FRENCH SURVEYING COMPASS, c. 1835, bearing the fragmentary trade label of “Huette, Opticien, Quai de l¹Horloge, No. 75, à Paris.” Measuring 7-1/2″ x 8-1/4″ x 1-1/4″ (19 x 21 x 3 cm) overall, it is constructed of lovely walnut(?) with 6″ diameter inset glazed compass featuring printed paper rose, circumferential brass scale divided every degree, blued tapered needle with stone pivot, and needle lifter activated by external finger screw. The compass rose is quite special, divided to sixty-fourths of a circle and labeled with 32 directionals (e.g., “N.E 1/4 sur E” and “O 1/4 sur S.O”). The outer edge has geometric and swag decoration, and the four principal directionals display the caduceus, a winged staff entwined by two snakes, the symbol of the Greek god Hermes and Roman counterpart, Mercury (the caduceus not to be confused with the single-serpent-entwined rod of Asclepius, the deity associated with medicine and healing). Mercury, the messenger of the gods, was associated with skill and dexterity, particularly in commerce, finance, thievery and even gymnastics. His name derives from the Latin word for “merchandise.” Finally an intriguing bared arm points directly North. There are brass-reinforced mounting holes underneath the compass box, a slide-off cover, and mounted to the side a rectangular wooden sighting tube with brass double sights at each end. Condition is fine noting some foxing to the paper rose.
Huette is known for a mercury barometer, and was in business for some years prior to his activity being taken over by Loiseau in 1841 (according to Nachet). A fine little theodolite by Huette is listed in Tesseract Catalogue 87 (item 31).
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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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