An gilt brass compendium attributed to Augustine Ryther, English, dated 1589,
Lot 146
An gilt brass compendium attributed to Augustine Ryther,
English, dated 1589,
Sold for £15,000 (US$ 25,188) inc. premium
Lot Details
An gilt brass compendium attributed to Augustine Ryther, English, dated 1589,
The shallow rounded box with hinged lid has formal diamond-shaped decoration engraved around its circumference on either side of a clover-shaped suspension piece set at the North point. All faces of the instrument are engraved

1 upper face of lid: around the outer edge is a double twelve-hour scale in Roman numerals reading to single hours; within this is a 32-point scale of compass-directions with North indicated by a fleur-de-lys, the other cardinal points and the inter points by their initials; within this is a lunar scale of thirty surrounding a volvelle engraved with an aspectarium, and with a lunar phase aperture.

2 Inner face of lid: the names and latitudes of twenty-four places in Britain arranged in four concentric rings and six columns as follows:

Sandwich 51 29 Hereford 52 2 Lincolne 53 6 Edenburgh 57 0 Northampton 52 50 Falmouth 51 0
London 51 32 Oxford 51 50 Chester 53 54 Barwicke 56 23 Nottingham 53 0 Canterbury 51 28
Bristow 51 42 Cambridg 52 0 Yorke 54 1 Newcastell 55 0 W[in]chester 53 10 Douer 51 26
Exciter 51 0 Norwich 52 10 Hull 53 57 Carelil 55 2 Ipswich 52 0 Rye 51 5

Despite all the places named being in Britain, the central space carries the title 'THE names of Cities and Townes in Europe'.

3 Horizontal dial with spring-up gnomon and a central inset compass with four cardinal points marked by their initials. Since there is no provision for adjusting the gnomon for latitude and the lettering is different that of the rest of the instrument this plate is probably a later replacement.
4 Outer face of the box: a set of calendar scales reading from the outside inwards giving the date of Easter, the first Sunday in Lent, the Dominical letter, Prime, the Dominical letter for leap years, leap years, the epact, Prime. All these surround a central circle engraved with the base date 'Anno 1589'.
1 5/8in (4.1cm) diameter


  • Attribution of this compendium (with the exception of the central dial plate) rests on the similarity of the layout of the latitude list with that in another compendium signed by Ryther (Science Museum, London 1985-2021, described in G. Turner, 173-5), and the similarity of letter and numeral forms between the two instruments. Sixteen of the places listed on the present dial also occur on the signed dial: all are given the same latitude value and the eccentric spelling of 'Exciter' for Exeter is common to both. The shape of the suspension mounts is similar and there is a close correspondence in the script employed. It is highly likely that this instrument was originally fitted with an adjustable equinoctial dial in the box, similar to that which is preserved in the Science Museum instrument.

    Augustin Ryther (Writer or Rider), fl. 1576-95 is known as an engraver of maps, plates for books, and instruments. In 1590 he had his shop 'a little from Leaden hall next to the Signe of the Tower'. He is the earliest known instrument-maker in the Grocers' Company and through his apprentice Charles Whitwell, stands at the head of the entire craft succession of mathematical instrument-makers in that company. Only two instruments signed by him are known.

    Gerard L'E Turner, Elizabethan Instrument Makers, the Origins of the trade in precision Instrument Making, Oxford, 2000.
    Joyce Brown, Mathematical Instrument-Makers in the Grocers' Company 1688-1800, London 1979.
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