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Rare "Burt's Solar" Compass Prototype by William J. Young

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Clocks, Watches & Scientific Instruments - 3230M
Date / Time :
April 12, 2019 10:00AM


Rare "Burt's Solar" Compass Prototype by William J. Young, c. 1840, original lacquered instrument with 5-in. dia. rotating center engraved "Burt's Patent Made by W.J. Young Philad," dual viewing windows for the engraved silvered internal scale with vernier calibrated 30-0-30, trough compass with calibrated scale engraved 10-0-10, inlaid silver latitude arc reading to single minuets by vernier inlaid silver declination arc calibrated 0-30 reading to single minutes by vernier, dual spirit levels, graduated and sighting vanes, and four-screw leveling base, all housed in its original mahogany carrying case with later Young & Sons label.

Literature: This instrument is discussed at length in Burt's Solar Compass/The Development, Manufacture and Daily Usage, by Robert C. Millar.

Note: The first solar compass was made for William Burt in 1840 by William J. Young. Within a few years it was widely used and by 1851 was required in public land surveys. It remained the primary instrument for this use until about 1870 when public land surveyors started using transits with solar attachments, and by 1940, almost all work was done with transits with solar attachments. A few old-timers held onto solar compasses until the late 1960s.
Estimate $4,000-6,000

Items may have wear and tear, imperfections, or the effects of aging. Any condition statement given, as a courtesy to a client, is only an opinion and should not be treated as a statement of fact. Skinner shall have no responsibility for any error or omission.


William Burt, Robert C. Millar, William J. Young, Academic disciplines, Compass, Orientation, Physical sciences, Solar compass, Sun, Surveying, Technical drawing, Technology, Vernier, Young & Sons