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British Museum: Katamari






volvelle / shadow-box / nocturnal / equinoctial dial / compass-dial


Astronomical Compendium

All of the objects I chose in the British Museum all relate to each other as they all record a type of measurement particularly space and/or time.

Another similarity between them is that they are all made out of brass

I was intrigued by all the objects and what they were used for, I am interested in space and the solar system, these recording devices are not seen in everyday life.

Aesthetically all the objects are made of metal all of them brass, however some are gilded with gold this gives them a sense of value and the wealth that the objects original owners may have had.

These remind me of mechanical instruments that link together with peoples interest in gaining further knowledge and understanding of everything around them.


Made in the late 17th Century in Europe, possibly the Netherlands

The top of the square is at 1 October. On the reverse, an incomplete lunar/solar time converter, with circular scale IXII, IXII anticlockwise; above this, a rotating disc with index is inscribed 1-291/2 clockwise. The engraving lacks refinement.

Astronomical Compendium

Made in 1568 in Germany

This circular astronomical compendium is made of gilt and silvered brass with a lid and hinged midsection attached to a bottom plate by a degree arc.

The outside of the lid is laid out as a Nocturnal with a Volvelle rotating over a fixed disc and a hinged index arm rotating both. The scales on the disk and the Volvelle correspond to each other.

Volvelle -shadow-box- nocturnal – equinoctial dial – compass-dial

The outside of the lid of this gilt brass astronomical compendium takes the form of a Nocturnal, hinged at the first point of Libra. The zodiac scale, engraved on the limb, is engraved with the symbols of the zodiacal signs; each sigh is divided to ten degrees and subdivided to two. The rotating Volvelle is pierced to show the age and phase of the moon, and is engraved with lunar hour lines from 1 to 12 twice on the outer ring, and with solar hour lines from 3 to 12 to 9 in a inner ring. These hours cab be read if a gnomon is put in the central slot.

The centre of the Volvelle is decorated with a foliate motif and there are small indexes corresponding to each lunar hour. The cursor has a decorated and folding extension, with an eight-petal rose engraved on both knobs where the folding pieces are fixed.

The inside of the lid is blank.

The inside of the box contains a compass with blue and gold painted paper rose showing 32 points, the eight cardinal points painted with the initials of the main winds in Italian.


Made in Europe in the 14th century

This exquisite small astrolabe with quatrefoil decoration is one of the very few known instruments of European origin with markings in Hebrew. The BM instrument is neither signed nor dated, but the style and the month names suggest it might have been made in 14th Century Spain or Italy.

One object is very similar as it includes two of the other objects as part of its function. The fact that I have selected three objects and the fourth one has included similar instruments as the others clearly demonstrates my interest in these types of objects.

An Astrolabe sold in 2007 for £138,000 I consider this to represent a valuable historical artefact. There is no clear indication of any actual cost of a 14th century astrolabe however as they were individually handmade out of brass and often decorated in gold only the wealthy would be able to afford them. looking at the 2007 price it appears that astrolabe’s and similar instruments have kept their value

The four objects that I had chosen although is part of the British Museum collection none are available to be viewed in the museum and are only viewable digitally online. this means the objects are hidden away in a vast online collection. making it impossible to physically experience the objects and limiting their influence on the viewer.

ideas and concepts linked the objects 

  1. space

  2. time

  3. movement

  4. Knowledge

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