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Class of the Titans

A recent discussion about instruments named after mythological figures brought to mind the “Titan” Combination Compass, a simple design that aimed to provide a full drawing set in a box. It is based on the 1920 British patent 167,037 awarded to Fred Jackson of Clapham, London, the details of which are minutely inscribed along the thin edge of its drawing leg.

Titan Combination Compass patent inscription

According to the description on the top of its compact cardboard box, the set comprised “pencil compass, pen compass, dividers, drawing pen, drawing pencil and pricker” all in one, quite an ambitious claim for a compass of its size and construction.

Titan Combination Compass with centimetre scale

This was achieved by providing an additional reversible pen/needle point insert that could be fitted to the standard-sized pencil holder, transforming the compass into either pen bow or dividers. Alternatively, a thin sheet-metal handle with its own compression holder was included in the set, thus providing a rudimentary handheld ruling pen, pricker or pencil (using the short compass pencil).

Titan Combination Compass parts

To prevent accidental injury, the point has a retractable brass sleeve that locks in both open and closed positions, one of the telltale signs of an instrument intended for school use.

Titan Combination Compass point protector

However, for a compass that was clearly aimed at the lower end of the educational market, it is unusual to find a ruling pen and pricker as part of the set. The pen in particular does not look like it would be up to much, but you have to admire the economy and ingenuity of its minimal modular construction. I was surprised to discover that it was the subject of a separate patent – number 160,079 – also filed in 1920 by Jackson.

Titan Combination Compass patented ruling pen and holder

As so often with school compasses, the “Titan” would appear to follow the rule that the more modest the instrument, the more ostentatious its name should be. I have another unboxed example without the patent marking on its leg, so it seems that the compass achieved at least some success in terms of sales.

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