NAPIER COMPASSES OUTFIT, English, mid-19th century
Stock Number: 9258
For sale, most compact compasses finely crafted in nickel silver and steel, opening on three five-leaf hinges and fitted with twin reversible tips with points, pencil holder, and adjustable ink pen.
closed length of 2-3/4 inches (7 cm)
c. mid-19th century
Country of manufacture
UK and Ireland
NAPIER COMPASSES OUTFIT, English, mid-19th century, signed in three places, the case reading “C.W. Dixey, Optician to the Queen, 3 New Bond Street, London.” These most compact compasses are finely crafted in nickel silver and steel, with a closed length of 2-3/4″ (7 cm), opening on three five-leaf hinges and fitted with twin reversible tips with points, pencil holder, and adjustable ink pen. Included in the outfit is a double-sided rule with several linear reduction scales, plus an ivory container of pencil leads. All is original and in excellent condition, contained in its fitted wood case bound in red Morocco leather and lined in velvet and silk, the case somewhat worn.
This is an excellent example of Napier compasses, exalted by W. F. Stanley (in his Mathematical Drawing and Measuring Instruments of the third quarter 19th century) for their compactness and portability due to the clever design of hollowed out legs and multiple articulations. He describes construction criteria, and ends with “they are a difficult instrument to make perfectly.” Here we have an example of their perfection. The maker, Charles Wastell Dixey, worked c. 1838 – 1862, and held a Royal appointment as “Optician and Mathematical Instrument Maker” to Queen Victoria. (9258) $395.
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@example.com.
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