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Rare Silver Pocket Sundial and Compass by Michael Butterfield, Paris, circa 1700



A beautiful, rare solid silver Anglo-French octagonal pocket sundial with compass by Michael Butterfield, circa 1700. The sundial is made for a latitude of 44° and could be used in places in the south of France such as Avignon and elsewhere along this parallel. The elaborately engraved base plate has a Roman chapter ring on which the gnomon (a triangular flap) casts its shadow. It is signed by the maker in the following manner: Butterfield A Paris. On one side is a glazed recessed compass with a blued steel hand to position the instrument in such a way that the time can be read. The hinged triangular gnomon is richly engraved and in the shape of a bird’s head. The folding gnomon and cut corners enable the dial to be carried in the pocket. The underside shows the latitudes of various Southern-French places in the relevant areas Its maker Michael Butterfield was an English instrument maker who based himself in 'Le Quay de l'Horloge' of Paris from circa 1685. These types of dials, often replicated by other makers, became known as Butterfield Dials after their original inventor. They were a fashionable and functional traveller’s accessory from the late 17th century onwards. Interestingly, early watches did not keep time particularly well and a dial such as this were used to regularly set a watch. Anecdotally, sundials may also have been preferred to sounding timepieces whilst on the road - the chimes being thought to attract thieves. Similar examples can be found in the British Maritime Museum, V&A and the British Museum. Literature: Tardy, Dictionnaire des horlogers français, Paris, 1971, p. 103 C. Cowham, A Dial in Your Poke, Cambridge, 2004, passim H.Higton, Sundials, An Illustrated History of Portable Dials, London, 2001, passim.


  • Creator
    Butterfield Paris (Clockmaker)
  • Dimensions
    Height: 2.56 in. (6.5 cm)Width: 2.29 in. (5.8 cm)Depth: 0.4 in. (1 cm)
  • Style
    Louis XIV (Of the Period)
  • Materials and Techniques
  • Place of Origin
  • Period
    Late 17th Century
  • Date of Manufacture
  • Condition
    Wear consistent with age and use.
  • Seller Location
    Oxfordshire, GB
  • Reference Number
    1stDibs: LU4936221550362

Shipping & Returns

  • Shipping
    Rates vary by destination and complexity. We recommend this shipping type based on item size, type and fragility.
    Estimated Customs Duties & Taxes to the Continental US: $0.
    Ships From: Faringdon , United Kingdom
  • Return Policy

    A return for this item may be initiated within 14 days of delivery.

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About the Seller
5 / 5
Located in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
Gold Seller
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1stDibs seller since 2019
8 sales on 1stDibs
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LAPADA - The Association of Arts & Antiques Dealers
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