Mariner's compass

The mariner's compass, which enabled mariners to know the direction in which they were sailing, has always been one of the most important navigational instruments.

This example is mounted in a wooden box to keep it safe (the lid is now missing). The compass itself is mounted on brass gimbals to keep it steady on a moving ship. It has a single iron needle with a brass cap that rests on a spike projecting from the bottom of the bowl, which also contains some lead to weigh it down and keep it steady. The compass card is made of paper and is marked both in degrees and with the points of the compass. North is indicated by a fleur-de-lys, while the other cardinal and half-cardinal points have images of figures representing the sun, moon, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. Some small blobs of sealing wax remain on the underside of the card (they were originally put there to keep it balanced).

Object Details

ID: NAV0378
Collection: Astronomical and navigational instruments
Type: Compass
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Eade, Jonathan; Eade, Jonathan
Date made: circa 1750
Exhibition: Ships, Clocks & Stars: The Quest for Longitude
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Overall: 203 x 203 x 115 mm

Your Request

If an item is shown as “offsite”, please allow eight days for your order to be processed. For further information, please contact Archive staff:

Tel: (during Library opening hours)

Click “Continue” below to continue processing your order with the Library team.