FREE DELIVERY on all UK orders | Unconditional guarantee on every item
Colonel Peigne's Artillery Compass (1897)

Colonel Peigne's Artillery Compass (1897)

Price $226.00 Sale


A wooden cased artillery compass dating from 1897, invented by Colonel Peigne, a French army officer. The earliest known version of the Peigne compass dates from 1883. It remained in use as one of the most important French army compasses during WW1, and was still being offered for sale in the Morin catalogue for 1930.

Made by H. Morin / Charles Delagrave et Cie in Paris, from a design developed by Colonel Paul Peigné (1841-1919). It is labelled on the case by the maker as a 'Boussole Alidade' ('boussole' is French for compass and an alidade is a sighting device or pointer for calculating slopes, angles and directions). The device may also be considered a clinometer in that it can be used to measure the angle of elevation, or angle from the ground, allowing for the determination the height of tall objects.

This compass type was designed by the French officer Paul Peigné. It is possible that Peigné modified the system designed by the compass maker Mademoiselle Dupuy by integrating the clinometer into the compass capsule and adding user's instructions glued on the case's upper and lower sides.

Mademoiselle Dupuy lived in Saint-Maixent where a famous school for officers was created in 1881. Her invention is very similar to the better known Peigne system, and it seems likley Dupuy's basic system was later improved by Peigné. In 1911 Capitaine Brèche who taught military survey techniques at the St-Maixent infantry school published his lecture notes, in which he described various compasses, including the Peigné system. The Peigne compass was manufactured by several companies, including Morin, Ladois and S-L. A concise version of the users' instructions was glued on both sides of the wooden casing (printed by Delagrave et Cie).

This compass is equipped with an alidade that could be used both with the compass needle to take bearings and with the clinometer to measure elevation angles. To take a bearing, the reflection of the compass needle is viewed in the mirrored underside of the lid. The clinometer scale is printed inverted so as to be read in the mirror. The compass needle oscillations can be damped by depressing a pin which passes through the transit locking screw.

General Paul Peigne (1841-1919) was a French army officer. He studied at the famous military school Polytechnique, fought in the French-German war 1870-71 and taught topography at the military school in Saint-Cyr (1873-76). He was the inventor of several new military techniques, including train-mounted artillery. He designed this compass system, with the earliest known examples dating from 1883 and bearing the inscription 'System by Lieutenant-Colonel Peigne'.

Further details of this type of artillery compass can be found at the excellent website.



The compass is in good condition, full working order, and finds North well. The wooden case, clasps, and hinges are all in good condition. There is some minor wear to the paper instruction labels, some marks to the mirror, and some minor marks to the paper compass card. The transit lock is working well.


Dimensions : 90mm length, 90mm width, 30mm depth