A Rare Multi-Gnomon Engraved Slate Sundial

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A Rare Multi-Gnomon Engraved Slate Sundial

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Attributed to Richard Melville, third quarter of the 19th century.

The 14 inch square slab plate with central pierced brass gnomon set at 51 degrees 50 minutes and small diameter radial-line compass rose annotated NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW within chapter ring with Roman numerals IV-XII-VIII interrupted with inscription Latitude 51’ 50’’ North between IV and VIII and divided into halves, quarters and twelfths for five minute intervals within triple-line band, the outer concentric margin engraved with the names of 74 global towns and cities and instructions To find the time of the Several places named in the circle add the time past the Meridian & Subtract the time wanting in a sector to the southern edge, the spandrel areas with four subsidiary dials for New York, Alexandria, Isle of Borneo and New Zealand with infill bands inscribed with instructions for interpreting the equation of time annotations to sides and engraved motto’s to upper and lower margins.

This sundial is typical of the work of Richard Melville, who originated from County Down, Northern Ireland but had settled in Glasgow by 1845. He is further recorded as working in Liverpool in 1856 and London in 1858 before moving to Dublin in 1864 where he died in 1871.

Mellville specialized in the laying-out and engraving of complex sundials including multi-gnomon models. His sundials are usually of slate, horizontal, and engraved with great care, sometimes showing the time at places abroad, and accompanied by smaller dials at the sides, in the corners, which are for the same purpose. Three of Melville's dials are in Warwickshire, another at Ruthin Castle, one at Dover, and one at Killiney, dated 1864. Some have mottoes, and some not.

This instrument is complete and in good original condition. There are no obvious cracks and other faults are very much limited to a few small shallow chips to the edges. The metal fittings are intact and undamaged and have now oxidized to an attractive green verdigris hue. There are a few “spots” which can be seen in the photographs. It seems best to leave them alone.

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