A silver and parcel gilt and rock crystal Pillar Dial

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Product Description

The head is set above a cartouche with the inscription ‘Et eru [n]t lumina in signa tempora dies et annos. Ge[nesis] 1. [14], (‘and let the light be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years’, Genesis I 14)’.

The silver cylinder is enclosed within a rock crystal and silver gilt outer case, decorated with floral and geometric mouldings. The upper rim of the dial is silver gilt and is engraved into degrees of signs and identified by the symbols for the signs of the zodiac.

The pillar is surmounted by a silver finial. The finial is engraved around the side with hour scales flanked by the signs of the zodiac with gnomon projecting horizontally and engraved ‘POLI GRA 49 MI 27 (latitude of Nuremberg)’, surmounted by a plug contained within an inverted plumb bob covered with a crystal dome.

The entire top section can be rotated to set the gnomon to the correct time of year, when the shadow of the gnomon falls vertically on the hour scale, the tip of the shadow will indicate the correct time. A second smaller silver cylinder is contained within the pillar dial and is intricately engraved with foliate relief pattern and red enamel.

The inner cylinder contains a length of parchment scroll listing the calendar of saint’s days on one side, and the cycle of dominical letters and golden numbers and rules for the use of the dial, which are finely written in German in black, red and gold. The calendar is Old Style and against the dates between 21st March and 18th April there are a series of numbers which give the calendar full moons.

Height: 4 5/8 (11.7cm).

Wolfgang Fugger was a celebrated Nuremberg writing-master, a pupil of the renowned Johann Neudörfer, and the author of Formülar manncherly schöner Schriefften Nuremberg 1553 (see W. Doede, Bibliographie deutscher Schreibmeister bücher, Hamburg 1958, 46). Inclusion of his calendar, which carries extensive explanations of calendrical problems within this body of the pillar dial, transforms this instrument into a complete compendium of time – both civil and religious.

Our research has shown that the calendar is a Nuremberg calendar based on the standard Bamberg calendar for this period, with around half of the saints’ days listed coming from that source. Of great interest is the fact that on the 29th of August Saint Sebald is named and he was the patron saint of Nuremberg, which was in the Diocese of Bamberg. It seems as though there was no saint listed in the Bamberg calendar, the compiler of the list used other sources so that there was one saint per day. Also in the list are the days when the sun enters each zodiacal sign, which are picked out in red along with selected saints’ days of particular importance.

Research would also suggest that this is a list of particular use for a noble rather than an ecclesiastical client, one piece of evidence pointing in this direction is that the calendar does not include the vigils to important festivals that are listed in a standard Bamberg calendar, instead replacing them with other saints.

Wolfgang Fugger’s Handwriting Manual, 1553, Reprinted by Oxford University Press, 1960.

Baron Charles Mayer Rothschild, Frankfurt (1820-1886).
Louisa Lady Rothschild
The right Honourable Lord Rothschild G.M. F.R.S.
Sotheby’s London, December 8, 1969, lot 53 and plate.
Edgar Mannheimer 1969
Time Museum Inventory No. 141

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