A prototype compression elastometer suited to the characterisation of soft tissue is analysed and tested by application to various elastomers. The test material is pinched between two rigid cylinders and the compression force and displacement interpreted to yield a measure of "effective" stiffness or to calibrate a simple non-linear-elastic material model (Neo-Hookean). This deformation suits the testing of bulk soft tissue since it effectively isolates the test material from boundary conditions such as other soft tissue, ligaments and bones. These can be highly variable in the body and can affect results greatly when employing other types of tests to determine the elastic nature of tissue.A simple linear-material analysis, based on established solutions to two-dimensional problems, is extended to take into account various geometrical complexities. This analysis permits immediate inversion of the readings from the device to yield the elastic properties of the material, without the need for complex numerical analysis. Finite element analysis is also employed to determine the range of reliable application of the linear-elastic model. In particular, this analysis permits the extension of the linear-elastic analysis to include simple forms of non-linear-material behaviour.The method is demonstrated using three elastomers having significantly different material properties. A viable range of application of the device is identified in which it yields results with reasonable precision and accuracy. The prototype device was able to measure the effective elastic modulus of the test materials with a maximum error of 13% for three material types (N = 25). Repeatability error was less than 7% in all cases. Further refinement of the device and measuring system will reduce this uncertainty. (c) 2006 IPEM. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.