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In my view Singer's Patent was an iconic design of the 1860's. So who was Singer?
World War 1 prismatic compasses prove very popular at auction, but what were their origins?
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And finally some useful links to compass sites around the world.
Verners Pattern Prismatic Compasses
|Verners Pattern compasses are both incredibly popular with collectors as well being a compass that can still be practically and easily used today. The most common models are the Verners Pattern VII and Verners Pattern VIII which were mainly used during World War 1. Their basic construction is a prismatic dry card compass with a both a momentary bearing lock and transit lock. As a compass they are lighter than the Mk III prismatic that superceded them in WWII and are generally considered easier to use. As I reveal there are some subtle design changes that occurred over the years.
Colonel William Willoughby Cole Verner was born in 1852 and commissioned into The Rifle Brigade in 1874, retiring in 1904. He served on the staff in the Egyptian campaign of 1884-85 and during the Boer War. He died in 1922.
Whilst the basic prismatic compass design has its origins in Schmalcalder's patent of 1812 (Patent No 3545), Verners Pattern is a significant development which I can now trace back to 1895.
In 1895 F Barker produced a Verner Compass (nos 327) and J H Steward produced both a Verner compass, a Major Verners Sergeants compass and a Major W Verner's Patent Night Marching Comapss which were all pocket compasses and not prismatic compasses. All had distinctive compass card markings.
Around 1905 the term Verners Pattern with a model number was used starting with a Verners Pattern V. Generally the compass card is the main area of change in the early models and some of the basic features are evident from the model V through to the VIII and the IX of WWII. If the model numbering is to be believed then there must be I and II, but I have yet to see them.
Generally there are case and feature variations according to supplier, of which I have identified 45 so far.
Verners Pattern III
This is a pocket compass not a prismatic compass and I have seen several different card designs, this being the most complex. Case variations include covers with and without a window, variety of marks including Captain Verners and Verners Sergeants compass.
Verners Pattern IV
This is where I believe the prismatic Verner Pattern originated. There are several around with different types of card some even having radium paint which means post 1906. This is understandable because the design was evolving and possible old stock got used up in later years due to the low volumes produced.
Verners Pattern V
The cards were on mother of pearl and had an inner scale marked every 5 degrees and outer scale marked every 1 degree marked with the reciprocal bearing in reverse for viewing through the prism. The V has just a plain card without the Northern cardinal mark evident on later models and is shown on the left. All the features such as a transit lock and bearing lock are carried through to the model VII. This particular model dated 1905.
|Verners Pattern VI
The card is altered with the introduction of a paper label with the four main cardinal marks added, which was later abandoned in favour of the black painted center (lower photo). The other features such as a momentary bearing lock (button visible at about 8 o'clock on the outer edge of the case), transit lock and prism structure are as for the V.
The dial with the paper label dates from 1909 and the painted center 1910.
|Verners Pattern VII
This has been found with two different cards. The top card is on mother of pearl and again all the features of the V are still there.
The lower card is much less common and has an embossed aluminium dial that has been painted black, but this is the only major design change from the more common model VII. To date I have only identified about ten such examples of this version. I suspect that this was an experimental version since the ones I have seen are not numbered and both dated 1918.
More recently a numbered VP VIII with a black embossed dial was brought to my attention by a fellow collector. All these compasses are marked MIO and if you know what this stands for please let me know - it would help build a more complete picture. So not quite as rare as I thought.
|Verners Pattern VIII
The main design change in the compass that occurs here is that an arm fitted to the top lid operates the transit lock when the lid is closed. Other than this the features are pretty much the same as the VII.
Clearly as a model it overlapped with the VII. However this overlap of years might be more an issue of suppliers selling off old stock.
It could be argued that this is not a Verners Pattern since it is only called a Mk IX, but the original features and functionality still exists and so I include this as the final evolution of the Verners Pattern before it was superceded by the liquid filled Mk III prismatic compass in WW2. This particular model from 1942.
|There were many retailers of these compasses and so far I have managed to locate the following based on actual compasses. Some may well have been manufacturers but many are clearly retailers and this just goes to show how many of these compasses were sold. Some may be duplicates e.g. C-E and Cruchon & Emons but until there is firm evidence that this was the case I am assuming they are different.
Case numbering by model
and year is very difficult to analyse, this is probably because the
individual suppliers sold their stock at different rates and so there is a
clear overlap in the case numbers when analysed by model and year. I
think we can safely assume that the year was the year of manufacture.
It is not unheard of to find a compass without a case number, date or even a
supplier name. This may denote that it was a private purchase as
opposed to military issue.
I do believe that there were only a handful of manufacturers because of the skills needed to make a compass and the fact that there is clearly little variation in the designs. I am certain that the likes of Francis Barker, Short & Mason and JH Steward who were established compass manufacturers were the main suppliers.
 -Schmalcalder's Improvement in Philosophical Instruments 1845 Patent No 3545 courtesy of UK Intellectual Property Office.
My thanks to Nick Goodridge for his assistance with identifying more about Colonel Verner, to Bob Thacker for his ongoing support to determine more about the Black Embossed VP card and Mark Hainge for help on earlier Verners.
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