Victorian Brass Pocket Compass Attributed to Henry Browne & Son c1887 – SOLD
Pocket compass having stepped frosted gilt compass rose, being hand drawn with, cardinals, intercardinals and false points, the centre with typical star motiv. Silvered azimuth divided to ninety degree sectors. Bar needle on jewelled suspension with arrestor, all contained within a heavy brass hunter type case, the inner lid with makers mark “B&S” (Browne & Son, London) and inscribed “l’aiguille aimantée,” the outer lid with interesting engraved ‘forecaster’ based on a compass rose marked with cardinal points and simple meterological predictions based on changes of wind direction, the verso engraved “William Brown, Liverpool, 1887.” Case extension with pinned bow.
This is an extremely unusual and well-made pocket compass and we have been unable to trace a similar example. It is almost certainly the work of Henry Browne & Son, very respected manufacturers of compasses, sextants and other nautical instruments from the second half of the 19th century onwards – from the 20th century on, under the ‘Sestrel’ trademark. The inner lid however bears the French inscription “l’aiguille aimantée,” translated as “the magnetic needle.” This is probably a designation, i.e. the case is designed for a compass that must remain free of ferrous material. This would suggest the case is of French manufacture, having been imported and finished by Browne, then a fledgling instrument maker benefiting from the supply of ready made cases on which to base his work.
Based on date, type of instrument i.e. its obvious nautical cues, and its undoubted high quality, William Brown, recorded at that time as a master mariner of the area, would be a very likely owner. In any event this is a highly unusual and fascinating piece, probably not a one-off but certainly a rare pattern by a top maker.
The needle swings freely easily finding north, the transit lock working, some losses to azimuth, the case worn and marked. Good original condition overall, this pocket compass is most certainly a collector’s lot.
Dimensions: 2½” diameter x ¾” deep
Stock No: SI0496