Home Dealers Calendar Articles Fine Art Database About AFA Login/Register
Home | Dealers | Charles Edwin Inc. | Mid-19th century slate sundial with five gnomons by Richard Melville (aka Melvin), Crystal Palace, London
Mid-19th century slate sundial with five gnomons by Richard Melville (aka Melvin), Crystal Palace, London
Artist: Not Available 
Category: Garden
Date: 1858-1864
Signature(s): Richard Melvin, Maker to the Crystal Palace, London
SubType: Ornaments
Origin: England-UK
Subject: Ornaments
Era: 19th Century
Width: 15.25 inches
Depth: 15.25 inches
This is a most interesting sundial, utilizing a central gnomon of 50 degrees 51 minutes north for London, and four corresponding smaller gnomons for a "World Time" display in the corners. The corner dials are engraved with New York, Morning (five hours earlier), Alexandria, Egypt, Afternoon (two hours later), Island of Borneo, Evening (seven hours later), and New Zealand, Night (12 hours later). Additionally the plate is profusely engraved with information. The seven circular areas, from the center, are:

1. A 16 point compass star 2. The Roman numeral hour band, also showing the maker's name and address (see below) 3. Half hours 4. Quarter hours 5. Minutes 6. A band naming 69 cities around the world, with a panel describing how to calculate current time in each 7. Equation of time tables for all 12 months of the year, with additional panels to read the dial faster or slower against a watch in each month.

The central gnomon has an old repair, and one of the auxiliary gnomons is a replacement. The slate panel is undamaged, and minimally eroded. It is nearly all legible with a dusting of chalk. We don't recommend an outdoor installation as the slate has its original surface and is not sealed against acid rain or freezing.

At the top (North) of the dial is a Latin inscription that is too worn to read clearly, probably having to do with time and death.

The dial is signed Richard Melvin, maker to the Crystal Palace London. He signed and was known by a number of versions of his name. Ricardus Melville and Richard Melvin are recorded for example. There are others but the unique design suggests a single maker. Richard Melville began his career in Ulster from 1832 to 1842. By 1845 he was working in Glasgow and continued there until 1851. In 1846 he was based at 160 Saltmarket Street. Two dials made in Glasgow, both dated 1848, are, respectively in the Dunblane Museum and the Dollar Museum. A number of sundials are held by museums, notably the National Museum of Scotland and Armagh Museum, Ireland. In 1856 he was in Liverpool, in 1858 in the Crystal Palace area, London and by 1864 he was working in Dublin. His address there in 1871 was 9 Lower Wellington Street. He is not known as making any other instruments.

For details see our website, charlesedwin.com

Antiques and Fine Art is the leading site for antique collectors, designers, and enthusiasts of art and antiques. Featuring outstanding inventory for sale from top antiques & art dealers, educational articles on fine and decorative arts, and a calendar listing upcoming antiques shows and fairs.