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The measures of King Sebastião
A Metrological Traceability Chain
Nau de Lisboa
Nau (ship) of LIsbon

The Law of Almeirim of 1575 determines that, in relation to volume measurements, both solids and liquids, bronze standards be made, which will be calibrated by those of Lisbon (and marked with the Lisbon “nau” (ship) within the time limit of three months and then sent to the “Comarcas” (Districts) where they will serve as standards to calibrate those of other municipalities which, in turn, will serve as standards for the measures used by ordinary people:

(…)the Officers of the Chambers of the Cities and Towns of my Realms, who are Heads of Correction, or Districts will be obliged to carry bronze standards from the mentioned City of Lisbon, where they will be made, marked with my Royal Arms, and calibrated by those of mentioned City within three months (…) and within another three months thereafter, the Officers of the Chambers of the other Cities, Towns, and Councils will be obliged (…) to calibrate their measures of bread and clay by those of bronze from the Head of Correction, and within a year (…) all the mentioned Cities, Towns, and Councils will be provided with standards of the mentioned measures, which are of bronze, or at least of bell metal, to have the mentioned standards in the Chambers, and use these as the base to build and mark the other measures of ordinary people(…)

The intention of King Sebastião to create what we would call today “a metrological traceability chain” seems evident, applied, in this case, only to the volumes.

Further information
António Neves: aneves@ipq.pt
Museum of Metrology: museu.metrologia@ipq.pt