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Elliot Brothers Pocket Sundial Compass (c.1853)

Price CHF 407.00 Sale

A rare early example of an English brass pocket Sundial Compass or Pantochronometer, made by Elliot Brothers of London c.1853, and signed on the dial 'Elliot Brothers, 56 Strand'. This sundial compass has a domed-lid brass case, and a paper compass card with a brass gnomon. There is a lever-operated transit lock which locks the compass card when the lid is replaced and moved into the locked position. The original paper label inside the lid includes instructions for the use of the sundial at different times of the year. Various types of wooden domed-glass sundial compasses were produced in England in the first half of the 19th century - including the 'Magnetic Sundial' made by Samuel Porter in 1824 - but high quality brass cased versions like this one by Elliot Brothers are much more uncommon.

This type of sundial compass - a floating sundial on a compass card - is also known as a Pantochronometer or 'Magnetic Dial'. The system was already in use in the 18th century, but the term Pantochronometer was apparently coined in the 1820's by Charles Essex, an optician whose shop was at 28 Gloucester Street, Clerkenwell, London. He is mentioned in an article published in The London Literary Gazette in December 1825, in which the Pantochronometer is decribed as 'one of those clever little philosophical instruments, the invention of which does credit to the ingenuity of modern science. It has been produced by Mr Charles Essex and is at once a curious and useful thing. In a box, about the size of a small snuff-box, are combined the machinery of a compass, sun-dial, and universal time-dial; and a compass card, a gnomon, and an indexed border, form the whole of the simple process. It is a desirable power to be able to pull this "dial from your poke" and ascertain at once what o'clock it is, the situation of the spot where you are, and the way you ought to go. We must say it is a very neat and ingenious production'.

(Thanks to for the information about Charles Essex. Further details of sundial compass design, and the history of pocket sundial compasses, can be found at the excellent website, page:

Elliot Brothers: was established at Gray's Inn in London by William Elliot (1781-1853) as a maker of drawing instruments. By 1807 he had moved to High Holborn, and by 1816 he was manufacturing items such as telescopes and barometers. In 1830 he moved to 56 Strand and was joined in the business by his two sons, Frederick Henry Elliot and Charles Alfred Elliot, and they expanded into producing a wide variety of scientific instruments. William Elliot died in 1853 and his sons continued the business as Elliot Brothers. In 1865 Charles Elliot retired and Frederick continued to run Elliot Brothers until his death in 1873, leaving the business to his wife. During the late 19th century the company also manufactured electrical instruments, and in 1893 they amalgamated with Theiler & Co. Telegraph and Instrument Makers. In 1900 the company moved to new premises at the Century Works in Lewisham. In 1916  a new company was formed - this was known as Elliot Brothers (London) Ltd and continued to produce scientific and mathemtcal instruments.


In very good condition, full working order and finds North very well. The brass case is in very good condition, with minor signs of wear and a few marks. The lid fits very well. The original domed glass is in very good condition, the transit lock is fully functional, and the paper compass card and gnomon are in very good condition. The original paper instructions label inside the lid is in very good condition.

Dimensions: 50mm diameter x 25mm height