ELEGANTLY CARVED PROPORTIONAL DIVIDERS, probably central European, c. 17th / 18th century. Measuring 15-1/2″ (39 cm) long, the double-ended dividers are masterfully carved of wood with four inset iron tips and a beautiful iron wing nut. Rectangular slots accommodate the sliding, clampable pivot giving variable ratio positions, calibrated with Roman numerals 2 through 10 and beyond (to 16 apparently). The pivot clamp is made of opposing wood blocks, beautifully carved with geometric designs on all sides. The arms are handsomely shaped, their outer surfaces scratch-engraved with symmetrical swirling designs. Condition is very fine throughout.
In use, these dividers permit a continuum of ratios from enlargement of 2.1 times, down to 1:1 transfers, to reductions of just under 50%. The scales do not give direct linear ratios, but may relate to polygons inscribed in circles, etc. A most elegant instrument with its finely crafted “folk art” quality.
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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 [email protected]
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