A rare Christoff Schissler gilt brass combined geographical astrolabe and vertical universal, or 'Rojas', sun-dial. , Augsburg, dated 1566

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Lot 114
A rare Christoff Schissler gilt brass combined geographical astrolabe and vertical universal, or 'Rojas', sun-dial. , Augsburg, dated 1566

Sold for £ 146,500 (US$ 186,711) inc. premium
A rare Christoff Schissler gilt brass combined geographical astrolabe and vertical universal, or 'Rojas', sun-dial. , Augsburg, dated 1566
Signed, on both sides the throne, 'C 1566 S' for Christoph Schissler 1566 A circular plate with a low, triple lobed, throne lacking the shackle and suspension ring, is punched and engraved on both sides.

Reading from the outside inwards,
1 a ring, blank in its east two quadrants, carrying the labels 'Zenith' immediately below the suspension point and 'Gradus elevationis poli' [degree of the height of the pole, sc. Latitude], in the two west quadrants, identifying the scales in
2 of 0-90-90 reading to 1° and numbered by groups of five which allow readings to be taken in zenith distance. The scale in the upper quadrant is doubled by a concentric, reverse reading, scale from 24° - 90° for altitude readings. Within this is
3 an orthographic projection, onto the plane of the meridian, of the hour circles and parallels of declination. The hour lines are reverse numbered 1-12/12-1, the parallels carry the symbols of their corresponding zodiac signs. 'Polvs arcticvs' and 'Polvs antarcticvs' [North Pole, South Pole] are marked as appropriate above and below the projection. Free to rotate above this is
4 a rule, pivoted at the centre, marked along its parallel edges 'Horizon vel linea ortvs' [horizon or sunrise line], horizon is here used in the Vitruvian sense of a line drawn through the centre of a sun-dial since it is this edge of the rule that supplies a diameter of the instrument, and 'Linea auroræ vel crepvscvlina' [sunset or crepuscular line]. Attached to the rule above the pivot is a right-angled triangular plaque, marked 'Trigonvs', with a sun-emblem, which carries, on one edge, sighting vanes marked 'Linea vmbræ' [shadow line], and on the other a circular mount for a plumb-line (missing) marked 'Index'.
In use the trigon is turned until the pointer of the sighting edge is set on the zenith distance or altitude corresponding with the latitude of the place of observation. The instrument is suspended and the point where the plumb line cuts the intersection of the parallel appropriate to the date with an hour line gives the local time.

Reading from the outside inwards,
1 a concentric zodiacal calendar (0° Aries = March 10), the zodiac signs named with their symbols, the months divided to their exact number of days (February = 28). Within this is
2 a scale of twenty-four hours numbered twice I – XII
3 a scale of 360° reading inversely, by numbered groups of 10° from the zenith
4 a stereographically projected world map limited by the named Tropic of Capricorn, and with the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer also marked and named. An opening cut in this plate at the XII/180° position allows the reading of local time against a curved index. Free to rotate above this map is
5 a rete reduced to the ecliptic ring, with a 24 hour time ring at the centre, and two counter-changed radial bars, that ending at 0° Capricorn terminating in a circle. Above this is
6 a radial rule carrying scales for northern (0-70°) and southern (0-23 ½°) latitudes.
6in (15cm) diameter


  • An apparently unrecorded instrument by Schissler which is entirely coherent with his production. Similar world maps employing almost identical reduced rete's are to be found in a compendium made for Ulrich Fugger (1557) and a similar one dated from 1558, while the universal vertical dial finds a parallel in an undated, late 16th century square compendium in Schissler's style (Higton n° 302). The closest parallel to this instrument is however a simliar combined geographical astrolabe and Rojas dial signed by Aegidius Cuinet at Antwerp in 1560 (Gunther ii 378, CCA N° 224).

    This instrument was made by Christoph Schissler (c.1531-1608), one of the most celebrated and innovative scientific instrument makers of the 16th century. His workshop was famous throughout Europe and he supplied precision instruments of exquisite quality including globes, astrolabes, sundials, armillary spheres, astronomical compendia and surveying and drawing equipment. Toward the middle of the 16th century it became fashionable for the nobility and royal courts to create Cabinets of Curiosities or Kunstkammers. These were cabinets to store and display princely collections of fabulous and novel items both man-made and exotic examples from nature. One commodity that all Kunstkammers shared was the inclusion of superb models, clocks, scientific instruments and automata.

    In 1571 Schissler travelled to the Dresden court of August I, the Elector of Saxony, in order to set up and demonstrate his instruments. On the Prince's death in 1587, the inventory of his Kunstkammer lists some 10,000 objects including about 450 scientific instruments. Schissler also visited in 1583 the court of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague who was well-known for his fascination with clocks.

    Today about 100 instruments from the Schissler workshop are recorded and are exhibited in the national collections located in Oxford, London, Vienna, Prague and Florence.
A rare Christoff Schissler gilt brass combined geographical astrolabe and vertical universal, or 'Rojas', sun-dial. , Augsburg, dated 1566
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