Old-Fashioned Timepieces Part 1

eluded under a few great heads: sun-dials, hour glasses, and clocks.

The origin of the earliest time-keeping device is lost in antiquity, but among the first clocks composed of an assemblage of wheels, of which there is no doubt as to age, are the clock in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, which was put up in 1286; one at Canterbury Cathedral, 1292; one at Exeter, 1300; and one in the Palace yard, London, of about the same period. All these were in England, but Froisart speak of one at Courtrai, France, which was taken to Dijon by Philip, Duke of Burgundy, in 1370.

Viollet le Due remarks that from the twelfth to the fourteenth century no space was arranged in church towers for dial plates. Still there were clocks in many towers, but they were without dials, and only struck the hours, the act of striking often being performed by a wooden figure, several feet tall, which beat upon a metal bell.

During the fourteenth century clocks with various mechanical devices became popular; puppets were ar ranged to perform little scenes at the hours, like " The Mystery of the Resurrection," " Death," etc. Nor was skill in clock-making confined to England and France. Saladin, of Egypt, in 1232 presented to Frederick II of Germany a clock run by weights and wheels, showing figures which represented the sun, moon, and other planets and the twelve signs of the Zodiac. In 1358, in the palace of Abu Hammou, Sultan of Thencen, was a clock ornamented with figures carved from solid silver.

The first of the celebrated Strasburg clocks, which were placed in the Cathedral there, was begun in 1350. From that time to the present there has been no interrup tion in the wonderful mechanical clocks which have been made in various countries. " Resur

One of"the strangest of all clocks is the rection clock in India. It has no dial, a gong being suspended in its place. Beneath this gong lie scattered on the ground skulls and bones enough to form twelve complete skeletons. At one o'clock the number of bones needed to form one entire skeleton come together with a snap; the skeleton springs up, seizes a mallet, and strikes the gong one blow. This done, it returns to the pile and again falls to pieces. When it is two o'clock, two skeletons strike two. At the hours of noon and midnight, the entire twelve spring up and strike, each one after the other, a blow on the gong, and then fall to pieces as before.

In the charming, old, mediaeval city of Rouen in France, time seems to move more slowly than in many other places. Still, as long as one does not live there, it is sad to see the narrow streets without sidewalks, traversed by a gutter in the centre, being replaced by the ordinary walks which while comfortable are far less picturesque, and necessitate the pulling down of many curious old buildings, past which, no doubt, the lovely Agnes Sorel and poor Joan of Arc once passed. In this same city, in the cathedral, is buried the heart of Richard Coeur de Lion, and some of his companions lie near him. One of the most famous streets is called Rue de la Grosse Horloge, and it is still most picturesque. The clock which gave it its name is shown in Figure 240, and is placed in a round-arched gateway surmounted by a tower, which it is said was finished in 1527, and was not the first structure which held the clock. The clock was made by Jehan de Fealins in 1389. It has been carefully looked after, and with some slight modern modifications is still an excellent timekeeper. It shows the hours, the days of the week, and the phases of the moon. The handsome dial is about six feet square, and surrounded by a circle of fine ornament. It is still the chief clock of the city, nothing modern having been allowed to usurp its place.

Fig. 240 Old Clock at RouenFig. 241 Clock by Lepaute Fig. 242 Bird-Cage.

Even uncivilised nations have ways of telling time, some of them quite elaborate, and in the flowery islands of the South Pacific, they use means which Nature sets ready at their hands, and make a time-marker by taking the kernels from the nuts of the candle-tree and washing and stringing them on to the rib of a palm leaf. The first or top kernel is then lighted. All the kernels, being of the same size and substance, burn a certain number of minutes, and then set fire to the next one below. The natives tie pieces of bark cloth at regular intervals along the string to mark the division of time.

More like the hour-glass is a device which is used by the natives of Singar, in the Malay Archipelago, who make use of a peculiar device; two bottles are placed neck and neck, and sand is put in one of them, which pours itself into the other every half hour, when the bottles are reversed. There is a line near, on which are hung twelve rods, marked with notches from one to twelve. A regularly appointed keeper attends to the bottles and rods, and sounds the hour upon a gong.

Passing from these primitive constructions to some of the wonders of modern clock-making, one may marvel at the great clock at St. Petersburg, which has ninety- five faces. It indicates simultaneously the time of day at thirty places on the earth's surface, besides the move ment of the earth around the sun, the phases of the moon, the signs of the Zodiac, the passage Over the meridian of more than fifty stars of the northern hemi sphere, and the date, according to the Gregorian, Greek, rj£ Hebrew, and Mussulman calendars. It is said that it took Over two years to put the works together, and get them into running order.

Notwithstanding their bulkiness there are more col lectors of clocks than one would at first imagine. It is probable, however, that King Edward has the great est number in any one collection, either public or pri vate, since at Windsor alone there are Over five hundred, and he has in all about two thousand. The}7 are all carefully inventoried in many great volumes, which are in the care of the Lord Chamberlain's department, and this department is also responsible for the care of the collection.

The collecting of clocks seems to be a royal hobby, since Louis XIV, Louis XVI, Queen Victoria, and King Edward all have had it. Indeed King Edward's most valuable clocks came to him by inheritance from his mother, and, perhaps, of them all the one which has the greatest " human interest " attached to it is the one which belonged to the unfortunate Anne Boleyn. This clock, which was given to her on her wedding day by Henry VIII, is a small affair, — four inches deep and ten inches high. It has passed through several hands since the beheading of poor Anne, the last to own it before Queen Victoria being that prince of collectors, Horace Walpole. It was bidden in at the sale of his effects for the queen, for about six hundred dollars. After four centuries it still goes, though she for whom it was made was permitted but four years in which to enjoy it. The weights are beautifully engraved with "H. A." with a true-lover's knot on one, and the initials only on the other. Did the Bluebeard Henry ever call Anne to mind when he heard it strike? Per haps it was not a striking clock after all, which must have been comfortable for him. It is of the style known as " bird-cage," and stands on an ornamental shelf.

The greatest curiosity in the King's collection is at Buckingham Palace, and is a clock made by Lepine, a protege of Voltaire, and is made in the shape of a head. In this clock the hours are shown in one of the eyes of the negress and the minutes in the other. The figure is two feet and a half high, of ormolu, richly decorated.

He has also several clocks by Lejiaute, a celebrated French clockmaker, born in 1709, and died in 1789. He improved the pin-wheel escapement by putting pins on both sides of the wheel, and he was also noted for his turret clocks, of which he erected five for the Louvre alone. They were wOund by means of an air-current and a fan, a method which has been recently revived. Many of his clocks were put into superb ormolu cases, and one of these is shown in Figure 241 and is dated 1760. It is seven feet twenty-six inches tall, and, be sides the rich inlay and metal mounts, has on the top a charming figure, and it may be seen that the clocks of that period assumed almost the colossal proportions of the beds.

Table of contents

Source

The Collector's Manual by N. Hudson Moore, Amy Richards. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1906.

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