Item Details

Maker: John Harrison

Circa: 1718

Height: Length: 9 inches, Width: 4.5 inches

Stock No. Inventory No. 118

Price: £70,000

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The Harrison Compass, A Historically Important Compass

The Harrison Compass, A Historically Important Compass

Case: The solid fruitwood case with shaped waist below onto the T-shaped handle with mounting peg hole. The circular recessed dial aperature with seperated turned and glazed fruitwood bezel.

Dial: The 4 inch dial with 360 circumference scale and 1 degree subdivisions, drawn in ink on manuscript paper in Harrison's own hand, with a 16 cardinal-point compass rose, the East and West transposed, a fluer-de-lys indicating North, signed and dated to the centre of the rose John Harrison 1718 with blued-iron needle with brass cap.

Provenance: Made in 1718 by John Harrison for his own use; died 1776. William Harrison (1728-1815) his son. John Harrison (1761-1842) his son. John Harrison of Hull (1828-1894) his son and the last direct descendant; died a a bachelor. Emma Thornton, his housekeeper; died 1922. Ernest Thornton, her nephew (Viewed by NMM, 1946). Hilda Thornton, his niece. Gifted to Maurice Kenn, 1972. Christie's, Exceptional Scientific sale, 7 April 2005, lot 163 (54,000).

Literature: M.J. Kenn, 'John Harrison's Unusual and Unique Magnetic Compass',  British Sundial Society Bulletin, vol. 14 (ii) London, June 2002 p.81-82. Garnier & Carter; The Golden Age of English Horology, 2015, p. 236-445.

Comments: Together with a plain table (spelt plane from c.1830), an alidade and a chain measure, this compass provided the recently married Harrison with the ability to survey and map, prehaps to supplement his income.