Zimbabwe's 'Missing' Equatorial Dial


The Cassella Company is unusual in that it is still in existence and trading - although no longer in the scientific instruments business.  It had started when an Italian musician, artist and writer, Luigi Pasquale Casella, one of 17 siblings, came from the Como district to England to better himself. In due course he had married here and became a tutor to the daughters of King George III.  His son, Louis worked hard and placed some of his accumulating wealth into a partnership with a certain Cesare Tagliabue who had also come from Como some years earlier and who was in the business of making thermometers and scientific instruments in Hatton Garden.  In 1838 the partnership was formed as Tagliabue and Cassella.

In 1897 Louis' son Charles Frederick Casella took charge on his father's death and the firm became C.F.Casella.  Unfortunately, the company struggled initially. However others came in to the business and by 1910 it was Incorporated as a limited liability company C. F. Casella and Co.  By the time of Charles's death in 1916 the company was once more an instrument-making company of renown.
WWI saw diversification and by the 1930s C. F. Casella and Co Ltd were makers of anemometers, anemographs, barometers, barographs, hygrometers, hygrographs, radiation instruments, recording rain gauges, record charts, recording ink nibs etc., school equipment, sunshine recorders, thermometers, thermometer screens, thermographs.

Keen observers will note that this list of instruments - published in company histories - omits sundials.  However auction catalogues frequently list portable Casella dials and it is even thought that Dr Livingstone (he of Africa renown) had one such.

Imagine then, the interest to any sundial enthusiast when this pedestal was spotted in the formal gardens of an hotel near the Victoria Falls. [Click on any smaller image for a larger one].

Images VL Thomson 2018

Yet of course. the actual dial is missing.  The plate that we can see has a clamp to adjust the latitude of what clearly was an equinoctial dial. The base provides a lot of detail - the maker's name and the various corrections for mean time; all showing that it was a very well constructed dial.

Sadly the hotel in question appears not to know of its whereabouts nor even any of its history. The archives of the original company are also silent on any fixed equinoctial dials that they made, let alone any they might have supplied to Africa and so we can do little more than speculate.

If you. dear reader of this site. might have any other information do please let the webmaster know and we shall be delighted to publish it here.


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