Current issue of Antiquarian Horology


Volume 45, Issue 1 March 2024

On the front cover: More than twenty clockwork treasures collected by Chinese emperors have travelled from the Palace Museum in Beijing to be displayed in the Science Museum, London. The exhibition ‘Zimingzhong: Clockwork Treasures from China’s Forbidden City’ runs from 1 February to 2 June 2024. The clock shown here was produced by James Cox, and incorporates parts made in China. Photo © The Palace Museum

This issue contains the following articles:

‘Ellicott’s Dissertation and the Spanish Connection. With an introduction and analysis’
by Paul Tuck (pages 19–43)

Summary: An undated document written by John Ellicott (1706–1772) was in response to a request from an unknown ‘Noble Personage’ concerning the possibility of improvement in the regular going of watches. The original manuscript was lost and only known as a Spanish translation in the Biblioteca Real, Madrid. In 1957 this was transcribed by Junquera and published in a Spanish journal of horology, causing it to be recognized by Malcolm Gardner as being Ellicott’s faded original which he had acquired from the library of Percy Webster. Its contents are now revealed and give an insight into the state of watchmaking at a time when compared with the accuracy of pendulum clocks, the lack of such precision in pocket watches was beginning to be seriously questioned.

‘James or Jacob Hassenius, a clock- and watchmaker in London and Moscow’
by Keith Stella (pages 45–62)

Summary: This article examines the life and works of a Russian-born clockmaker, James (or Jacob) Hassenius, who lived and worked in London from around 1682 to 1698 and who, following the visit of Peter the Great to London in that year, then left England to work for the Tsar in Moscow as a clock- and watchmaker. Several London longcase and bracket clocks and at least two watches, all signed ‘Jacobus Hassenius’, are known to survive. As a result of some research papers written by a former colleague of the curator of clocks at The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, we are now able to trace what became of James Hassenius once he left England. The known clocks and watches signed by Hassenius while working in London are briefly catalogued in the Appendix to this article. (Read this article here)

‘Experimenting with the pendulum: the work of Tito Livio Burattini (1617–1681)’
by Augustin Gomand (pages 63–87)

Summary: The main studies related to the first pendulum clocks focus on the prototypes invented by Christiaan Huygens, described in Horologium in 1658 and in Horologium Oscillatorium in 1673, as well as on the commercial models made by Salomon Coster and reproduced by various clockmakers in Europe. However, others tried to apply the pendulum to clocks in parallel to Huygens’s work or inspired by it. The clocks resulting from this are interesting because they were conceived with an experimental and scientific purpose, to experiment with the pendulum oscillator and to test its regularity; they may present atypical layouts which deviate from the models proposed by Huygens. Several brief descriptions of such experimental clocks designed by the Italian-Polish engineer Tito Livio Burattini (1617–1681) offer an opportunity to analyze his original constructions and to understand how they fit into the scientific context of the time and are linked to the personality of this inventor. This article is part of the Simon Le Noir Project.

Grande sonnerie monumental clocks of Detouche and Houdin (c1855). Part 2, The great clock of the Conservatoire‘
by Denis Roegel (pages 88–96)

Summary: In the early 1850s, the clockmakers Constantin-Louis Detouche (1810–1889) and Jacques-François Houdin (1784–1860) developed a new system of ‘grande sonnerie’ for public clocks. This two-part article aims at describing this little known system. Part 1 described a new striking work patent by Detouche and Houdin, and its implementation on a clock around 1855, but that clock was unfortunately later transformed and the multiple countwheels are no longer extant. In the second part, we describe the Detouche clock of the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers in Paris, installed in 1863 on the grand entrance staircase, where it is still located.

An Horologion horologically illustrated
by Anthony Turner (pages 97–103)

Summary: An horologion is a book prescribing prayers and adorations to be observed throughout the day by the faithful. The use of clock images in a Jesuit version from 1691 displays how the spiritual use of the clock metaphor continued to be employed.

‘Unfreezing Time #17’ by Patricia Fara (pages 104–106) (Read the whole series of articles here)

The issue totals 148 pages and is illustrated mainly in colour, and is completed by the regular sections Horological News, Book Reviews, Unfreezing Time, Notes from the Librarian, AHS News, Letters and Further Reading.