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  • Abby Brenker

The Barritt-Serviss Star and Planter Finder from 1906


This is the Barritt-Serviss Star and Planter Finder from 1906, making it 116 years old. The Barritt in the title comes from illustrator Leon Barritt. Besides his work on this device, he was also known for his cartoons parodying William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. His work is really visually fascinating and dynamic. You can see some examples here. Barritt was local to New York City, having been born upstate.


Barritt partnered with Garrett Putnam Serviss on this project. Serviss was a writer, also local to New York City. Both men had an interest in astronomy.


This device is called a volvelle, or a chart made of paper that rotates. You can see the instructions for use along the edges. It also says "The Heavens Without a Telescope. The Only Practical Combination Star, Planet, and Sun and Moon Map."


More than anything I love the design of this piece. The fonts and the functionality are so whimsical and mystical. The device was sold through the 1930s.








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