The Boreal Arrow 

Code BA19111601: Long-Neck Silver Compass by Gilbert and Wright, c. 1792

This is a nice Solid Silver compass made around 1792 by Gilbert & Wright of London. It is called a long-neck compass. William Gilbert worked with Gabriel Wright from 1792-1794, and again from 1802-1805. This compass was rather made during the first period based on the design of the ring and neck of compass. Compasses from early 1800s had rather a thicker neck and less decorated rings, whereas compasses made in the late 1700s had a thin neck and much more decorated ring as it is the case on this example.

The compass silver case is in excellent condition without any dings or dents. Usually long-neck compasses would have a silver base and another brass plate inside the case to support the locking mechanism and pivot for the dial. On this example, the compass has a copper base on which a layer of silver was applied. The central part of the case, the neck and ring are all solid silver.

The floating dial has a very nice pattern with typically nautical design. It is graduated every 2 degrees and numbered every 10 degrees, in four quadrants, starting from 0 to 90 from North to East, then decreasing from 90 to 0 from East to South. The same pattern is repeated between North and West and between West and South. It is clearly signed Gilbert & Wright, London. The dial has a jewelled copper cap at the center that rests on the pivot. Under the long neck there is a small lever that is used to activate the transit lock, which freezes the dial when the compass is not in use. This function is a must on quality compasses since it prevents unduewear to pivot and avoid breaking the jewel if the compass accidentally receives a shock. To freeze the dial the lever must be pushed. To release the dial, the lever must pulled (see pictures). The push-pull locking mechanism is very unusual and superior in quality to other long-neck compasses, which have a sliding lever instead, which causes much more friction when acted on.

The compass is in excellent working order and finding North very easily. The compass is very precise and can be used as a precision instrument. The compass still has its original slightly convex glass crystal, which is in excellent condition without any scratches or chips. The length from bottom to the bow is 65mm. The diameter of the case is 49mm. This is to be considered as extremely rare and has great value for the serious collector. To date, this is only the second example, I've seen with a push-pull locking mechanism.

Price: 965US$ (Lay-by Plan Available)

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