I've obtained this instrument in 2011 through an auction web site. The instrument combines the functions of an equerre with those of a graphometer or Pseudo Holland Circle. Generally the instrument is referred to as a pantometer, but in period literature the instrument is sometimes also referred to as "Precision Equerre".1
Use and diffusion
The name "pantometer" originates from Greek where "pan" means "all" and "metron" means "measure", so this instrument can "measure all". The reason for the name is that in development it is the successor of the equerre which could only measure angles that were multiples of 45 degrees, while the pantometer can measure any angle. It is capable of doing so as it consists of two stacked cylinders, the upper one of which can rotate independently from the lower by turning a knob protruding from the base. Both cylinders have a set of visors (a narrow vertical slit on one side and a wider vertical one with a vertical horse hair on the other), the lower can be used to aim at a reference, while the upper serves to aim at the target to be measured. The upper cylinder usually has two sets of visors at perpendicular angles which were be used to stake out perpendicular lines. Generally a magnetic compass would be mounted on top of the instrument to facilitate orientation in respect to magnetic north.
According to Webster's Signature Database it was the Frenchman Michel Connette (Michel Coignet) who around 1626 "...invented a pantometer..." (although it may have been already in 1596).2 His early pantometer consisted of a proportional compass with a magnetic compass attached to one of the legs. The instrument was mounted on a tripod like a modern pantometer. The invention is also attributed to the German Jezuit Athanasius Kircher in 1631 and described it in his Ars Magnesia (1631) and Magnes sive de arte magnetica (1641).1 Kircher's instrument was named a 'Pantometrum', but was made to measure the "...length, breadth, heights, depths, areas, of both earthly and heavenly bodies..." and therefore was another type of instrument. Kircher's pantometrum prima forma was more like what we now know as a Boussole Tranche Montagne. In 1822 a new pantometer was published upon in Italy.6 It was invented by Francesco Taccani and constructed by Pasquale Cittelli, the maker of an early variation on the pantometer in the collection. It was a combination of a plane table alidade with a distance measuring device similar to the ones found on Sanguet type of tachymeters.
The final form of the instrument - two stacked cylinders - was most probably introduced by a mr. Fouquier, "...officier du génie, ancien élève de l'École polytechnique, reconnu pour l'auteur de cet instrument." (...engineering officer, a former pupil of the Polytechnic School, known for the copyright of this instrument.), in or shortly before 1823 (see figure 2).3 Fouquier's instrument was called a cylindrical equerre and did not yet have a compass on top and horse hairs in the visors (although per set of visors one of them was wide enough to contain one).3 The idea of adding a compass on top and a horse hair into this wider visor, was claimed by a mr. Benoit, a member of the Société d'encouragement pour l'industrie nationale (Society for the Encouragement of National Industry, it was in their bulletin where Fouquier's instrument was published).3 Benoit proposed to replace Fouquier's instrument by his improved version and name it pantomètre.3 In an even further refined form the pantometer was equipped with a telescope and named Pantometre à Lunette.
Given the large numbers found on French auction sites indicate that the instrument was quite popular in France, making a French origin plausible.1 Other European countries saw the instrument in use as well.1 The instrument can be found in period literature of most European countries up to the 1960s. Although the instrument (and its box) in my collection indicate an European - even French - origin, the instrument has spent a significant part of its life in Argentina and perhaps Bolivia as on the box it reads "Mina Argentina, Villazon", while the instrument is signed "Tito Meucci & Cia, Buenos Aires".
Tito Meucci was a Merchant, born in Montemagno (Pisa, Italy) in 1860. By the end of the 19th century Tito took over Ruggero Bossi & Cia in Buenos Aires, a modest house established by Ruggero Bossi that traded in navigational instruments, general hardware items, works of art, etc. (see figure 3).4 One of the employees was his eight year younger brother Hector.4 After the takeover the firm continued its trade as "Tito Meucci y Cia". Tito enjoyed a high position in commercial Buenos Aires, was treasurer of the first committee of the Italian company Segno Tiro, one of the founders and board member of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Buenos Aires and head of various public Italian institutions.4,5
Tito Meucci was a reseller, not an instrument maker, but had his name engraved on the instruments he sold (see figure 7). A good example of this is a surveying level by Troughton & Simms from the same period. It bears both names on opposite sides of the instrument.
Argentina or Bolivia?
Not only is the instrument engraved with Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires, it also bears evidence of a working life in Argentina. The lid is decorated with some handwritten text (see figure 6), the first line of which is only partially legible and reads something like "U[...] C dol[...]" (the owners name?), while the second clearly reads "Mina Argentina", followed by "Villazon" on the third. Villazon could well be a reference to the border town at the southern border of Bolivia with Argentina, which has mining activities in the vicinity. Sadly enough it is unknown how the instrument ended up in the northern Provence of Friesland here in the Netherlands, where the previous owner bought it.
The instrument came in its original box (see figure 4). The stacked cylinders measure 107mm in total height and 80mm in diameter. The lower cylinder (39mm in height) has an engraved scale and one set of visors, while the upper has an engraved vernier and two sets of visors at perpendicular angles to each other. By turning a knob that protrudes from the base one can rotate the upper cylinder independently from the lower. The vernier then allows to read (or set out) the angle measured (or to be staked out) with a resolution of 2 arc minutes (see figure 11).
The instrument has a hollow and tapered handle (20.5mm diameter at the opening and 60mm deep) that allows it to be used from a staff or tripod like most similar period instruments (see figure 8). A compass on top of the instrument with a 60mm needle allows to orient the instrument in reference to magnetic north. The cardinal points of the compass are marked "N", "E", "S" and "O" (see figure 7), which could either be French (nord, est, sud, ouest), Spanish (norte, este, sur, oeste) or Italian (nord, est, sud, ovest). The needle of the compass can be clamped using a small knob on the side of the compass.
: N. de Hilster, 'Pantometer: niet zo vreemd', in: De Hollandse Cirkel, Jaargang 11, nr. 4, (2009), pp.151-153.
: Bulletin de la Société d'encouragement pour l'industrie nationale, Volume 11, (Paris: 1823), pp.150-152. Many thanks to Michel Morizet for pointing me to this work.
: Giornale di Agricoltura, Arti e Commercio, Ossia Raccolta, Tomo Terzo, (Milano, 1822), p.35. Scroll up one page for an image of the instrument. For an example made by Cittelli, see I16 on Strumenti di Fisica nel Museo x la Storia dell'Università.
If you have any questions and/or remarks please let me know.
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Equerre 19th century Pantometer? 20th century Pantometer Pantometre à Lunette 17th c. Surveyor's Cross Pseudo Holland Circle Graphometer