Astronomical Compendium

1561 (made)
Astronomical Compendium thumbnail 1
Astronomical Compendium thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 63, The Edwin and Susan Davies Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Pocket-size astronomical compendia were produced in Augsburg and Nuremberg, southern Germany, from the early 16th century by specialist instrument makers. This one contains the universe in a box! Provided its owner had a basic understanding of mathematics, astronomy, astrology and geography, he or she could use the various dials, tables and maps to plan journeys, predict the time of sunset in many towns in Europe (very useful when travelling), make astrological predictions, measure the heights of stars and configure the positioning of the stars for any time in the past or future.

Instruments were also made as treasury items. By the 1560s, 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. This compendium was not simply a functional timepiece but also a work of art, bought for its craftsmanship and ingenuity. Astronomical compendia were housed alongside automatons, clocks and astrolabes in Scientifica, collections celebrating human ability to control nature. They were designed to impress as well as educate.

This compendium was made by one of the most celebrated scientific instrument makers of the 16th century. Christopher Schissler's workshop was famous in his own time. He supplied precision instruments of exquisite quality including globes, astrolabes, sundials, armillary spheres, astronomical compendia and surveying and drawing equipment. Schissler's clientele was international. Many of his dials are laid out for English or Italian latitudes. In 1571 Schissler travelled to the Dresden court of August I, the Elector of Saxony, in order to set up and demonstrate his instruments. He also visited in 1583 the court of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague who was well-known for his fascination with clocks. Instrument makers had to be excellent mathemeticians, artists, engravers and metalworkers.


object details
Category
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 5 parts.

  • Astronomical Compendium
  • Case
  • Lid
  • Plummet Stand for Compendium
  • Weather Vane for Compendium
Brief Description
Astronomical compendium made by Christopher Schissler, Augsburg (South Germany), 1561, in red leather case
Physical Description
Astronomical compendium of copper-gilt with separate wind-vane and plummet stand, each compartmentalised in separate red leather case (M.165A-B-1938).
Dimensions
  • Closed height: 3.0cm
  • Diameter: 8.2cm
Style
Gallery Label
Northern Europe Galleries (Gallery 27, Case 7,): SUNDIAL AND CASE Gilt copper, engraved and inlaid with black composition By Christopher Schissler South German (Augsburg); dated 1561 M.165&A-1938 Given by W.E. Miller FSA This sundial could also be used as a calendar and incorporates a series of chronomatic tables. It is also fitted with a plummet stand and wind vane. The Latin inscription records that it was made in 1561 by Schissler, one of the most celebrated makers in Augsburg which along with Nuremberg was an important centre of instrument production.(17/072006)
Object history
Acquired by the Museum in 1938 as a gift of Mr W.E. Miller, FSA. Previous provenance unknown.



Historical significance: This compendium was made by one of the most celebrated scientific instrument makers of the 16th century. Christopher Schissler's workshop was famous in his own time. He was born in around 1531 and started his workshop after 1550. He supplied precision instruments of exquisite quality including globes, astrolabes, sundials, armillary spheres, astronomical compendia and surveying and drawing equipment. Schissler's clientele was international. Many of his dials are laid out for English or Italian latitudes. In 1571 Schissler travelled to the Dresden court of August I, the Elector of Saxony, in order to set up and demonstrate his instruments. He also visited in 1583 the court of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague who was well-known for his fascination with clocks. From 1580 Schissler produced many surveying instruments and became invloved with the survey of the town of Augsburg between 1598 and 1602.



Around a hundred instruments from Schissler's workshop survive. His eldest son Christopher Schissler Junior (also known as Hans Christoph) also became an instrument maker. Christoph Schissler Senior died on 14 September 1608.



The red leather stamped and gilt case is also a rare survivor, adding to the significance of this piece.
Historical context
Pocket-size astronomical compendia were produced in Augsburg and Nuremberg, southern Germany, from the early 16th century by specialist instrument makers. This one contains the universe in a box! Provided its owner had a basic understanding of mathematics, astronomy, astrology and geography, he/she could use the various dials, tables and maps to plan journeys, predict the time of sunset in many towns in Europe (very useful when travelling), make astrological predictions, measure the heights of stars and configure the positioning of the stars for any time in the past or future.



Specialist makers of scientific instruments catered for an increased interest in navigation, travel, geography and the workings of the universe. Such instruments were made for princes and wealthy merchants who were intending to travel. The map of inside the top leaf is of an area covering much of modern Germany and extends west as far as Brussels in Belgium, North to Lubeck, south to Lucerne in Switzerland and east to Krakow in Poland. The place names are orientated so that south is at the top of the map suggesting it may have been made for a buyer in northern Germany.



Instruments were also made as treasury items. By the 1560s, 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. This compendium was not simply a functional timepiece but also a virtuoso piece, bought for its craftsmanship and ingenuity. Astronomical compendia were housed alongside automatons, clocks and astrolabes in Scientifica, collections celebrating human ability to control nature. They were designed to impress as well as educate.
Production
Signed by the maker on main part of object
Summary
Pocket-size astronomical compendia were produced in Augsburg and Nuremberg, southern Germany, from the early 16th century by specialist instrument makers. This one contains the universe in a box! Provided its owner had a basic understanding of mathematics, astronomy, astrology and geography, he or she could use the various dials, tables and maps to plan journeys, predict the time of sunset in many towns in Europe (very useful when travelling), make astrological predictions, measure the heights of stars and configure the positioning of the stars for any time in the past or future.



Instruments were also made as treasury items. By the 1560s, 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. This compendium was not simply a functional timepiece but also a work of art, bought for its craftsmanship and ingenuity. Astronomical compendia were housed alongside automatons, clocks and astrolabes in Scientifica, collections celebrating human ability to control nature. They were designed to impress as well as educate.



This compendium was made by one of the most celebrated scientific instrument makers of the 16th century. Christopher Schissler's workshop was famous in his own time. He supplied precision instruments of exquisite quality including globes, astrolabes, sundials, armillary spheres, astronomical compendia and surveying and drawing equipment. Schissler's clientele was international. Many of his dials are laid out for English or Italian latitudes. In 1571 Schissler travelled to the Dresden court of August I, the Elector of Saxony, in order to set up and demonstrate his instruments. He also visited in 1583 the court of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague who was well-known for his fascination with clocks. Instrument makers had to be excellent mathemeticians, artists, engravers and metalworkers.
Bibliographic References
  • Bobinger, Maximilian, Alt-Augsburger Kompassmacher, Hans Rosler Verlag, Augsburg, 1966, p.64, pl. 58, pp. 305-6
  • Holbrook, Mary et al, Science Preserved, Science Museum, London, 1992, No. 45
  • Zinner, Ernst, Deutsche und Niederlandische Astronomische Instrumente des 11-18 Jahrhunderts, Munich, 1956, p.506
  • Dunn, Richard, 'Scientific Instruments at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: A Provisional Inventory' in Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, No.79, 2003, pp6-14
Collection
Accession Number
M.165 to E-1938

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record createdMay 11, 2000
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