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Monks, Manuscripts And Sundials: The Navicula In Medieval England

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Chapter Summary

The navicula, a portable sundial, enables the calculation of the length of daylight and the calculation of latitude, and can be used for a wide variety of measuring of heights and depths of walls and wells. There are sixteen manuscripts which provide a picture of the uses and users of the late medieval navicula. In the mid fifteenth century John Whethamstede, Abbot of St Albans, names a certain Peter of Muchelney as the inventor of the ship-dial. As a manuscript text can be compiled from a number of sources, as well as including original material, the navicula could have been "compiled" from a number of components, some of which were drawn from instruments and texts with Islamic ancestry, some of which were medieval developments, and some of which were taken from other medieval European astronomical texts and instruments.

Keywords: John Whethamstede; manuscript evidence; medieval England; monks; navicula



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