Scaphe dial, with lid by unknown

Scaphe dial, with lid

unknown

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Scaphe dial, with lid by unknown zoom

Scaphe dial, with lid

Scaphe dial. This instrument comprises a dial and compass set on a raised rectangle, with an ivory lid. The compass is encircled by a red ring marked on the ivory around it, with twelve characters in gold inside it - these are 12 directions represented by the Chinese hour characters. It has a blued needle in the form of an arrow, surmounted by a brass pivot. The glass plate is held in place by a twisted gold-plated wire circle. The dial is set in a bowl-shaped depression coated in bronze. The hour-lines are marked in black and Japanese characters encircle the dial on the ivory above the depression. A vertical bronze pin gnomon is set at the centre.

This dial is among the smallest of the instruments in the NMM sundial collection and is very similar to AST0383. The tiny size of the dial itself would have militated against the accuracy of the instrument, which would probably only have been able to provide the time to the nearest hour. These ivory sundials were probably inspired by the tradition of the 'netsuke' in Japanese jewellery, which were finely carved miniature ivory sculptures used for attaching items to the sash (obi) of a Japanese man's traditional dress.

  • Image reference: F2090

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