Compass Rose (the physical layout) for a 64 point system compass.

This is height 158 by width 158 it should result in the right size compass rose for a standard lensiatic compass card.
Created 28 January 1999.

Same at height 300 by width 300.

A 32 point compass has as its points the directions:

Reciting this list is known as boxing the compass. It was considered to be one of the basic skills of an aprentice sailor to be able to recite these directions.

The smaller points such as that between North and NNE were known only in association with their larger neighboring point. For instance:

Comprehensive list of compass points with degree equivalents table from Bowditch.

One of the most ancient compass point name conventions was to call the cardinal points of the compass by the standard winds. This may by the reason the fleur-de-lis is used to mark north. North on the wind name system was Tramontana. The T in Tramontana became styalized into a fleur-de-lis as a decorative item. Some compass roses on charts drawn before 1492 show the north point with 3 small circles in a row, the smallest on top, a medium sized one in the middle, and a larger one on the bottom. The significance of this is unknown to this writer.
The East point of the compass was often marked with a + or cross as it pointed to Jerusalem (from the point of view of western europe.)

The old wind points of the compass were:

Although a compass with 360 degrees was described as early as 1269 it was not adopted into nautical use until well into the 1600's.

Click here for a really nice history of the Compass Rose, by Bill Thoen, with links to other sites.

During the mid part of the 1700's up through the first half of the 1900's a system was used that divided the compass into four 90 degree quarters. The collection of the Royal Observatory has a compass signed as made by William Farmer circa 1750 which shows this 90 degree system on the outer ring, with a 32 point compass rose in the middle. see their article in the National Maritime Museum, UK
The British Royal Navy used this system as its standard for a number of years. This is illustrated in Wrinkles in Navigation by Lecky, S.T.S., in various editions (first being in 1881, the one I have is the 19th edition, published in 1918.)
For illustrations of that compass card and comparative discussion Click here .

The Chinese divided their compass into 12 points, named for their zodiac, however
the Feng Shui compasses seem to have 8 cardinal points.
Click here to see a Feng Shui compass.


More modern version of magnetic compass with degrees listed as well as 32 points spelled out.

Compass cards by Dave B. Really beautifully done illustrations and explanations of 360 degree, 32 point and 128 point cards.

Click Here for an excellent example of a more modern Compass Rose with the 128 point system spelled out.
         Compliments of the Stormy Weather Software site.

Historic Compass Card - using the traditional colors (from Wikipedia)

-- Gerard Mittelstaedt
updated 2 June 2008 - - again - - 6 March 2012

Return to the Nav index page.

to Homepage