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Antique Menant Butterfield Type Dial, Circa 18th Cent


Offered for sale is an Antique brass Butterfield type equinoctial dial, French, 18th century, signed Menant a Paris, the octagonal dial engraved with four hour scales, inset compass well and shaped gnomon with bird pointer, the base engraved with 26 cities and their latitudes, measuring 3" (7.5cm)long in a leather case with two locks. The reverse with one brass foot, in a fitted velvet lined octagonal leather case 2 3/4" wide

Very little is known about T. Menant, his main claim to fame was that he made sundials, mainly the butterfield type, plus a small number of drawing instruments.

Provenance: Sotheby's Auction October 1992

Description: The Butterfield dial is a type of semi-universal horizontal dial, that is, a horizontal dial which can be used in a number of different latitudes, but not in the full range from 0° to 90°. It is generally either octagonal or oval in shape and is almost always marked with three or four different hour scales, each of which is marked with a specific latitude. The essentials of the Butterfield sundial are a dial plate engraved with a number of different hour scales serving different latitudes, a compass, and an adjustable gnomon. The gnomon is marked with a latitude scale and it can move within the bird index which marks the latitude angle against the scale.

It was not Butterfield who originally designed these instruments. Examples are known which clearly date from before the time that Butterfield began working in Paris.

The fact that Butterfield used a bird-shaped pointer on the gnomon probably made his sundials highly fashionable and he soon achieved a monopolistic situation on the market.

This solid silver horizontal pocket sundial was made in France by Michael Butterfield (1635 – 1724) and signed ‘Butterfield a Paris’, with the ‘Fleur-de-Lis’ hallmarks on both sides. This is a sophisticated sundial Instrument consisting of an octagonal plate (measures 5.4cm, 2? inches) on which the shadow is cast through an adjustable quadrant (adjusted from 40 to 60 latitude degrees), carried on a folding hinged gnomon and supported by a form of a small bird. The dial chapter includes four sets of engraved scales alternating in Roman and Arabic numeral made for latitudes of 43, 46, 49 and 52. The dial incorporates a recessed compass with glass cover (cracked) and a fine blued steel compass hand. Engraved on the reverse side are the names and latitudes of 26 European cities.

References: The early Scientific Instruments Arthur Frank Collection by R. H. Nuttall, PhD., Charles Frank ltd., Glasgow; Scientific Instruments of the 17th & 18th Centuries and their Makers, by Maurice Daumas, Portman Books, London, First English Edition, 1972; Early Scientific Instruments, Europe 1400-1800, by Anthony Turner, Sotheby's Publications, First Edition 1987, ISBN 0 85667 319 6

Provenance: Christie's Auction, April 1998

Shipping: Shipping to the continental USA and worldwide. Sellers exclusively use the United States Postal Service as their shipper. International purchasers should contact sellers to get a quote for international shipping.

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  • Model: Menant a Paris Dial 18th century

This product was added to our catalog on Saturday 06 September, 2014.

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