Basler Hohlmass

Basle dry measure

Basle, 18th century
Cast bronze, turned oak
height 7 cm, diameter of opening 7.5 cm
Inv. 1906.2848.

4822px x 3850px
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Up until the C19 there were dozens of different counting systems in use for weights and measures even within the small state of Switzerland; while these were of course adequate for local trade links, they involved a complicated conversion into different systems when trading with other regions. When it acquired important sovereign rights around 1400 the city of Basle had also gained control of weights and measures, but by and large the old plurality continued unchanged until the C19. The diversity and confusion were not ended until the advent of industrialisation and the increase in international trade. The Federal constitution unified the weights and measures used on Swiss territory only in 1874, converting to the international metric system. The CIS measure illustrated here holds 0.355 l, corresponding to a very small unit known in Basle as a 'Schiissel'. Made of bronze, with the Basle escutcheon supported by a basilisk on its side, and weighing 1263 g, it is disproportionately heavy. It would almost certainly not have been for everyday use, and more probably was a master measure used by the authorities to calibrate other vessels.

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