston with a Hurtin Minute Compass. It’s probably not the Hurtin Minute Compass I’m offering here, but the compass and the painting are both simply fantastic (the painting is NOT included in my offering).
My Hurtin Minute Compass is both Gorgeous and Sophisticated. Hurtin was a master engraver, and his compasses exhibit a unique look that demonstrate Hurtin’s exceptional engraving skills and the time he invested in each compass. Only a Goldsmith Chandlee compass that Goldsmith himself engraved pleases my eye as much as a Hurtin compass.
In terms of Sophistication, Hurtin compasses have two really neat designed features that I haven’t seen elsewhere yet. First, note the dovetail sight vanes. Dovetail sight vanes were notorious for falling off of early compasses, which is why the makers went to holding down the vanes with thumbscrews and pins. Hurtin solved the dovetail problem in a different way – he used a spring clip to hold the sight vane in-place. Very nifty feature.
Second, the glass lid on most early compasses was held on by friction, and could be difficult to remove. Hurtin’s lid screws off – the lid has a small wing on both sides that slides under the brass enclosures on both arms of the compass. To take the lid off, you rotate the lid counter-clockwide a bit which exposes the wings. The lid then lifts off rather easily. Again, a very nifty feature.
Third, I sold a beautiful 1794 Hurtin Compass in 2021 for a bit less than I’m asking for this one offered here. I believe this one is worth more because this one has an extra layer of sophistication that my 1794 Hurtin did not have – the Hurtin offered here is a Minute Compass – a Compass that could determine bearing to a single minute of a degree! (To read more about Minute Compasses generally – Click Here). There are not many Minute Compasses known, and the ones I know about all feature rather pedestrian engraving. That’s what really makes this Hurtin Minute Compass special – incredible engraving AND the minute compass feature. (Full Disclosure – I am aware of an 1803 Hurtin Minute Compass (#29) in the hands of a collector).
Additionally, I really like the “S” on the Hurtin compass needle. Hurtin also marked the North sight vane and arm with a symbol that I’m told could be a Freemason’s symbol.
Everything appears to be original (except maybe for the nut on the underside of the compass that rotates the minute pointer). The staff adapter is missing. And, the glass cover does not rotate – it appears to be stuck. I didn’t force it since I didn’t have a reason to remove the glass cover.
Hurtin made roughly 2 surveying instruments per year on average based on the dates and serial numbers of known compasses, and this compass is #28. The compass is 13 inches long, with a 5.25 inch main needle and a 4.75 inch minute needle.
This 1802 Hurtin Minute Compass would make for a fantastic display.
To read more about Christian Hurtin, please go to my Christian Hurtin Maker Webpage.
You can find the painting at the National Gallery of Art – 1837 Hurtin Minute Compass Painting.
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The Compleat Surveyor specializes in rare instruments and books related to land surveying. This initially was a family business - my father (F. D. Uzes) was a noted surveyor, collector and author (Illustrated Price Guide To Antique Surveying Instruments and Books - published in 1980). Having spent a lifetime surrounded by old instruments and books, I now run the business myself. I use my website (www.CompleatSurveyor.com) to both sell instruments and provide historical information related to land surveying.