Astronomical Compendium, sheet copper

Astronomical Compendium, sheet copper

Astronomical Compendium

Sheet copper, gilt and engraved
Augsburg, Germany, dated 1557
Made by Christopher Schissler (about 1531-1609) and signed in Latin 'Christopher Schissler made me in Augsburg in the year 1557'
Miller gift

This is an astronomical compendium and includes a sundial for four latitudes, a nocturnal dial with chronomatic tables, a compass, tables giving phases of the moon, and a table of latitudes for London, Amsterdam, Oxford, Paris and other cities. The compendium was made to a popular pattern but the towns engraved were specific to its owner's interests. It may have once belonged to a German prince or a wealthy travelling merchant.

The V&A has a small but significant collection of scientific instruments, collected primarily for its decorative qualities. Sheet brass is ideal for making scientific instruments. It is hard-wearing, easily engraved, light and portable.

Specialist makers of scientific instruments emerged during the 1550s. They catered for an increased interest in navigation, travel, geography and the workings of the universe. By the 17th century, it was fashionable for wealthy gentlemen to have a sound understanding of all branches of learning, from arts and literature to mathematics and the natural sciences. Scientific instruments were designed to impress as well as educate.

Schissler's workshop was famous. He specialised in sundials and compendia and produced instruments for the great Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe.