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Antique SILVER Butterfield Sundial ,Signed, c. 1700


Offered for sale is an antique SILVER Butterfield Sundial, Signed, circa 1700 with case in outstanding condition.

Silver Pocket Sundial by Butterfield, Paris, c. 1700, the octagonal plate signed at the base of the adjustable bird-shaped hinged gnomon, Butterfield Paris, engraved with four chapter rings for latitudes 43, 46, 49, and 52, glazed compass with fleur-de-lis at North and other cardinal points in block lettering, the reverse engraved with the latitudes of twenty-four principle cities, in a stippled leather, felt lined case, lg. 3, wd. 2 3/4 in.

PROFILE - Michael Butterfield (1635-1724) was a British clockmaker who settled in Paris about the year 1663. He worked for the royal court of France and was appointed engineer to the King. He opened in the district faubourg Saint-Germaine, in the street rue Neuve-des-Fosses, a shop for precision instruments. His shop's sign read AUX ARMES D'ANGLETERRE (at the sign of England's coat of arms, 1st mention in 1677). Russia's Czar Peter the Great visited his shop in 1717 and ordered a great quantity of dials made of gilt copper. After Butterfield's death in 1724, the sun-watch type he had been manufacturing and selling was copied by many European manufacturers.

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

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  • Model: Antique Silver Butterfield dial

This product was added to our catalog on Monday 14 July, 2014.

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