Resource Epact: Scientific Instruments of Medieval and Renaissance Europe (2001 - )

Museum and exhibit catalogs
Scientific apparatus and instruments
Scientific instruments
Alternative Names
  • 10293 (WHSO Record Number)


"Epact is an electronic catalogue of medieval and renaissance scientific instruments from four European museums: the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, Florence, the British Museum, London, and the Museum Boerhaave, Leiden. Together, these museums house the finest collections of early scientific instruments in the world.

Epact consists of 520 catalogue entries and a variety of supporting material. All European instruments from the four museums by makers who were active before 1600 have been entered in the catalogue. They include astrolabes, armillary spheres, sundials, quadrants, nocturnals, compendia, surveying instruments, and so on. Examples range from ordinary instruments for everyday use to more extravagant and often lavish pieces destined for the cabinets of princes.

Each instrument in the catalogue is described with the aid of one or more photographs and two levels of text: an overview text providing a short account of the most notable features of the instrument and a detailed text giving more technical and scholarly information.

Supporting material for the catalogue entries includes a thematic essay providing background information about the medieval and renaissance mathematical arts and sciences as well as a number of technical articles giving explanations of how the main different types of instrument operated. Short entries on all makers and places represented in Epact are supplemented by a glossary of technical terms found in the overview texts and a bibliography lists all references from the detailed texts. Terms from the makers and places indexes and the glossary are all cross-linked from individual catalogue entries.

Catalogue entries may also be reached via the search facility, which allows the catalogue to be limited by instrument-type, maker, place, holding museum, and date, as well as providing free text searching. "

(Description taken from site.)

WHSO Record Created By: Amy Rodgers