Dividing the Needle Ring of a Colonial Compass

In the American colonies during the 18th century, the construction of the surveyor’s compass ranged from crude to sophisticated. Most New England instruments from this period were made primarily of wood and had printed papaer cards for the divisions of the degrees. This article does not address the wooden compasses with engraved paper cards, but rather the means by which the colonial instrument manufacturers divided the needle rings for their manufactured surveying compasses prior to the introduction of a Jesse Ramsden-inspired dividing engine.

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