Pocket Sundial


This pocket or ring sundial dates from around c.1600 and is made from brass.


A way of telling the time 400 years ago

This pocket or ring sundial dates from around c.1600 and is made from brass. It might have been owned by somebody of the middling class, unable to afford a clock but wanting a personal way of telling the approximate time. An understanding of all branches of learning, including mathematics and the natural sciences, was fashionable for gentlemen by the mid 16thcentury, hence clocks were a status symbol but sundials, astrolabes and other scientific instruments were also desirable.

How it works

The inside of the pocket dial is engraved with the hours of the day and the outside with the months. A ring with a tiny hole in it runs around the middle of the dial. In order to tell the time, the hole in this sliding ring would be lined up with the month on the outside of the dial. The dial would then be held up to the light and the sun (if there was any) would shine through the hole and onto the hour.

This item is currently on display at Nash's House in the Shakespeare's Top Ten exhibition. 

To find out more about the Pocket Sundial, see the ‘Shakespeare’s World in 100 objects’ blog.

See this treasure

New Place & Nash's House