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How Sixteenth-Century Books Redefined A Medieval Sundial

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Chapter Summary

The ship-shaped dial is first described and illustrated in print, in Oronce Finé’s 1532 book Protomathesis. This ship-shaped dial, made from ivory, is signed 'Orontii F' and dated 1524. In line with the focus of medieval practical geometry texts, it seems that the purpose of the sixteenth-century dialling texts was as much to teach geometry and astronomy as to teach the construction and use of sundials. This chapter describes the dial usually known as the Regiomontanus dial, which can be used for any latitude between 30 and 60 degrees. Later in the sixteenth century a very influential dialling text was published: Christopher Clavius' Gnominces describes fixed and portable dials, and includes diagrams for most of them. The popularity of continental dialling texts, the influence of print and the possibility of producing instruments from the woodcut diagrams in sundial books had overtaken the English instrument and manuscript tradition, even in England.

Keywords: medieval practical geometry texts; ship-shaped dial; sixteenth-century dialling texts; sundial books



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