18th century compass bought by Scot up for auction

A rare Mariner’s Compass bought by a Scot for just £5 is due to fetch between £600 and £800 when it goes under the hammer later this month.

The Danish-made compass, which could fetch up to 160 times what Gordon Black paid for it. Picture: Charles Miller Ltd

The compass, dating to around 1750, was made by Peder Nielson Brennøe, a Danish compass maker. It is contained within a carved wooden bowl, lined with laid paper painted white, and has been marked as a creation of ‘P.N. Brennøe’ of ‘Kiøbenhavn’.

There are signs of alterations having been made to the compass, with the date ‘1805’ marked near the ‘North’ line.

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Brennøe is recorded as working from the late 1740s until 1767, when the company was handed over to his son Christian Pedersen, and then to his son Peter Christian in 1800. It is possible that Peter Christian made the adjusters’ marks in the early 1800s, but the compass is not thought to have been used since its refurbishment in 1805, given its state of preservation, which the Charles Miller auction firm described as ‘remarkable’.

Gordon Black of Fife came across the rare compass in a box of ceramics, at a local auction in September last year, paying £5 for the whole box. He said he initially thought the compass was a pudding bowl due to it being high up on the shelf.

The compass will be auctioned by the Chares Miller Ltd auction firm on April 30th, in London.