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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Georg Brentel the Younger, German (before 1580 - 1638)
Cylinder Solaris concavus, das ißt ein holer innwendinger Cylinder oder Seule Gemacht auf die Polus höhe 47.48.49....(Lauingen, J. Winter)
Work Type
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Printed pamphlet; letterpress and engraving and woodcut on laid paper
Engraving and letterpress
sheet (unfolded): 18.6 x 25.7 cm (7 5/16 x 10 1/8 in.)
platemark: 13.5 x 24.2 cm (5 5/16 x 9 1/2 in.)
3 dial sheet: 17 x 19.5 cm (6 11/16 x 7 11/16 in.)
single dial sheet: 18.6 x 16.6 cm (7 5/16 x 6 9/16 in.)
PPK Transit Box: 1.6 x 19.2 x 15.2 cm (5/8 x 7 9/16 x 6 in.)

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Acquisition Fund for Prints
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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12pp., including oversized folding table, and three plates, two of which are folding. Both titles disbound. Woodcut border in upper margin of both titles cropped.
The Conus Solaris concavus (2007.205) and Cylinder Solaris concavus (2007.206) are a pair of instructional pamphlets for two printed sundials-the first in the shape of a cone or a goblet (Kögel oder Kelch), the second a cylinder-by the German instrument maker and painter Georg Brentel. As far as we can ascertain, none of Brentel's constructed instruments are extant. His activity is known through at least fifteen pamphlets with plates meant to be constructed as functional instruments, all extremely rare, and through references to him in the succeeding generations of instrument-makers.

The pamphlets describe the construction, design and operation of the sundials, explaining how to calculate the time of day, predict sunrise and sunset, calculate the position of the planets relative to the sun, and perform other astronomical and astrological functions. The plates include two planar perspectives of the instruments to reveal their elaborate grids. The coordinates for the sun's rising and setting are taken from Leovitius' Ephemerides. Two plates from the Conus pamphlet are printed in sepia. Although this practice is somewhat unusual in the area of scientific instrument prints, Brentel habitually issued his engravings in both black and sepia. (BSB Munich owns at least four in sepia and three in black.)

The relation of the two titles is intriguing: the instruments are evidently identical in all respects except shape, the first being a cone, the second a cylinder. With the exception of the title pages and dedicatees, and the name of the respective instruments on the recto of the first leaf, the texts are identical, and one could have been run-off after exceedingly minor alterations to the setting of the other.

OCLC lists the Cylinder at the University of Cincinnati; Cornell owns the Conus.
Both pamphlets are at Augsburg UB and SB, Erlangen-Nürnberg, Freiburg, Göttingen, BSB Munich, HAB Wolfenbüttel and Zurich; one pamphlet is in Basel (Conus), Weimar (Cylinder). The Conus plate (in black, not sepia) also appears with the volvelle woodcut in the Württemburgische Landesbibliothek, (Nicolai'sche Sammlung, Vol 79, p. 69).

Publication History

  • Jonathan Shaw and Jennifer Carling, "Spheres of Knowledge: Artistic discovery in Renaissance Europe", Harvard Magazine (Cambridge, MA, November-December 2011), vol. 114, no. 2, pp.42-47, p 44
  • Susan Dackerman, ed., Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2011), cat. 71 p.300-303, repr.

Exhibition History

  • Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/06/2011 - 12/10/2011; Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Evanston, 01/17/2012 - 04/08/2012

Verification Level

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