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- L -



Kristen LARSEN was a Danish inventor who filed a patent in 1948 describing a new solution in order to take into account the deviation of the needle. He proposed to place a single magnet (no. 9 on the drawing) vertically instead of several on each side of the needle (click on the image at r. to read the first lines and see the figures - full copy available).


J. B. Le Roy was an instrument maker (octants, telescopes, barometers) who worked from 15 Mulcaster Street, St. Helier, Jersey - about 100 metres from, and in sight of the local main harbour - in the first half of the 19th century. 

This compass has a turned wood bowl and press-on lid. The bowl interior is painted white, with a black lubber line. The exterior is painted black with decorative lateral lines.  It has a hand drawn, 64 point maritime card dial with a brass cap. It is balanced underneath (click on link for pic.) with sealing wax. The dial is signed around the perimeter of the central brass cap "J. B. LE ROY - 15 MULCASTER ST - ST. HELIER'S - JERSEY". The North Fleur de Lys marker has gold leaf covering the central plume, and beneath can be seen the compass and dividers symbol of Freemasonry. The East marker is decorated (see Miscellaneous/Cardinal points).

Pictures courtesy
(Click on images for enlarged views)

Technical Data
- Dia. (overal with lid): 6-3/64" (155  mm)
- Card dia.: 4.133" (105 mm)
- Height:
. open: 3 - 21/28"
. closed: 3 -51/64" (95 mm)
- Weight: 528 gr

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The LIONEL Corporation was founded in 1900 by Joshua Lionel Cowen in New York. The company built toy trains. The compasses shown below were a contribution to the war effort and were probaly built under free provisional license.

Technical Data
Mark 1, 1942

- Dia.of bowl: 7 ¾ " (195 mm)
- Dia of card: 5 ¼ " (134mm)

Picture courtesy
(Click on images for enlarged views)

Technical Data
Mark 2. 1943

- Dia. 7  ¾ " (195 mm)

Picture courtesy

Liquid-damped compass

According to Hitchins and May in From Lodestone to Gyro-Compass (2nd edn 1955, p. 84-5), the first suggestion of a liquid-damped compass came from a German called Ingen Housz in 1779. The earliest example they found of one actually being tried was a liquid compass made by Gabriel Wright of London for Capt. Sir William Chaloner Burnaby in 1781. The earliest patent known was taken out by a watchmaker, Francis Crow of Faversham in Kent, in 1813 (no. 3644), Source: Gloria Clifton, RGM. See also the French patent of SCHMIDT & LOYAU.


W. LUDOLPH GmbH & Co. KG (Bremerhaven) is a German company manufacturing nautical and aeronautical compasses (see also this latter category and Divers Compasses). More information HERE. Examples of older compasses and sighting devices below:

Early item (mid 19th c.)

Pictures F. Schröder 
German imitation of a Thomson Lord Kelvin compass type where the magnet are not hanged on strings but attached to a bar

Early item (late 19th c.)

Replica of an early model

Picture courtesy Franz Rothbrust
(Click on images for enlarged views)
Sighting device (bearing diopter). The other tube's end has a pinhole rear sight.

  Right: detail view

Picture courtesy Ebay seller 3-2-1meins-deins
Cabin-roof mounted compass with mirror and lighting.
Installed in fishing and official boats.

Technical Data
- Serial no.: 37326 (built August 1970)
- Diameter
. bowl alone: 205 mm
. with gimbal: 245 mm
. with feet: 330 mm
- Height (with feet): 180 mm
- Materials
. Bowl, gimbal and rings: brass
. Float: Brass, silver coated.
. Card: mica

Compass with hemispherical dome called Kugelkompass (c1944) which was installed on the common binnacle system designed by the German Navy during WWII.

Pictures and description courtesy Archives of the German maritime ministry (Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrologie, BSH)


LYTH Instrumentfabriks  A.B. (Aktie Bolaget) is a Swedish company founded in 1861 by Georg Wilhelm Lyth (see their website:, click in dropdown menu on the item OM OSS = about us). See also other instruments in the section Marching Compasses.

Pictures courtesy Y. Weemaels
Compass with binnacle and semi-circular prism. Two oil lamp housings are located on either side.

The compass is marked P. W. LYTH who was probably the founder's son.

Made probably c.1880.

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- M -


G. B. Magnaghi (picture) was an Italian captain who designed an entirely regulated compass system with two reels made of brass on which was wound iron wire instead of Thomson's (Kelvin's) spheres. (Source: Compass, Alan Gurner)
Pic. at right by courtesy of Istituto Idrografico della Marina  

 Magnetometer for Compass Compensation

Description: Nautical instrument used for measuring the influence of metallic masses on board of ships in order to perform compass compensation (swinging). We display here a system designed by C. Bamberg described in the catalogue Nautik XIX together with the various parts like the scale for measuring the vertical forces - in German Vertikalkraftwage. Visit also the website Marine Survey & Compass Adjustment.

Pictures by courtesy of the German Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH, link to the official website)

A part of the accessories

The scale for measuring the vertical forces
ref. M.70.

Views in the Bamberg catalogue
 Nautik XIX, figs. 1-3

The scope of the accessoires

(Click on images for enlarged views and full description)

The scale for measuring the  vertical forces
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Maritime Museums

Views of compasses displayed in some maritime museums including their description for some of them. You are kindly invited to send pictures of individual compasses (antique if possible) or of the display rooms of the museums you visited in any part of the world.
See also the comprehensive list of maritime museums in Wikipedia

Musée de la Marine, Paris, France
(descr. of the instrument HERE)

- Musée National de la Marine (Toulon, Fr.)
- Musée de la Marine de Brest, Fr.

Musée de la Bourse,
Marseille, France
(no longer exists)
Cities located in Germany:

- Maritime museums' websites of
WilhelmshafenHamburg, Kiel, Wismar (exhibit: see Hechelmann, Museum "unter der Stadtverwaltung")
- Berlin: Technikmuseum

National Maritime Museum London
Maritime Museum Liverpool

Museu de Marinha, Lisbon, Portugal (descr. of the instrument HERE)
National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam

Norsk Maritime Museum in Oslo
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D. (Duncan) McGregor & Co. Ltd (successor of D. McGregor) were Scottish chronometer makers to the Admiralty (Glasgow, Greenock, Liverpool) throughout the 19th C. Makers of navigational instruments and marine barometers. See Glasgow Post Office Directory 1888-1889.  They filed (probably in 1876) a patent for a system aiming at verifying the accuracy of ships compasses. The few known items are all different (depending on the clients wishes ?) and in National Maritime Museums (Holland and Norway). They are sometimes labelled "D. Mc. Gregor & Co. Patentees & Manufacturers. Dial protected by patent 1397, Glasgow Greenock, Liverpool, London". One known later item bears no patent no. but the name of the famous Dutch compass and maps maker L. J. HARRI who probably acted as a retailer.

Picture at right : Trade card mentioning the Compass Verifier    

User instruction: To calculate magnetic north, the latitude and magnetic declination (difference between true and magnetic north) of the current location, as well as whether the time of day is before or after noon, are entered into the Verifier. A further adjustment is then made by sighting the sun to compute magnetic north. The ship's compasses are then compared to magnetic north as indicated by the Verifier, and adjusted accordingly.
Original description of the Compass Verifier HERE.
- 1868: Silver medal international Maritime exhibition at le Havre (France), for binnacles and liquid compasses. The Polar anti-vibration compass, and standard compass sold to 11 commercial shipping lines and the Argentine navy. Also dry card compasses of standard pattern. Three compass patents are known: 1875, 1880, 1893.
- 1876: Agents for Thomson compasses.  

Thomson-type card
(Click to view dial)

Pictures by Diarios San Cayetano
(Click on images for enlarged views)
Technical Data
- Dim. (dia. x height): 280 x 170mm (11" x  6.69")
- Weight: 9.5 kg (21 lbs)
Markings on the card:
- Standard Compass
- Serial No.: 3142
- Latest improved “Illuminated”.
The lower surface is made of glass.
Trade card ca.1865

Compass Verifier,
Patent no. 1397, enameled dials


Pictures by courtesy of the Friends of the Cerberus
Version without patent no.
silver-coated dials

Front view with tilt scale

Pictures by courtesy of
C. McGowan & R. Hargreaves

Technical Data
Dia.: 260 mm ; Height: 430 mm
Markings: D. Mc. Gregor & Co. Patentees & Manufacturers. Dial protected by patent 1397, Glasgow Greenock, Liverpool, London. Compass Verifier.
On later instruments: also L. J. HARRI (Amsterdam).


Small ships compass made by Meridian. 
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Antoine Marius Camille MOREL filed together with KRAUSS several patents for aircraft and navy compasses.
Example at r. : Fig. out of patent no. FR 544.937      


Former French company (more information HERE). See also the categories Survey & Artillery compasses, Marching compasses and Pocket compasses.

Model designation: Opticompas SRPI - MORIN (France). Late 20th century.
Bearing compass. Sighting is made from the side through a prism. The capsule is protected by a soft rubber envelope with sharp angles representing the winds. By removing a white plastic protection disk placed under the box, one can look at a map through the transparent capsule and read the angle values of a second dial (90° offset) visible from above by means of a magnifying glass.

Model: Opticompas
Compare with VION's model 'MINI' (survey & artillery)

(Click on images for enlarged views)

Technical Data
- Dimensions: 90 x 90 x 40 mm.
- Weight: 170 g (210 g with protection box).
- Softrubber protection and plastic transport casing 

MSP (МСП en russe)

Floating cards based on the design patented by William Thomson. Two models are known, produced at different times or by different makers. They were probably made by an unknown maker located in Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire. They differ in several aspects.
This museum owns one with markings in Russian (see table below, first row), dated 1951 most probably a later user. It is stored in a container made of reddish lackered white wood (birch?). Two metallic plates are attached to the container's lid and base on which the letters KMM and BEC (pronounced 'viess' = weight) can be seen at first sight. A maker's (or user's?) logo is composed of the cyrillic letter Щ (shch) within a circle with waves behind. Above it are the letters МСП (MSP). A check report on the magnetism (link to pic) is inclosed in the box: the company name MSP is partly handwritten in the head, in replacement of the initials of a former company called BMC (VMS).
The other card is the property of the Federal Maritime and Hydrography Agency (BSH) in Hamburg, Germany.  It is probably older (divisions in quadrants) and stored in a mahogany box. There are no external markings except several figures painted on the lid and the front side. However, the paper card bears abbreviations in Russian language below the north cardinal: Г.Г. Упр. (G.G. Upr. = Office for survey and geography?) and on the box' underside is a hand-written address:  E. Stenberg / Professor / Geodetical Institution / Mariagatan 3, Helsingfors (name of Helsinki in Swedish).

The six magnets are attached differently in each card to an aluminium frame.
The cardinals are in German which was common in the Russian empire and in the Soviet Union until it was decided to use English cardinals worldwide.

Clck on images for enlarged views

View from below
Technical Data:
Storage container: 165 x 165 x 40 mm, reddish lackered birch (?)
Floating card : Ø 130 mm,  weight (BEC in Russian) 5,5 g
Divisions: 360°, cardinal points in German
Magnets (6 bars) in an aluminium circular framee
Markings on container lid (see image at right): KMM = Initials of Russian words maybe standing for Compass, Magnetic, Maritime.
Other markings: see description above

Pictures by courtesy of BSH

View from below
Technical Data:
Storage container: 169 x 169 x 40 mm, mahogany
Floating card: Ø  130 mm,  weight 16 g
Divisions: 4 quadrants, Cardinal points in German
Magnets (6 bars) and aluminium frame featuring a tensioning device for the magnets with two screws
Markings on the box front side: MA.20.
Markings on the lid: I.L. 399 and 922
Markings in Russian on the floating card: Г.Г. Упр. (G.G. Upr. = office for survey and geography?)

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- N -


Former German manufacture of maritine navigation equipment.  Hersteller von Marineausrüstung. Die Firma wurde 1936 als Nachfolger von SEIK gegründet und 1941 von ASKANIA übernommen.

Nr. 156 - Mit Prisma
(Foto ...)

Nr. 261 - Teilung: Nur 360°
(Foto Lot-tissimo)

Nr. 1854 - Teilung: Strich und 360°
(Foto E. Shalev - facebook: RestorEitan)
Gesamt-Durchm.:  170 mm
Höhe:  90  mm
Durchm. Kompassrose: 100 mm

Bild rechts: Rose der Nachfolgefirma ASKANIA


British manufacturer (more information HERE). N&Z produced ship equipment. The pocket compasses signed N&Z displayed on this website were generally made by other manufacturers like Barker or Steward. The case and telescopic gimbals were much propably supplied by Barker. These models feature telescopic gimbals, you pull it out to activate the gimbals (see also Pocket compasses / Negretti & Zambra).
- The first one was manufactured by F. Barker & Son and branded by Negretti & Zambra. It appears in the Barker Trade Catalogues of the period.
- The second one is signed on the dial centre NEGRETTI & ZAMBRA - LONDON and marked with N&Z's logo on the clamping ring. Brass case covered in pigskin leather with leather hinge. 
All pictures courtesy TML
Dry card gimballed compass

Pictures TML - Click for enlarged views
Box: Morocco leather, lid lined with purple silk, base lined with blue velvet.  Dia.: 4 in. / 99mm

Dial: Paper on aluminium disk with jewelled brass cap, Singer's Patent, not numbered, dating it exactly to 1868 or 1869.

Technical Data
Dia. (dial): 58mm
Dia. (excl. hanging ring): 88.5mm
Height (closed): 50mm
Weight (in case): 492g

gimballed compass

Floating card: Contoured aluminium disk with jewelled cap and two magnetic needle. Dia. 51mm

Technical Data
Case diameter 95mm
Case depth closed 43mm
Weight: 658g
Manufactured c.1900 - 1920
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- O -


NV Ltd OBSERVATOR was a Dutch manufacturer located in Rotterdam, created in 1924. The electronics activities were bought by Kelvin Hughes in 1996 (read in WIKIPEDIA: John Lilley & Gillie). The mechanical compass activities remained for some years in Rotterdam. The name appears on a shop in Rotterdam (Van der Takstraat 218, click on the pic at right for a view of the shop) which sells among other nautical gear the L.J. HARRI marine charts.  See also marching compass.

Detailled view of the logo

Pictures courtesy www.megaherz-org
Technical Data
The cardinals are in Dutch: Z = Zuid (south)
Made in the 1920s/30s

ORDZHONIKIDZE (Oрджоникидзе in Russian)

Name of a Russian manufacturer who produced a bearing compass called PK (ПК in Russian) in the user instructions. This was the name of the politician Sergo Ordzhonikidze (Cергo Oрджоникидзе). See more information in Wikipedia.
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- P -


Former German manufacturer located in Berlin (read full profile in Aircraft Compasses / PATIN).
The compass displayed at right is a part of a group of Master and Slave compasses called in German Mutter and Tochter (follow link for pic) i.e. Mother and Daughter ! Their grey-green paint seem to be the typical Kriegsmarine's colour. All the other PATIN compasses known were made for aircraft (Junkers 52) and painted black. Contrary to the instrumentsissued to the units the fields on the labels here are void: there are no supply no. (Anforderz.) and Identifier (Gerät Nr.). Only the abbreviated designations were attributed: PTK16 and PKM17 for Patin Kompass Tochter / Mutter). We consider that these instruments never were commissioned and installed on any vessel. They can have been a project maybe for U-Boats at the end of WWII when other manufacturers (like C. PLATH, below) were already destroyed by allied bombing. The sole Navy marking on a disc bar is W1042M. Dim.: dia. of casing: 210mm, dia. of compass disc: 140mm
At r.: Slave compass face (all pictures by courtesy of O. Jordan /  

Pattern Numbers (as registered by the British Admiralty)

The oldest pattern known is the Pattern 20 by DENT & Co. The Pattern One (1840) was called Standard. Pattern 24 dates from around 1890/1900.  It is the first model of liquid compass to be officially adopted as a service compass by the Royal Navy. It was first introduced on the early turbine torpedo boats of the time. The Pattern 24 is significant because it broke the effective monopoly that the Kelvin dry card compass had held for many years previously. The last pattern listed we know of (160110, link to pic) is a gyrocompass. For aircraft compass patterns click HERE.

Picture at right by courtesy of the Royal Museums Greenwich. This 9-page-list comprises all ships and aircraft compass patterns registered by the British Admiralty since 1840 (Pattern One Standard Compass) until the mid 20th century i.e. WWII. These instruments were formerly kept at the Admiralty Compass Observatory (ACO). This is a view of page 2 (Patt. 24, s. below) and page 7 comprising aircraft compasses designed by capt. Creagh-Osborne during WWI (patt. 250-261).

NOTE: Your help is needed. Up to now, we could not find a complete list of all patterns with technical description, designer, manufacturer, production date etc. Any suggestion as to where it could be consulted (book, library, museum etc.) would be greatly apppreciated.

(If not otherwise stated all pictures by courtesy of Nick Godridge - Click for enlarged views)

Pattern One Standard (1840)
Picture courtesy National Maritime Museum published in
Steady as she Goes by A.E. Fanning, 1986

Early designs by DENT and Harris
(Copyright: same as pic. at left)
Boat compass (c1870)


 Technical Data
- Diameter: ... mm
- Overall dim.: ... mm

Production: probably 1870

Pattern 20 - Portable Binnacle (1875)

The compass

Pictures by courtesy of J. Clarke

 Technical Data of the compass
- Diameter: ... mm
- Overall dim.: ... mm

Note: Dent submitted a compass that proved the best and was introduced in 1872 as Pattern 20 (see pic at right). It was given a reduced-diameter card in 1907 (changing its Pattern to 182 in 1907, see below).

Link to a view of the rear face with broad arrow engraved N° 1875
Pattern 24
Torpedo Boat compass

Patt. 25: graduated to quarter-points only
(source: book 'Steady as she goes').
Instructions inside
the transit case's lid

 Technical Data
- Dia.: ... mm
- Overall dim.: .... mm
At right: Chetwynd's patent 25,965 (1906)
Below: The transit case

Patt. 27P and  29P for submarines

Technical Data
- Dia. of bowl: 175 mm
- Dia. of compass disc.: 80 mm
- Height: 80 mm
- Divisions: Four quadrants and 360 deg on each face
View from below. The black fitting with a rectangular cut-out may have hold a prism. Picture and functional description of the system 27P HERE.

Pictures courtesy J. Hughes
Compass featuring a Royal Navy's Naval Crown below the fleur-de-lis facing North
The Naval Crown consists of a circlet surmounted by sterns of men o' war each with three poop lanterns and of two square sails spread on a mast, the ships and sails being positioned alternately. The colours of the jewels on the Naval Crown are as follows: centre stone is a ruby, flanked by two emeralds and flanked in turn by two sapphires on either edge. Between each stone is a pair of white pearls. Source: Royal Navy Research Archive
Pattern 153

Compass for submarines, 5" verge
Pattern 158

Compass, Projector type (Patt. 159 : binnacle for patt. 158)
Pattern 182 (former Patt. 20)

Instructions behind the door

Technical Data
- Diameter of bowl: 5 18"
- Diameter of card: 4 ½"
- Base: 8 ¾"
- Height: 15" with handle raised

The Pattern 182 is a boat compass. It predates the 24, but not in this form, which has the Chetwynd modified smaller diameter card (see Patt. 20 above).
Date: 1907

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Pattern 183

(Pictures by courtesy of renebrocante) 

 Technical Data
- Diameter: 8"  (200mm)
- Height: c.7"  (180mm)

Pattern 184

(Pictures by courtesy of J. S. Andersen)

 Technical Data
- Dia.: 8"  (  mm)
- Height: c. 7"  (   mm)

This compass was installed on the British submarine HMS E 50 (link to Wikipedia).
Image at left: The compass before restoration in the Sea War Museum Jutland in Thyborøn, Denmark

Royal Navy Pattern 0188A
featuring a fleur de lys and a crown

Picture by courtesy of J. Prior
Pattern 189 "Faithful Freddie":  In 1921, the famous author P.G. WOODHOUSE wrote a humorous book called JILL THE WRECKLESS. One of the characters in the book was called Freddie Rooke and he was one who always guided his friends to a successful end. British naval officers named their compass after him (courtesy of G. Dykes, RN-Ret). In reality is 189 the patt. no. of the binnacle.. The compass' patt. no. is 188.
Royal Navy Pattern 195A

Picture courtesy Lanjac

Pattern 223 - N° 650 H
Breadth: 190mm / 8" - no mfr. name
Compass for submersible Sleeping Beauty
Picture by courtesy of P. F. Whitehead
(Click on images for enlarged views)

Pattern 1910
(not included in the list above)

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The compass rose and the aiming mechanism

Side view
(Pictures courtesy V. Delage)

The manufacturer Aeronautical & General Instruments Ltd. (AGI) still exists.
Pattern 3613
Artillery compas (1939)
Dia. rose: 7" / 180 mm
Dia. overall.: 14" / 365 mm

Function and user instruction unknown.
Thank you for helping.

Detail view of the mirrorred
compass rose.

The binnacle
(Pictures courtesy V. Delage)

The serial no. with the ending H for Hughes
Pattern 920 - Hughes COASTER

The compass opposite face bears the indication Patt. 921 and Patt. 922 (s. pic. at left) refers only to the binnacle. The supplier of the module Patt. 932 'Terminal Box' was L.S.E.

For more details see the list of components of the entire system.

Lighting from the side with oil lamp

(Pictures courtesy J.O. Dunoon)
Pattern 01151A
Compass for Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB)
The disc is graduated into quadrants which is very unusual if not unique on a ship's compass.

Manufacturer: the suffix KS behind the S/N: may stand for Kelvin and a partner (S...?).
On the type featuring an electrical lighting from below (link to pic), the S/N ends with the letter H for Hughes.

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In 1890 Lieutenant Joseph Peichl of the Austrian Navy proposed a transmitting magnetic compass (TMC) system that required fewer wires than F. Jenkin's design. A contact on the compass card remained between two contacts in the bowl, and when it touched either energized a follow-up motor, which drove round the bowl until the contacts were again parted. While the bowl was rotating two wires were supplied with current alternately and, energizing two electro-magnets in turn, operated a repeater by a pawl-and-ratchet arrangement.
Source: From Lodestone to Gyro-Compass (see menue Miscell. / History & Bibliography)


A pelorus is not a compass but an instrument used to measure a bearing at see relative to the ship's axis. Read a comprehensive description in Wikipedia and see another example in the article about ASKANIA.

Below: Ancient peloruses and user instruction. For other sighting aids go to C. PLATH (below)
At right: pelorus for night and day sighting. German Navy (Kriegsmarine), WWII    

Pocket pelorus made by KELVIN.
User instruction (copies available)
Date: 1921; Dim.: 170 x 105mm)

User instructions for a small cardboard pelorus made by Texaco
Dim. folded: 5½ x  5½mm
Compass dia.: 4 in.

Sighting with the pocket peloruses
Navy pelorus made by LONGINES-WITNAUER


The sight vanes support covers a transparent plastic bar that conducts the light emitted by the lamp and discreetly illuminate the divisions and cardinals in complete darkness (s. pic. at left. Click on image for detail view)
Technical Data
Dia.:  4 ½ in / 113mm
Production year: 1943

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C. F. Petersen was a compass maker located in Sankt-Pauli (Hamburg, Germany). An early compass (late 18th c. - link to pic.) is described in A. Schück's booklet on old compasses kept in Hamburg's state collections (1910, see Miscell. / History & Bibliogr.).

Reverse of the disc made of cut-out commercial letters. The magnetic bars are wrapped in paper and glued on both sides of the center of gravity. the final balancing is achieved by means of wax drops.

The North symbol is a fleur de lys and the east cardinal (O for Ost) is also decorated (see MISCELL. / Cardinal points)

Pictures courtesy A. Brandenburg
Technical Data
Dia.: ... mm
Material: cup and cylinder made of wood 
Date: mid 19th c.

PK (ПК in Russian)

Bearing compass produced by a Russian factory named after the politician Sergo Ordzhonikidze (Cергo Oрджоникидзе).

Pictures by courtesy of malorny

Technical Data
Dimensions ( click HERE for a pic )
Ø : 95 mm
Height: 173 mm
Date of manufatcure : 1937
NOTE: the abbreviation PK (ПК in Russian) means bearing compass, пеленг компас in Russian.
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French company created in 1963 (more details on this company's website

The compass in its box
Model ..xy (1950's ?)
The North mark looks like a simplified fleur-de-lis (three diamonds) on top of an arrow.
Technical Data
Diam.: ca. 150 mm

Pictures courtesy Jaypee

(Photo courtesy Jaypee -
click on pictures for enlarged views)

Exploded view of a CONTEST compass
Graphic courtesy PLASTIMO
Technical Data
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C. PLATH was a German manufacturer. Activities had begun in 1837 in a repair shop and it was officially created in 1862 by Carl Christian Plath (b. 24.12.1825 - d. 19.6.1910). His son Theodor took over in 1908 (short history on this website). It was located in Hamburg near the harbour in a street called Stubbenhuk 25 (link to pic., note the house marked Kompasshaus destroyed during WWII). Products are still being sold under this label but the company's owners changed several times since 1962 (read also: Cassens & Plath). From 1992 on, the compasses were manufactured by Hein & Oetting. One of their most famous product, the sextant, was used as the company's logo, a seaman sighting ('shooting') a star. The original logo represented the Earth surrounded by rays with the star shooter standing on it.

Picture at left: Example of a patent filed in 1887 for a light-weight paper compass rose with springs to compensate variations due to dampness changes (photocopies available - Click on the images for enlarged views)
Picture at right: The company's logo featuring a sun-shooter (cover of the booklet printed in 1962 for the company's 100th anniversary).

C. PLATH also produced many ships compasses but also small standard artillery compasses type like our Voigtländer signed example (engraved M.W.B. for Minen-Werfer-Bataillon) as well as various compass-related tools like peloruses and other bearing measuring aids. In the late 19th c., PLATH also developed several light-weight compass roses with hanging magnets (drawing out of the book Der Kompass, Schück, 1911) based on Thomson Lord Kelvin's design. He tried in vain to have it also recommended like his competitor Hechelmann's version in the standard book on compasses of the Deutsche Seewarte, the department of the Admiralty of the German Imperial Navy in charge of compasses.

Model from the early 20th c featuring 4 bar magnets.
Picture courtesy D. Giesler

(Click on the images for enlarged views)

Dome compass - detail view of markings HERE
C. Plath filed several patents, two of which are worth being memtionend here:
No. 42,861 published in 1887 describes the stiffening of compass roses made of paper or linen by attaching springs around the rim.
No. 705,549 (1937/1941) describes an improvement of the damping in liquid.
Links to pics.

For more details go to Kriegsmarine
Binnacle from a WWII Kriegsmarine ship

(Click on the images for enlarged views)
Inside the binnacle: the K  magnet and fittings for B and C magnets (see "Compensation")

(Pictures by courtesy of Leonardo Signirole)

Bearing diopter with two sliding devices on the vanes: one black mirror and two tiny dark lenses.
Azimuth sight: Bearing measuring device with rotating prism (top right), a magnifying lens in a tube and a sighting needle to read the angle value off the compass. The two swivelling dark lenses (top left) are half-circle-shaped.
Note: the sighting aid (rod) is not in place (compare with drawing at r.)
Pic. r.: Sir Wm. Thomson: Device to take bearings at stars, esp. the sun (Handb. d. naut. Instr. d. Kaiserl. Admiralität, Berlin, quoted in Der Kompass by Schücker)

Below: usage of the prism displayed at left
Step 1 (left): rotating the instrument by hand
Step 2 (right): reading the value off the compass card

(Click on the images for enlarged views)

(compare to Ludolph)

- Dia.: 110 mm

(Pictures by courtesy of maxlilirose)
Model engraved  



Picture by courtesy of M. McElyea

Apparently, GEOMAR was a type designation.
These items were made by UNILUX in Madrid.
The company still exists:

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- R -


RIJEKA (link to pic) is the name of two compasses (types K 165 and K 120 RM) utilized in the Yugoslavian Navy. They are described in the 1964 manual MAGNETSKI KOMPAS (1964).


Edward Samuel Ritchie (1814-1895) was a U.S. inventor and Manufacturer. History: see Wikipedia. Ritchie's first patents were no. 36,422 (published in 1862) and no. 38,126 (published in 1863). The first was a fluid-damped compass system similar to Francis Crow's 1813 design (GB pat. no. 3,644). Ironically, the U.S. patent no. is almost identical to Crow's one, if you add the last two digits (2 + 2 = 4)!
The second one described a compass in which the magnets were located in a cross-shaped float with an expansion chamber located under the main bowl. This was a means to prevent corrosion.

Detail view (all the  patent's figures HERE)
Click on image for enlarged view

Technical Data
A - Bowl
B - Glass plates
C - Pivot
D - Compass card
E - Air-tight vessel
G - Magnets
H - Conic frustrum
I   - Elevator
a - Cap
y - Flange
z - Screw
Compass cards signed RITCHIE BOSTON
At l.: Pic. courtesy oaty1   -   At r.: drwg. in Der Kompass (Schück, 1911)

Click on the image of a view of all the patent's figures.
Technical Data
A - Bowl
B - Magnet case and float
c -  Divisional ring
C - Expansion chamber
d - Pivot
E - Radial plates
M - Magnet
Two versions of Ritchie's second compass type:

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ROUX, Joseph

Former compass maker located in Marseilles already active during the 18th C. (note: the "x" is to be pronounced).
In the 19th C., his instruments were signed Joseph ROUX, hydrographe sur le port, à la boussole couronnée.

Picture courtesy Jaypee - Musée de la Marine, Marseille

Detail view
(Click on images for enlarged views)
Technical Data
Built 1743
- Divisions : quadrants and rhumbs - see menue Miscell. /  CARDINALS
Box and  gimbal
Pictures courtesy C. Davis 

(Click on images for enlarged views)
Technical Data
Gimballed compass, no , production date, probably late XVIIIth or early XIXth c.
- Divisions : four quadrants, no rhumbs or wind names
- Dimensions of box: 11 in / 275 mm / side
- Disc dia.: c. 6 in / 150 mm
The same inscription as above "Fait par Joseph ROUX sur le port à Marseille" is partly covered by a label of a British maker "SMITH, Pool Lane LIVERPOOL" (link to pic.). This instrument was probably on-board a French ship captured by the Royal Navy and re-used.
SMITH was a maker the widow of whom continued the business (check the story here :

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- S -


Japanese company called Nichigosan and located in Tokyo (see this company's official website).
Its products are also sold by CARAC Co. Ltd.


Heinrich Schmidt and F. Loyau were French civil engineers, living in Paris, 63 rue Ste Avoye. They were granted on 31st Dec. 1830 a patent (no. 4623) for a new transparent compass with a dead beat rose "nouvelle boussole diaphane à rosette morte". It consisted of a cylindrical casing closed at each end by a a glass disc and containing a liquid (100% alcohol) to slow down the rose's oscillations. The rose was made of enamelled glass.

(Click on the images for enlarged views)
Pictures © Archives INPI

Head of p. 1 - The kingdom's symbol was crossed out after France became a Republic.
Description (excerpt)


Eugen A. SCKELL was a German company located in Stettin, now Szczecin in Poland. Sckell patented a compass rose design in 1894 (no. 79894 - link to patent fig.). Like Duchemin's and Kaiser's, it was made of several curved magnets assembled to a circle. This one though was attached to the centre cap with chains.
Later produced compasses received after WWII cards made by the East-German state-owned company (VEB) GRW located in Teltow.
Fig. at r.: Views of Sckell's rose in Schück's book DER KOMPASS (1911).

Click on the images for enlarged views

Technical Data
Container dimensions: 20 x 20 x 20 cm


Sestrel is the Trade Mark brand of Henry Browne & Son who were important British compass makers. This company was sold to John Lilley & Gillie Ltd* and SIRS Navigation (both in UK) in 1993.  HENRY BROWNE & SON, Ltd was established in (18..?) in Barking and London. They were English instrument makers that had been making compasses, ships clocks, inclinometers, sextants and chandlery items for over 140 years. Their “Dead Beat“ compass design is well dampened and serves to reduce oscillations. It is reported that this design compass was fitted to many Allied ships during WW II. Over the more recent years, there has been a consolidation of British instrument makers and the firm of Henry Browne & Son has changed hands a number of times. At last count, it became part of Lilley & Gillie for what may be the second time.
Another famous SESTREL product is their landing compass (example: see Aeronautical compasses / Air Ministry, type 06). A compass type was made especially for airships (see Aero. comp. / Sestrel).
* Read the company's story in Wikipedia.

Click on the images for enlarged views

Pictures by courtesy of S. Pauliniy
Example of an overhead (tell-tale) compass
Technical Data

- Dia. bowl: 135 mm
- Dia. disc: 100 mm
- Length of board: 300 mm
Maker's label found on many compasses


Prismatic compass 360° made in England 1972

(Click on the image to see the button holes at the underside)
The device with the earphones

Technical Data
Dimensions: L 180 x H 270; 80 x 80 mm
Detachable compass: dia.: 55 mm, 
Frequency selector range: 200-400 kilocycles per second (kc/s)

Morse alphabet on the fore front

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This unsigned item features the same card and fleur de lys as the compass made by Fr. Barker during his apprenticeship at Simms'. We assume that this compass was a very early model made by this manufacturer. Several other similar compasses are known that were made at the end of the 18th century.

Pictures courtesy G. Tremblay

Click on the pictures for enlarged views

Technical Data
- Diameter : 90 mm
- Height: 70 mm
- Case: 140 mm (cube)
- Weight: approx. 1 lb.
The case is made of metal but the base was cut out and replaced by a wooden disk fixed with two screws on the side. This disk supports the pivot.


SISTECO Ltd was a Finnish manufacturer. It was bought by SILVA in 1990. SISTECO built among other instruments this bearing compass SIGHT MASTER (picture at right - click to enlarge) and a military marching compass (see this category).


(See WEILBACH)  Iver C. Weilbach had no children. He withdrew from daily management in the company and he died in 1921. In 1916 Captain Carl V. Sølver was made co-partner with Knud Prahl in the company, and upon Prahl’s death in 1928 yet another master mariner, Anker Svarrer, was made co-partner.

(SPERRY - gyrocompass pat. 1,279,479)


STEGER was a German manufacturer located in Kiel (Germany).  The maker's name also appears on the card of a BAMBERG compass.
The instrument below at right was used during WW1 to compute the launch angle of torpedos is called in German Angriffsscheibe (attack course finder disc).

Gimballed compass (1876 ?)

Pictures courtesy of Hist.Uet.

Pic. © M. Florek. See also KUHLMANN.
Technical Data
Dimensions of case:
7 1/8 x 13 ¾ in. (18x32cm)
Engravings: Imperial crown above the letter M (symbol of the German Imperial Navy) and the materiel code no. 398.

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J. H. Steward Ltd was a British manufacturer (more information HERE). See also Marching Compasses

Tell-tale gimballed compass


Pictures courtesy Jaypee - priv. coll.
Click on images for enlarged views

Upper side

Technical data
- Dimensions (?)
- Card design: SINGER's pattern (northern half in black paint on mother of pearl)
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Submarine Compasses

go to U-BOOT


PROFILE - Finnish company (see SUUNTO's own website)

(Picture Jaypee - click on the picture for an enlarged view)
Technical Data

Bearing compass
(compare to MORIN and WILKIE)
Picture courtesy D. Montón Farrioli

Swinging the compass

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- T -

Tell-tale or overhead compass

Special compass type hung above the captain's bunk. This way he can check the vessel's course while lying in his berth.
See also the Pocket compass dubbed here Tell-tale  just to find a place.

Pictures Galerie Delalande, Paris
(Click for enlarged views)
Technical Data
Dim. : H = 350 mm
Signed : Nicolas Lennich, Altona, official compass maker to the Hanse Hamburg, 1766

Pictures courtesy Jaypee
(Click for enlarged views)

Antique French tell-tale compass
(Musée de la Marine, Paris)

Technical Data

Material: Brass, paper, wood, glass

Maker: Jean-Charles Chesse, La Rochelle, 1768

Pictures courtesy TML
(Click for enlarged views)
Technical Data
Bowl dia.: 88mm
Total height: 88mm
Overall width: 138mm
This compass appears in L. Casella's catalogue 1876
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THOMSON, Sir William ~ Lord Kelvin of Largs


Training Compass Rose (U.S. Navy - WWII)

Description - Leaflet published In 1944 by the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Naval Personnel-Training

(Click on the pictures for enlarged views)

The pocket
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Transmitting Magnetic Compass (TMC)

Definition - The Transmitting Magnetic Compass system transmits accurate heading information from a ship's magnetic compass to a remote repeater display.
For examples read the entries E. BISSON, S. L. HOLMES, F. JENKIN and J. PEICHL and also, in the aeronautical compasses section, Distant Reading and PATIN's system.

Traverse Board

Definition -  A traverse board is a navigation tool that was used in ancient times to record the information given by the compass. In the traditional Navy (sail ships), the helmsman had to record the ship's course indicated by the compass every full hour (example at right) or half-hour, i.e. four or eight times. He used to this aim an hour glass. The traverse board featured hence the same face (rose of winds) as the compass with the cardinal points (see menu: Miscellaneous) and wind areas (16 or 32 like on the item at r.). The helmsman only had to place small wooden pegs into the corresponding holes. Further hole blocks were used to record other parameters like the speed so as to permit computation of the ship's theoretical position (dead reckoning) by the officer.
(For more information read the relevant entry in Wikipedia).
Picture courtesy V. Lepage (click for enlarged view)  


Compass maker located in Barcelona (Spain)

Picture courtesy D. Montón Farrioli (click for enlarged view)    
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- U -

U-BOOT (German submarine) compasses

In its catalogue (s. below), the German compass manufacturer C. BAMBERG writes that all German WWI submarines (U-Boote) were equiped with a magnetic compass installed fore in a mast on the tower (for the complete original text, pls. ask the curator). They don't speak about compass gyros although this instrument was developed almost 10 years before WW1 (read Anschütz). We suppose that the magnetic compass was only a back-up instrument. Thank you for helping if you have more precise information.

Click on the images for enlarged views
BAMBERG brochure Nautik 24 : Optical transmission systems for submarine compasses and user instruction (full text available)

Fig. at left French edition no. 517,864 issued in 1919 of original German patent no. 304,286: a portion of the compass card's rim is illuminated by a light ray generated by a lamp and transmitted via prisms and lenses. This image can be viewed on a mirror inside the submarine.

A further development of this system was the compass made by ASKANIA, the successor company of Bamberg. It was installed in the tiny submarines Type 127B Seehund (seal) and Molch (triton) built at the end of WWII. This compass was called in German Lichtbildkompass (projected picture compass). The figures and divisions on the compass card are cut out so that it coud be lit from behind and required only a prism in front of the eyepiece of the observer. It was installed in a tube in front of the helmsman's eye. A special version was gimballed in the red box and was propably a back-up instrument in small ships.

Picture above by courtesy of H. Mross

Side view with and without adapter for gimbal.

Pictures above and at left by courtesy of BSH
Technical Data
Dim.: Ø 53 mm
Markings: - on compass: W.30.... (S/No.)
- on ring: Nkl 30, M and nazi eagle
- on control certificate: bxx (code for Askania-Werke, Berlin-Friedenau) and Berlin-Mariendorf
Pic at r. courtesy Axis Militaria & Jaypee

Via a magnetic needle remote-controlled model submarines 

Helmut Huhn and Heinrich Kistenich have developed a batch of remote-controlled model submarines steered by means of a compass needle. The inventors placed a cheap pocket compass' magnetic needle inside a voltmeter's coil frame rotated by means of a remote-controlled servo-motor to set the ship's course. The needle's rotation is limited by two lateral stops. Located above the needle's north end, an LED casts its shadow onto two phototransistors (s. pics below). As long as the latters receive a differential amount of light they activate the ship's propellers until the hull is on course and the needle exactly between the phototransistors.
At right: one of the model submarines. In the enlarged view (click on image) f.l.t.r.: Messrs Huhn and Kistenich 

The comprehensive system's (mechanical and electronical) description is published in the booklet Kompassnadel-Steuerung (ISBN: 978-3-8391-9617-5, ed. Books on Demand GmbH, Norderstedt, 2011, 63 p., 15 figs and two circuit diagrams).
Note: This steering system is similar to the principle patented 100 J. ago by C. Bamberg for aircraft (telecompass) but which was totally fotgottten since. The two German tinkerers totally re-invented it the from scratch. The only major difference besides the modern electronics is the remote control (link to a view of the control panel).
Technical Data  Hull dimensions: L = 1080 mm; Ø = 195 mm; overall H & B. (fins incl.) = 350 mm; displacement: ca. 21 kg

The needle of a cheap pocket compass inside a voltmeter's coil frame and the conical bearings.

Click on the images for enlarged views - Pictures courtesy Huhn and Kistenich

Side view of the rotating rig containing the needle inside the frame and the wiring.

Front view of the needle's north end located between the LED (above) and the phototransistors (below)

The electromechanical steering system located inside the submarine's bow:
At left: the rotating rig activated by the flexible axis of a servomotor (bottom right).
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- V -


VIKING Navigational Instruments (links to pics © BSH) was a trademark of the Danish company Iver C. WEILBACH & Co. Ltd. (below) located in Amaliegade 30, Copenhagen. In the 1951 catalogue, the company presents itself as the the oldest compass maker in Scandinavia. They offered compass adjustment night and day (view of the workshop). Their lead product was a standard compass (see pic at right) (for more views of the catalogue or full copy ask the curator).


Former French company (more information HERE). The company's logo on the cover of the catalogue for ship compasse 1959 is a griffin. This catalogue also shows two aeronautical compasses: the models V 47 and V.A. 82.
See also aeronautical compasses.

Technical Data
- Diameter: 103 mm
- Depth: 45 mm
- Weight (compass alone): 300 g
- Material: Bakelite
Compass with sighting vanes (pelorus function) and prism


Pictures Lydie & Jaypee
(Click on images for enlarged views)
Technical Data
- Dia.: mm
- Height : mm

View with sight folded:

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- W -


Johan Philip Weilbach was the founder of a dynasty of Danish compass makers (more information on the website Successors were among others Iver Jensen W. and Einar Charles W. The latter filed a patent (together with H. E. Julyan) in 1917 for a Radium-paint illuminated card. Several pictures of cards and cut-aways are displayed in the encyclopedia of compasses (Der Kompass by Schück, 1915, see menue Miscell./Hist. & Bibl.) One model was designated the VIKING (see above) and on other instruments the names of the captains and directors Solver and Svarrer are indicated.


U.S. company created in 1847 in Middletown, Connecticut (logo: the letters WC on the north mark of the rose). For more details see Lannan Gallery.

Technical Data
Dimensions : card Ø 75mm ; box 150 x 150 x 110mm.
Weight 2,750gr
Made in 1898
Picture courtesy Th. Steffen.
Technical Data
Marking: Made in U.S.A. 43-3 (March 1943 ?)
Pictures courtesy Chr. Hummel


Former German company (more information HERE)

Catalog (1972)
Bearing compass

Technical Data
- Dimensions: 75 x 50 x 16 mm
- Weight: 38 gr
Technical Data...
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- X -

Manufacturers not known

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