Objects Database

Silva baseplate compass in pouch

Accession Number


Object Name

Silva baseplate compass in pouch




Hermione Cooper

Accession Date


Brief Description

Clear celluloid baseplate compass with protractor and needle encased in liquid.It is encased in plastic pouch



Number Of Objects


Inscription Description

On pouch "SILVA" and tree motif.


clear baseplate,green pouch




Swedish orienteer and instrument maker,Gunnar Tillander invented the first baseplate compass back in 1928. Prior to that a protractor(see elsewhere in collection) was needed, in conjunction with a compass, to plot grid references on a map. By combining the two, Tillander made a simple and effective compass which was ideal for the outdoors. Using the word Silva(meaning forest/wood) for his new invention he went on to start a world wide business empire with the Kjellstrom brothers in 1932 and much like we call various makes of vacuum cleaner 'hoover' any type or brand of baseplate compass tends to get called a 'silva' even if it's not made by them.
Although liquid damped compasses had been around on ships for some time, Silva produced the first baseplate compass with liquid damped capsule in 1932 - the liquid steadied the compass needle enabling more accurate readings and protected the needle from damage when travelling over rough ground.The compass we have in the collection is fairly old - possibly 1960's - and is rather curious as being of Scandinavian origin i.e.Oslo - the degrees go to 400 rather than the UK's 360. The number of degrees in a circle is not that crucial as long as every one is on the same system; it's when they are not that the problems arise. Next time you get lost in Norway you've now got an excuse!
This particular compass came from Mick Tighe's Mountain Guiding Company, Nevis Guides.

Acquisition Method

Donated by Mick Tighe

Acquisition Date


Condition Check Date



Spectrum : UK Museum documentation standard, V.3.1 2007



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