Astrological Compendium. 1561, Germany. 

Pocket-size astronomical compendia were produced in Augsburg and Nuremberg, southern Germany, from the early 16th century by specialist instrument makers. This one contains the universe in a box! Provided its owner had a basic understanding of mathematics, astronomy, astrology and geography, he or she could use the various dials, tables and maps to plan journeys, predict the time of sunset in many towns in Europe (very useful when travelling), make astrological predictions, measure the heights of stars and configure the positioning of the stars for any time in the past or future.

Instruments were also made as treasury items. By the 1560s, it was fashionable for wealthy gentlemen to have a sound understanding of all branches of learning, from arts and literature to mathematics and the natural sciences. This compendium was not simply a functional timepiece but also a work of art, bought for its craftsmanship and ingenuity. Astronomical compendia were housed alongside automatons, clocks and astrolabes in Scientifica, collections celebrating human ability to control nature. They were designed to impress as well as educate.

Source: V&A Museum.


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