- Museum number
- Object: The Strasbourg Clock
Carillon clock; weight-driven musical clock; originally controlled by balance wheel, movement converted to pendulum in 18thC; outer case of gilded brass, engraved with figures personifying the three theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity), the three worldly virtues (Wisdom, Fortitude and Justice) and the three fates of man on the back.
- Production date
Height: 140 centimetres
Width: 38.50 centimetres
Depth: 38.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
The following text is the entry for this object from the unpublished catalogue of pre-pendulum clocks by John Leopold, former Assistant Keeper of Horology at the Museum. This information is unedited and should be used accordingly.
2MONUMENTAL CLOCK BY ISAAC HABRECHT, STRASBURG, 1589.
Curious Clock (Illustrated London News, 11 March 1848) (clock exhibited at Royal Society; formerly prop. of the Popes in Rome and of King William I of The Netherlands).
Description (ca.1850) (clock "on view for sale at Messrs, James & Co.,
Surgeon-Dentists, 63, Fleet Street, City, next to the Bolt-in-Tun Coach
Office" - title page. P.7 mentions Odevaere, pp.3, 7 and 8 The Papal
Court and King William I of the Netherlands).
PSA 3 (1856) 36 (meeting of 8th December 1853).
Wood (1866) 75-78.
Morgan (1888) 42.
PSA 2nd series 12 (1889) 386 (meeting of 30th April 1889).
Kendal (1892) 87-88 (regards the history "somewhat apocryphal" and calls
the collector "Mr. Osborne Morgan".)
Britten 0 (1894) 149-51 (at top of main staircase BM).
Britten 1 (1899) 51-2.
HJ 45 (August 1903) 167 (at the head of the principle staircase BM).
Britten 2 (1904) 54-6.
Liisberg (1908) 149-150.
Britten 3 (1911) 55-6.
Müller (1915) 114.
Britten 4 (1919) 55-6.
Britten 5 (1922) 55-6 ("At the top of the main staircase").
Howgrave-Grham (1922) 32.
Ungerer (1922) 9.
Milham (1923) 523-5.
Wins (1924) 123-4.
Ungerer (1925) 24-6, 29-31.
Postcards (1925) no.1.
Bassermann-Jordan (1926) 103-105.
Webster (1926) 50 (coins the term 'Strasburg' for complicated tab.cl.)
Chapuis/Gélis (1928) I 183-185.
British Museum 13 (1929) 31.
Baillie 1 (1929) 160.
Britten 6 (1932) 58-59 ("In the basement of the British Museum").
Baillie 2 (1947) 138.
Rhodes (1955-2) 30.
Britten 7 (1956) 34-5.
Lloyd (1958-2) 40-41.
HJ 102 no.1221 (June 1960) 370.
Lloyd (1964) 40-41.
Tekeli (1966) 5-7.
Goaman (1967) 42.
Lloyd (1968) 110.
1Tait (1968) 24-6, pl.13-17 (wrong reg.no.).
Maurice (1968) fig.24.
Britten 8 (1972) 34-35.
Schlee (1975) 83.
Maurice (1976) fig.230.
Britten 3 2 (1977) 67 (early picture).
Jagger (1977) 54,76.
Lübke 2 (1977) 246 (considers both large clocks to be models for the
King (1978) 59.
Tardy 5 (1981) I 85.
Britten 9 (1982) 38-9.
Tait (1983) 14-17.
Haspels (1987) 99, 195.
Thompson (1989). (early picture, = Curious Clock ?).
Ord-Hume (1995) 61-4.
A cigarette card by John Player & Son, ca.1930 (actually thought to be 1928): Antique Clocks 12 no.6 (November 1989) 33.
Check also Howgrave-Grahams atricles in WC 1928 and 1929 (unlikely).
Punched at the top of the top-front pannel, behind the hour bell:
ISAAC HABRECHT (Isaac Habrecht
FABER AVTOMATA smith clockmaker >)
REVS ET CIVIS and citizen
ARGENTORATENSIS of Strasbourg
On a piece of paper glued to the inside of the bellows:
28th of July 1922
This clock was
put in working
order after standing
idle 50 years
11 Branch Hill Mew
Punched on the fly of the musical train:
Scratched on the inside of the cock: "DEKEME"
The clock consists of an iron frame to which the gilded copper panels of the case are attached. The frame breaks down in three portions.
At the bottom is the base, which consists of four pillars with two square rings at top and bottom. The base is riveted and cannot be taken apart. At the front there is a vertical bar (sunk in a slot in the bottom ring, held by a screw in the top one) which carries the stud on which the lower dial revolves. Resting on the top ring are two horizontal iron bars (with slots to hook over the rings) which serve to take the fixed end of the cords of the weights; these bars are modern (see History). At the bottom the pillars have screw ends; nuts secure the lower of four horizontal copper plates which hold the pannels of the case and the dials. At the tops of the pillars are extentions to which the second horizontal copper plate is wedged.
The middle portion of the frame is the movement. It rests on the top ring of the base and is secured by four screws to the top extensions of the pillars of the base. The movement has four decorative pillars, which have extensions at the top; these extensions take iron spacers which carry the third horizontal copper plate.
The bell frame at the top of the clock rests on the third horizontal copper plate, being pinned to the extensions of the movement pillars which fit into holes in the corner pillars of the bell frame (the front-right pillar has been repaired). This frame consists of an iron plate with four pillars riveted to the corners; three more iron plates fit over the pillars and are secured by pins. Nuts on the screw ends of the pillars hold the fourth horizontal copper plate.
The four iron plates of the bell frame are painted light green; the undersides of the top three are painted blue (the blue paint is later). All the iron plates have semicircular extensions at the front, with screwed gilded brass railings (the lower one integral with a semicircular gilded disc to cover the underside of the iron plate). These iron plates carry the three turntables and the platform at the top, as well as the musical barrel, the hammers and the bells. Platform, barrel and turntables all revolve on vertical iron spikes riveted to the iron plates. The third iron plate rests on rectangular spacers.
The fourth horizontal copper plate carries the bellows and pipes of the cock. The semi-circular gilt brass baldachin over the automata is also screwed to this plate, as is the dome at the top of the clock, which is secured by two of the nuts on the screw ends of the pillars of the bell frame. At the top of the dome is the cock.
The pannels of the case and the dials are held by the four horizontal copper plates, which have slots to take the lugs on the various pannels. Originally all pannels had lugs at top and bottom (three at the top, four at the bottom of each pannel) but many have since been removed, to facilitate dismounting the clock. The corner extensions of the horizontal copper plates have holes; these accomodate long vertical iron rods with nuts at top and bottom. The iron rods secure the cast brass corner pillars of the clock.
Case and dials.
The case consists largely of twelve pannels held in position by the four horizontal copper plates that are attached to the frame. The visible portions of these plates are gilded.
The side and the back pannels are very similar to each other. They are of copper, gilded on the outside, and have a door in the centre; the hinges are of brass and the latches and their springs of iron with brass fitments. Only the pannel at rear-bottom is solid, without a door.
Each pannel is engraved with a figure within a decorative border containing a cartouche which identifies the figure. They are, from top to bottom:
right side: CARITAS, SPES, FIDES (Charity, Hope, Faith)
left side: SAPIENTIA, FORTITVDO, IVSTICIA (Wisdom, Fortitude, Justice)
rear: GLOTO, LACHESIS, ATROPOS (the three Fates).
In the panel with LACHESIS a large aperture has been cut to accomodate the pendulum.
Dials and automata.
At the front of the clock the dials occupy the centre and the lower pannel; the upper part contains the automata. All three front pannels are of copper, gilded on the visible side only.
The topmost dial is divided twice I-XII with half-hour marks, and once 1-24 for the hours ; its centre diplays a sunburst. The dial is surrounded by a gilded brass ring, pinned to the plate. The corners around this dial are engraved with representations of the Seasons. At 7½ and 15 hours there are holes (now filled with brass plugs) to synchronize the quarter striking (at left) and to set off the music at will (at right). The blued steel hand of this dial has a silver hand as pointer, and also carries silver figures of the sun and the moon. The hand is carried by the pipe of its wheel, both being secured by a nut on the fixed stud; the hand is friction-tight on its arbor.
Below the hour dial is the minute dial, which consists of a silver disc secured by a gilded brass ring pinnes to the plate. This dial has 60 divisions for the minutes, on the inside numbered for each fifth minute 5-90 and marked on the outside I-IIII for the quarters. At the centre of this dial is a small map of the world, with the centre at the intersection of the equator and the meridian of (presumably) Strasbourg. Around this map are engraved a ship, a little man and a castle, demonstrating the effect of the curvature of the Earth. The blued steel hand has an octagonal hole to take the pipe of its wheel; both are secured to their stationary post by a nut. - The minute dial is flanked by two engraved angels holdig shields with the texts:
OMN (All ALTE (Our hope
IS CA flesh RIVS is in
RO FO is as VITAE the next
ENVM grass) SPES life)
Underneath the engraved angels are two cast silver angels, each secured by two screws. That on the left carries a sickle, which moves at the striking of the hours; the eangel on the right holds a sandglass which it turns at the start and finish of the striking of the hours.
The lower dial consists of four discs, three mobile and one fixed. The larger, mobile, disc is the gilt-brass calendar disc, on which are punched the names of the months, the day-letters, the dates, and the main saints days. About half of the days have the name of a saint inscribed. They are:
January. 1 - CIRC.DNI. February. 1 - IGNATII EPISC.
6 - EPIPHAN.DNI. 2 - PVR.B.MARIAE
14 - HILLARII EPISC. 3 - BLASII EPISC.
15 - PAVLI EREMITAE 5 - AGATHAE VIRG.
16 - MARCELLI 6 - DOROTAE VIRG
17 - ANTONII 9 - APOLLONIAE VIRG.
18 - PRISCAE VIRG. 14 - VALENTINI PRESB.
20 - FAB.SEBAST. 15 - FAVSTINI.
21 - AGNETIS VIRG. 18 - SYMEONIS EPISC.
22 - VINCENTY 22 - CATH.S.PETRI
23 - EMERENTIANAE 24 - MATTHIAS APOST.
24 - TIMOTHEI EPISC.
25 - S.PAVLI CONV.
26 - POLYCARPI EPISC
27 - IOAN.CHRYSOST.
March. 7 - THOMAE DE AQV. April. 11 - LEONIS PAPAE
9 - XL MARTYRES. 14 - TIBVRTII &
12 - GREGORIAE PAPAE 17 - ANICETI PAPAE
19 - JOSEPH CONF. ` 22 - SOTHERIS ET CAII
21 - BENEDICTI ABB. 23 - GEORGII MARTVRIS
25 - ANNVN.B.MARIAE. 25 - MARCI EVANGEL.
26 - CLETI ET MARCELL
28 - VITALIS MARTYRIS
May. 1 - PHILIP.IACOBI APOST. June. 2 - MARCELLINI &
2 - ATHANASII EPISCOPI 9 - PRIMI ET FEL.
3 - INVENTIO S.CRVCIS 11 - BARNABAE
4 - MONICAE VIDVAE 12 - BASILIDIS &
6 - IOAN.ANTE PORT.LA. 15 - VITI MODESTI
8 - APPAR S MICH 19 - GERVASII ET PRO.
10 - GORDIANI EPIMACHI 22 - PAVLINI EPISC.
12 - NEREI 24 - IOHAN.BA.NA.
14 - BONIFACII MARTYRIS 26 - IOHAN PAVLI
19 - PVDENTIANAE VIRGIN. 28 - LEONIS PAPAE
25 - VRBANI PAPAE 29 - PETRI ET PAVLI AP.
26 - ELEVTHERII PAPAE
27 - IOANNIS PAPAE
30 - FELICIS PAPAE
31 - PETRONILLAE VIRG
July 2 - VISIT.B.MARIAE August 1 - PETRI AD VINCVLA
10 - VII FRATRVM 2 - S.S.MACHAB.MART.
11 - PII PAPAE 4 - DOMINICI CONF.
12 - NABORIS ET FELI 6 - TRANSFIG DOMINI
13 - ANACLETI PAPAE 7 - DONATI EPISC
14 - BONAVENTVRAE 8 - CYRIACI
17 - ALEXII 10 - LAVRENTII
18 - SYMPHORIANI 11 - TIBVRTII
20 - MARGARITAE VIRG. 15 - ASSVM.B.MARIAE.
21 - PRAXEDIS VIRG. 20 - BERNATI ABBATIS
22 - MARIAE MAGDAL. 22 - TIMOTHEI
23 - APOLLINARIS 24 - BARTHOLOMAEI 24 - CHRISTINAE VIRG. 25 - LVDOVICI REGIS
25 - IACOBI APOST. 26 - ZEPHERINI PAPAE
27 - PANTALEONIS 28 - AVGVSTINI EPISC.
28 - NAZARII 29 - DECOLLATIO IOHAN.B
29 - MARTHAE VIRG. 30 - FELICIS ET ADAVCTI
30 - ABDON ET SENNEN
September 1 - AEGIDII ABBATIS October 1 - REMIGII EPISC.
8 - NATIVITAS.B.MARIAE 4 - FRANCISCI CONF.
11 - HYACINTHI MARTYR. 7 - S MARCI PAPAE
14 - EXALTAT S CRVCIS 9 - DIONYSII
16 - CORNELII. 14 - CALLISTI PAPAE
20 - EVSTACHII 18 - LVCAE EVANGEL
21 - MATTHAEI APOST. 21 - HILARIONIS ABB
22 - MAVRITII 25 - CHRYSANTHI
23 - LINI PAPAE 26 - EVARISTI PAPAE
` 26 - CYPRIANI 28 - SIMONIS ET JUDAE
27 - COSMAE ET DAMIANI
29 - MICHAEL ARCHANG
30 - HIERONYMI
November 1 - O.SANCTORVM December 1 - BIBIANAE VIRG.
2 - O.DEFUNCTORVM 4 - BARBARAE VIRG.
4 - VITALIS AGRICOLAE 5 - SABBAE ABBATIS
8 - SS.4 CORONA 6 - NICOLAI EPISC.
9 - S.THEODOT MART. 7 - AMBROSII EPISC.
10 - TRYPHONIS 8 - CONCEPT.B.MARIAE
11 - MARTINI EPISC. 10 - MELCHIADIS PAPAE
12 - MARTINI PAPAE 11 - DAMASI PAPAE
17 - GREG.THAVMAT. 13 - LVCIAE VIRG.
19 - PONTIANI PAPAE 21 - THOMAE APOST.
22 - CAECILIAE VIRG. 25 - NAT.D.N.IESV
23 - CLEMENTIS 26 - STEFANI PROTOM.
24 - CHRYSOGONI 27 - IOANNIS EVANGELI.
25 - CATHARINAE VIRG. 28 - SS INOCENTIVM
26 - PETRI ALEXAND 29 - THOMAE CANTVAR.
29 - SATVR 31 - SYLVESTRI PAPAE
30 - ANDREAE APOST.
The disc has two holes covered by the zodiac-disc, at 1 May and 27 October. The back of the calendar disc shows clear traces of having been turned in a lathe.
The calendar is read by a small steel pointer on the left (replacement); its arbor is friction-tight on the wheel (one grub-screw). The solar disc is now coupled to the calendar ring in such a way, that 1.Aries = ca.25 March. It may be assumed that the original pointer allowed for 1.Aries = 21 March (New Style calendar). - In the corners of this panel are engraved figures representing the four ancient empires with their names: ASIRIA, PERSIA, GREACIA and ROMA.
The calender disc is partly covered by the gilt copper disc of the zodiac; this disc is fixed, being secured at the bottom by a gilt-brass arm which is srewed to the front bar of the steel base. This disc is divided in degrees, numbered twelve times 10-30, and has engraved roundels with representations of the signs of the zodiac. Near the centre are the names and the symbols of the signs.
Overlaying the centre of the disc of the Zodiac is the solar disc, which is carried by an octagon on the centre of the calendar disc and moves with it. This disc has a gilded extension which carries a silver sun, by which it indicates on the zodiac. Most of the disc is silvered to supply lunar indications: around the rim it is a punched division 1-29 plus a small space, and the central portion is engraved with a moon and there is a recessed volvelle filled with black wax.
The smallest, outermost disc is the lunar disc; it is of gilded brass with a silver moon and a small silver indicator. It is engraved to represent the portion of the stellar firmament that surrounds the Polar Star, with the constellations Ursa Minor, Draco, Ursa major, Cepheus, Cassiopeia and part of Erichtonius with Hircus. There is a large aperture through which the volvelle on the solar disc under it displays the phase of the moon; the small silver indicator shows the age of the moon and the large hand with the lunar figure indicates the position of the moon on the fixed zodiac. The lunar disc sits friction-tight on the pipe of its wheel, being secured by a grub-screw.
Above the dials is a pannel with several apertures to accomodate the automata.
Immediately above the dials is the turntable of the Planets: seven chased silver figures representing the planets revolve to indicate the day of the week. Each planet is represented by its associated God sitting in a triumphal cart. On the wheel of the cart are the name of the planet and a figure representing the sign of the zodiac particularly associated with it: SOL with Leo, LVNA with Cancer, MARS with Scorpio, MERCVRIVS with Virgo, IOVIS with Pisces, VENVS with Libra, SATVRNVS with Capricornus "). The figures are riveted to a silver band which is attached by to the brass disc by three hooks (repaired with soft solder). Behind these openwork figures is a curved iron plate painted blue with stars.
Above the turntable of the Planets is the turntable of the Angels. They revolve around a cast silver figure of Our Lady flanked by two angels. Four cast silver angels are mounted on springs which allow them to sway while moving; when they pass over a roller (at the front) they appear to bow. These figures are later and undoubtedly replace the three Magi (see later). On the "ceiling" above a gilded star has been riveted; it is engraved with a symbol for Christ (this star also is probably later).
Above the turntable of the angles is the turntable of the Ages of Man. The four cast silver figures, representing Childhood, Youth, Adulthood and Old Age, revolve around a bell which has under it a curved plate of gilded brass, engraved with a representation of the Last Judgement. The figure of Old Age has been replaced by one of the Magi (see below). The figure of Childhood used to hold something in his left hand; Stimmer's design (see Commentary) shows that this was a hobby-horse.
Above the Ages of Man is a platform with the cast silver figures of Christ (left) and Death (right). These figures stand on a platform that is now fixed. Christ stands on a hinged arm and now moves continuously in and out of the aperture (the cycle takes two minutes). Death is stationary but strikes the full hours. For the original motions, which were more complicated, see Conversions.
Flanking the figures of Christ and Death the front pannel has two inscriptions:
(left, with Christ:) (right, with Death:)
OSEE (Hosaia 13 ROMA (Romans 6
ERO MORS Oh death I will STIPEN The wages
TVA O be thy plagues DIA PEC of sin
MORS MO oh grave CATI MO is
RSVS TV I will RS EST death)
VS ERO I be thy
Between these two texts, largely obscured by the bell, is the signature above a patern of tendrils.
On top of the baldechyn over Christ and Death there originally was a trumpetter (see below).
Above the main body of the clock is the openwork dome, made of silvered copper and secured by two of the nuts of the bell frame. The dome is a replacement (see later). At the top of the dome is a small figure of a cock which can open its beak and flap its wings. This automaton, which is also a replacement, performs at the end of the music and is activated by the bellows.
We have no information as to how the clock was displayed in the Royal Palace at Brussels.
When the clock was shown in London in 1848 it stood on a plinth with steeply raked sides, and the illustration in Description (ca.1850) shows that this was painted to resemble marble. It appears that a fragment of this plinth suvives: it is the square ring on which the clock stands, and which is sunk into the top of the present plinth. This fragment is made of pine wood and it retains the marbling.
It would appear that the present plinth was commissioned by Morgan. It is made of oak and pine and is stained red, to resemble mahogany. On one side there is a door to allow access to the weights. Screwed on top of the plinth is a square oak ring (not stained) in which is sunk the pine ring (bound by an iron band) which is a remainder of the earlier plinth. The clock is bolted to this ring by three bolts which project through square holes in the lower copper plate of the clock, and are secured by spherical brass nuts. These nuts are 19th century; there is no bolt at the rear of the clock.
The early photographs show that there was a stepped base to the plinth; this has since disappeared.
The early photographs of the clock show clearly, that in Morgan's time there was a glazed dome over the clock with doors on the sides. It is not clear whether this dome came to the museum; certainly it has since disappeared. Inside the plinth is a hinged iron handle of unclear prurpose; it has been suggested thatit may have been connected to a retractable set of castors in order to move the clock.
The movement is of gothic construction. It consists of four pillars, two rings, two cross straps and eleven vertical bars. The entire construction is pinned (the pillars do not hook over the rings).
All train wheels are of brass and have four crossings; they are are pinned to the arbors. Many wheels and the larger pinions have the teeth individually marked, including the ratchet wheels for winding. All trainwheel run in brass bushes and there is also a brass bush for the rear hoile of the original scapewheel (the hole is no longer used).
The four barrels are virtually identical. There is a brass wall, cast and turned to the required diameter. The wall fits tightly over four steel connecting pieces, which are riveted to the steel ratchet wheels. At the other end four slots have been cut both in the walls and the connecting pieces; these slots take the crossings of the winding wheel. The winding wheel is held in position by a large brass washer, riveted to the ends of the connecting pieces (shaped as eight rivets). The great wheel is pinned to the steel arbor, which passes through a brass-bushed hole in the ratchet wheel and through the centre of the winding wheel, and is secured by a ring-washer. All great wheels have 40 teeth and each barrel has 18 ratchet teeth for winding.
The four trains revolve in the same sense: the tops of the great wheels move away from the dials. The key has a pinion of 8 and a hole which fits the strud which is near each winding wheel (attached to the centre bar on each side). The trains are arranged as follows: front left - going train; front-right - quarter striking; rear right - hour striking; rear left - musical.
40 ┌ 48 84
── │ ── ── 35 (x 2)
10 ┤ 8 7
48 ┐ │
── │ 24 ║ ┘
quarters ← 48 │ ── ║
├ 24 ║
7 ┐ 21 ┐ 4 4 ┘
calendar ─── │ ── │ ── ──
and sun ← 365 ├ 21 ├ 28 96 → 24-hours
21 ┘ 36 ┘
syd.moon ← 82 36
2nd wheel carries a steel starwheel of 24, meshing with another similar one; the second starwheel is frition-tight on the arbor.
3rd wheel: the arbor carries a star of 5 to activate the figure of Christ in the top story (making it advance advance and retreat). The contrate wheel replaces the original scape wheel; the arbor is original, but the star and its lever are probably not (see Conversions).
Scapewheel: this wheel is later, replacing the original balance. The back cock of the verge is of steel and decoratively shaped.
The wheel of 48 on the second starwheel carries four brass studs to unlock the quarter striking; the wheel of 48 of the quarters carries a brass pin to unlock the musical train.
The hour wheel carries a brass conchoid of 4, meshing with a brass wheel of 28 (champhered to clear the 4th wheel of the quarter striking). The arbor of this wheel has at the top a square which fits the pipe of a wheel of driving the turntable of the weekdays; at the bottom it has a wheel of 12 to drive the calendar, sun and moon. In the drive for the moon the second wheel of 21 acts as an idler. The calendar wheel with the solar wheel are friction-tight on their wheel, and the lunar wheel is friction-tight on its arbor.
Quarter striking train.
40 48 ┌ 48 48
── ── │ ── ──
10 12 ┤ 8 8
24 18 ┘
turntable of the ── ──
ages of man ← 96 18
2nd wheel: a steel stud for unlocking the hour-striking train.
3rd wheel: carries the steel single disc for indexing and the steel starwheel to drive the turntable.
4th wheel: steel pin for locking. The teeth of this wheel are champhered (to clear the wheel of 28 in the drive for the lower dial).
Fly: double fly, a steel one with two wings (original) and a brass one of four wings (subseqyently added).
The second starwheel is of steel; the pinion of report and the turntable are of brass.
Unwarned striking with unlocking by the going train, overlift abd locking on the 3rd and locking on the 4th wheel. At each quarter the turntable makes a quarter revolution. The turntable carries four silver figures representing the Ages of Man. The figures are spring-loaded and can revolve around their axis; they have lifting pieces which engage the four fixed pins at front-left. These pins are of unequal length; the number of blows delivered depends on the hight of the lever on the relevant figure engaging one or more of the four fixed pins.
40 ┌ 48 48 48
── │ ── ── ──
10 │ 8 8 10
6 ║ ┘
12-hour ← 78 ║
2nd wheel: 6 steel lifting pins; this wheel carries the pinion of report for the count wheel. The lifting piece activates the figure of Death in the top story, making him strike the bell; it also activates the scythe of the angel left of the quarter dial.
3rd wheel: steel disc for indexing.
4th wheel: steel pin for locking.
Countwheel: raised steel crossings, brass band internally cut.
Fly: steel fly of two wings, to which two brass wings have been added.
Unwarned striking with unlocking by the quarter striking, indexing on the 3rd and locking on the 4th wheel. The unlocking arm also activates the hourglass of the angle on the right of the quarter dial.
40 48 ┌ 48 60
── ── │ ── ──
10 8 │ 8 8
96 16 12 ║ ┘
── ── ── ║
turntable of ← 96 96 12 ║
the angels ↓
The great heel carries the brass ring for indexing and overlift (four ridges have been added to provide more overlift). The arbor also carries a steel star of four, to lift the top of the bellows; this activates the wings of the cock: when the arm drops the cock crows.
3rd wheel: carries the steel starwheel of 12.
4th wheel: carries a single steel stud for locking.
Fly: brass fly of four wings (replaced in 1989).
The second starwheel is of steel; the pinion driving the barrel is of brass.
The musical barrel operates ten hammers positioned around it. The barrel and the turntable in front of it are of brass. The barrel drives the turntable.
Unwarned construction; unlocking off the wheel of the quarter dial, overlift and indexing on the great wheel, locking on the 4th wheel (this train is independent from the striking).
There is a musical barrel with fixed notation, acting on ten hammers that are arrangeded concentricly around it. Five bells are mounted around the barrel and another five on the level above it.
Right-hand angel with hourglass. The hourglass turns at the beginning and at the end of the striking of the hours. It is activated by the detend, which engages an iron strap behind the dial.
Left-hand angel with sickle. The sickle moves at every stroke of the hour. It is activated by a brass wire connected to the lifting piece, which engages a lever in the bottom of the moveemnt.
Turntable of the planets. This is continuously driven by the going train, via an arbor that takes its motion from the hour hand.
Turntable of the angels (Magi). This brass turntable is driven by the musical barrel behind it. The four angels are mounted on springs which allow them to bend forward; near the front of the display there is a roller which tilts the figures. The angels are not original: they replace figures of the Magi (see Conversions).
Turntable of the Ages of Man. The brass turntable is driven by an arbor from the quarter striking train. The table makes a quarter revolution at each quarter. The four silver figures are mounted on steel spikes so that they can turn; they are loaded by brass springs and have lifting pieces pointing outwards. Four studs of increasing length have been riveted in the iron plate; as the figures pass these they are lifted out 1 - 4 times depending on the level of the lifting piece. As the figures drop back they strike the bell in the centre. The figure of Old Age has been replaced by one of the Magi (see Conversions).
Platform of Christ and Death. Christ moves in and out of the aperture, being pumped by a lever that takes its motion from the star on the contrate wheel of the going train. The cycle takes 2 minutes. Death does not change position; he strikes the full hours activatyed by the lifting piece in the hour striking train. The brass platform which carries the figures is now stationary, but it is clear that it originally moved, and carried the figures in and out of the apertures. This is in accordance with what is reported about the clock in Strasbourg: during the hour Christ advanced gradually and Death receded, but at the hour Christ stepped back suddenly and Death came forward to strike the hour (Bach/Rieb  53). The present clock probably put up a similar performence: there are, behind the platform, holes in the topmost iron plate and in the iron plate underneath it, which allow an arbor driven by the quarter striking train to produce a motion on this level. Each figure has a spike on which it was pivoted, so that the figures would always face forward.
Trumpetter (missing). At the top of the Copenhagen clock is the figure of a trumpetter, who sounds his trumpet at the full hour. The London clock has three holes and a brass stud at the front of the top `balcony', suggesting that something similar was originally present. The simplest way to do this would be to make the trumpet sound just before the cocq; possibly the figure raised the arm with the instrument. However, in Copenhagen the trumpet is sounded before the full hour is struck and the same seems to have happened in the Fugger clock (see below), but there are no clear traces of such a construction in the London clock.
Cock. The silver cock is cast in two halves, srewed together; the comb and wotle are painted red. Inside is a simple lever, pivoted at the head, which projects outwards as the lower part of the neb. The other end of the lever lifts the wings, and at this end it is operated by a push piece which is lifted up by the bellows. The wooden bellows sit on top of the topmost horizontal copper plate. It is integral with the block that holds two wooden pipes; one is for the sound of the cock, the other is now unconnected. The top part of the bellows has a steel arm with a roller; this no longer connects with anything, but in the Copenhagen clock it rests against a spring-loaded iron toothes sector. This makes the bellows descend in an unregular way, making the sound of the cock more natural.
Continuously: Christ slowly appears and suddenly disappears (activated by the going train).
At the quarters: during unlocking the right-hand angle turns its sandglass; during the striking the turntable of the Ages of Man revolves and one of the figures strikes the quarters.
At the full hour: Death strikes the hour and the left-hand angle moves its scythe.
During the music (after the full hour and at will): the turntable of the angles revolves; at the end of the music the cock flaps its wings and crows.
The only early conversion of this clock is the fitting of a pendulum: the original escapement was removed (and some of the holes neatly filled in brass), the scapewheel was replaces by a contrate wheel and a vertical scapewheel fitted. At the top of the bar a platform remains where the cock and the gallows used to be. At the front the top support of the scapewheel and the front support of the verge are of brass and rather crude; at the back the pendulum cock is of steel and elegantly shaped (this part is visible when the door is opened). The conversion probably dates from the late 17th century.
It would appear that some time after the conversion to pendulum the clock was neglected and it may have met with an accident, which caused dammage to the top portion. The figure of Old Age disappeared from the Ages of Man and of the Magi only a single figure survived. Most of the bells of the carillon were lost (their stands have count marks but only a few bells have corresponding marks). The top structure was probably severely damaged and the figure of the trumpetter disappeared, but the cock remained.
It is assumed that the repairs, which Kessels mentioned in 1829 (see History), gave the clock its present day appearance. The remaining Magus was used to complete the Ages of Men and the turntable of Our Lady was fitted with four angels. The platform of Christ and Deatch was immobolized and a new motion for Christ fitted. The missing bells were replaced without regard for the tuning, and finally what remained of the top was replaced by the present dome.
In 1988-89 the musical train was restored, with the help of Dr.J.J.L.Haspels (see History). He identified the melody: with this type of construction a difficult task, but here made considerably easier because it was soon found that the music began with a single note repeated twice. The "Vater unser" turned out to fit the other notes perfectly, and the fact that this is also one of the melodies played by the great clock in Strasbourg was additional confirmation. The bells were rearranged and tuned; the two base bells were replaced by new ones (cast by the Whitechapel Bellfoundry).
Going train: great wheel - 1 rev. in 4 hours
2nd wheel - 1 rev. per hour.
Escapement - 5040 beats per hour.
Quarter striking: great wheel - 1 rev. per 4 hours.
3rd wheel - 1 rev. per quarter.
Hour striking: great wheel - 1 rev. per 24 strokes.
2nd wheel - 1 rev. in 6 strokes.
Musical train: great wheel - ¼ rev. per performance.
In 24 hours the great wheels make: going - 6 revs.
quarters - 6 revs.
hours - 6.5 revs.
music - 6 revs.
Barrels: diameter - 68 mm, which produces a drop of ca.150 cm for the hour striking and ca.135 cm for the other trains.
Calendar and sun: 1 rev. in 365 days.
Syderial moon: 1 rev. in 27.3333 days.
Moon in respect to sun (lunation): 29.5459 days.
Clock: hight -
width - 385 mm
depth - 385 mm
distance between the horizontal plates, base - 337 mm
centre - 338 mm
top - 360 mm
Movement: distance between the rings (inside) - 264 mm
distance between the bars, going train - 115 mm
quarter striking - 107 mm
hour striking - 107 mm
music - 115 mm
HISTORY AND PROVENANCE.
Already the very first time the clock turned up in modern times it was associated with the Pope in Rome. Since the clock is dated the pope could be identified, and so Sixtus V, who was Pope 1585-90, was generally held to be the first owner. However, there are several reasons why this provenance is unlikely. Habrecht was a protestant, and the many quotations from the bible as well as the calender ring which lists the main saints only both point that way '). But the main reason to doubt a catholic origin is in the music: the anthem "Unser Vater" was written by Luther!
It is much more likely therefore that the clock was made for a protestant german Prince. One might consider the Elector at Heidelberg, whose famous library became war booty in the 30-year war; it was removed to Rome, where it became the nucleus of the papal library.
The clock turned up in Brussel in April 1829 /), and was then owned by one H.Kessels. This man was on his way to Paris with the skeleton of a whale, but had run out of money and wanted to borrow fl. 5000 from the King of the Netherlands. Kessels estimated that his total expenditure on the clock (purchase + repairs) had amounted to that sum. He offered the clock in earnest, and supplied a description which leaves no doubt that it refers indeed to the present clock; Kessels calls it: "an extremely rare and precious clock of the 16th century, formerly the property of the Popes of Rome and purchased by the present owner through highly unexpected circumstances" +). The present silvered top is not mentioned, but there was a cock. The figures revolving in front of Our Lady were already four angels, but the angel to the left of the quarter-dial had a scepter in its hand, not a sickle. - The King was advised that the price was extremely high (fl.1000 - 1500 was considered more realistic) but he accepted the deal anyway. The clock was placed in the Royal Palace at Brussels; it would appear that it was never reclaimed ++). Recent research ha shown that this man was one Herman Kessels, an officer in the Dutch army, and that the wale was an exceptionally large one, which had been beached in Oostende in 1828. The skeleton had been donated to the King, to be placed in the Rijks Natuurhistorisch Museum, but Kessels obtained the right to show it for six years, so that he coulld recuperate his expenses @@).
King William I abdicated in 1840, but may well have continued to own the clock until his death in 1843. There is no indication that it was ever owned by his son William II, who died in 1849; certainly, by March 1848 the clock had turned up in London, where it was exhibited at the Royal Society.
In or shortly before 1850 a booklet on the clock was printed. Norman (1929) 407 quotes a copy of this which had a ms. note: "This clock I examined in 1850. O.M." At that time the clock was "on view for sale at Messrs, James & Co., Surgeon-Dentists, 63, Fleet Street, City, next to the Bolt-in-Tun Coach Office" (DEscription [ca.1850] title page).
The first time the clock is mentioned in the archives of the museum is in 1853. On 8th march Franks wrote to Hawkins (Edward Hawkins [1780-1867], Keeper of Antiquities): "A clock has lately been offered for sale in London which is one of the most beautiful specimens of early clock work now going. It was brought to England a few years ago and exhibited by the then owner who asked 400 £ for it. The person to whom it subsequently belonged went to Australia and the clock came into the hands of a dealer by name of Wilson who being under some obligation to Mr. Octavius Morgan (the member for Monmouthshire) received it for him." He has approached Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Goulsum(?) who have authorized him to ask Mr.Morgan to secure the clock. "It is now at Mr. Durrant's in Great Russell St (whom Mr. Morgan always employs to clean his ancient clocks) and awaits the decision of the Trustees." He encloses Morgan's letter of 19 Feb. 1853.
(Museum Archives, correspondence.)
The clockmaker was apparently Richard Durrant, recorded at 64 Great Russell Street 1847-71 (1820-42 at 36 Museum Street) (Britten 9  432).
In 1853 Morgan presented to the Society of Antiquaries of London "an Impression which he had had taken from an engraved plate of the Signs of the Zodiac, forming a portion of the Astronomical dial" of this clock; he thought that this plate as well as the other portions of the clock had been engraved by Virgil Solis.
PSA 3 (1856) 37 (8th December 1853).
Two photographs (one illustrated White  ) show that Morgan placed the clock in the stairwell of his house "the friars".
Octavius Morgan bequest, reg. 1888,12-1,100. It would appear that when the clock came into the museum it was out of order; at least was not made to run (see below). Britten 0 (1894) p.149 describes it as being "at the top of the main stair-case of the Britsh Museum". This remark is repeated until the 5th ed. (1922, p.56); the 6th (1932) has: "in the basement of the British Museum" (p.59).
H.V.Batten overhauled the clock in 1922, as is testified by the note on a piece of paper glued to the bellows. Milham (1923) 524 clearly says: "It is now in the British Museum in London and is running." In his letter of 24 Feb.1930 Batten refers to the "Standing clock by Isaac Habrecht 1589 this clock stood(?) on the main staircase a great number of years out of order I have made it go and I keep it going" (Ar.28).
Norman (1929) 358 describes the clock in the King Edward VII Gallery: "The fine King Edward VII Gallery is a feast to the eye, with its contents of beautiful porcelain, glassware, old silver and watches; but of all its treasures this noble clock of Habrecht never fails to get its admiring visitors." He adds (p.407): "Keep an open eye ... a few minutes before noon, any day. You will thus see the clock winder. He is a Museum mechanic, with a talent for making ancient pieces of machinery function.
For many years the old timepiece had been silent - and after 340 odd years it might well have rested. Several attempts to make it go not succeeding, the clock winder followed, applying his own observation, and by correction of a few noticed faults and a rebushing in one part he had his reward in finding the movement continue. At your desire he will remove the plates to allow you a view."
Summary Guide, 13th ed.(1929) 3: "In the Lower Gallery (reached by staircase or lift):-
CERAMIC, GLASS AND MEDIAEVAL COLLECTIONS.- .....
Watches and dials (Strasburg Clock of 16th century, still going). .....".
In 1929 Norman published the first detailed technical description of the clock. He produced a creditable effort with useful diagrams. However, his descriptions lack details about the drive for the automata (this portion he clearly did not inspect), he has many of the wheel counts wrong, and suggests that the quarter striking has warning. Norman's description dates seven years after the clock was cleaned. Presumably therefore he used notes Batten had made: certainly Norman makes no claim that he did any dismounting himself.
IN 1954 an efford appears to have been made to make the clock function again. At this time four pulleys were removed (which would halve the duration but considerably increase the driving force) **).
In 1957 the clock, "which as a result of war conditions and a long period of service was in very poor condition", was overhauled by S.A.Gildersleve of the Science Museum; he increased the duration from 25 to 41 hours (Lloyd [1958-2] 40). It is very likely therefore that he added the cross bars that take the ends of the cords, and that he added the present pulleys. In January 1958 Gildersleve and H.A.Lloyd demonstrated the clock to members of the
Antiquarian Horological Society (Lloyd [1958-1] 110). Later in that year Lloyd published his account of the clock, which deals mainly with its outside appearance (Lloyd [1958-2]).
In 1964-5 P.G.Coole wrote a series of articles on the clock, in which the various alterations and changes are discussed. One of the illustrations is a mock-up of the London clock with the Copenhagen top.
In 1988 a video-tape was made of the clock, the commentary being spoken by David Attenborough (a trustee of the Museum). In December of that year the clock was demonstrated and the video played at a lecture by D.R.Thompson (Thompson  and Thompson ). In 1988-9 the clock was overhauled by J.L.Evans; at this time the disposition and the tuning of the musical part was reconstructed, with the aid of Dr.J.J.L.Haspels, director of the mechanical musical instruments museum, Utrecht, The Netherlands (see Conversions).
From November 1992 until March 1993 the clock was on loan to the University of Strasbourg, where it was shown together with the Copenhagen clock.
') Compare the calendar rings of the clocks and globes made by Baldewein and Bürgi for the protestant court at Kassel, which also list the main saints only.
+) "een allerzeldzaamst en kostbaar uurwerk van de zestiende eeuw, voorheen een eigendom der Pausen van Rome en door eene byzonder toevallige omstandigheid door den tegenwoordigen Bezitter aangekocht" .
++) Norman (1929) 406 gives a strangely muddled account of the early history of the clock.
+++) Koninklijk Huisarchief, The Hague; E 18 c - N - 1. From copies kindly supplied by Mr.A.F.Ubels.
**) Remains of two labels preserved with the clock.
COMPARISSON WITH THE STRASBOURG CLOCK AND THE CLOCK IN COPENHAGEN.
The great clock which Isaac Habrecht (together with his brother Josias) made for the cathedral of Strasbourg in 1571-74, after the designs and calculations of Conrad Dasypodius, David Wolkenstein and the painter Tobias Stimmer, was clearly the source of inspiration for the present clock. The dials and their surrounds were taken from the Strasbourg clock, as were the automatic displays; indeed the very figures were copied in miniature. Interestingly the main feature that is not on the great clock, the procession of angels (originally Magi), clearly harks back to the predecessor of the great Habrecht clock: the first strasbourg clock of 1352-54, which had such a display. The trumpetter may also derive from that clock #). as do possibly the representations of the six Virtues.
The London clock is not the only one of its kind. Already Britten (3  56) drew attention to the similarity of the present clock with another one by the same maker, dated 1594, which is preserved in Rosenborg castle, Copenhagen, as part of the Danish Royal collection. We now know that earlier it had been for many years in castle Gottorp (Schleswig, Germany). It was probably acquired from Heinrich Habrecht (a son of Josias) who from 1626 until his death in 1653 was clockmaker to the Duke of Gottorp. This clock remained in Gottorp until 1743, when it was removed to Copenhagen ***).
Two discriptions of a third similar clock by this maker survive. This clock was made in 1583 for the banker Hans Fugger. Unlike the London and the Copehagen clocks it had a wooden case, and it had dials and displays on three sides. Fugger's clock had a globe and an astrolabe. The main display was a procession of the Magi in front of Our Lady, at the start of which two angels blew their trumpets before the carillon (of ten bells) began to play. At the top there was, as in the other clocks, a cocq which crowed and flapped its wings at the end of the performance ****).
The Copenhagen and the London clocks are quite similar. An important difference is that Copenhagen has a globe (there is no trace of this in London); moreover, this clock is constructed with steel wheels, and most of the arbors run in steel holes (the going train is bushed in brass). The barrel walls are of brass. Moreover, in Copenhagen the base portion and the movement are constructed as a single unit, having long pillars and three horizontal rings.
Isaak Habrecht was born Schaffhausen 1544 as a son of Joachim Habrecht, who was the first clockmaker of what was to be a remarkable dynasty. In 1571 Isaak and his brother Josias (1552-1575?) undertook to make the new clock for the cathedral in Strasbourg (after the designs and calculations of Conrad Dasypodius); this work was finished in 1574. Isaak settled in Strasbourg, where he became a citizen in 1574; he died in 1620 ##). His portrait, an anonymous woodcut dated 1608, has been reproduced many times ###). It may be noted that the word "automatarius" in the signature does not necessarily mean "maker of automata": Tycho Brahe used it to refer to Jost Bürgi (Brahe [15..] ..).
The beautifully made movement has several unsual features. There is a better than usual moon, but this is of a type already practiced in the 15th century. However, the cathedral clock of 1582-4 has a simple moon of 29½ days '). What appears to be new is the method of striking the quarters, by moving the hammers (the figures) past a series of studs of increasing hight; the lifting pieces on the hammers are also of unequal hight and this allows the striking of 1-4 strokes. Essentially this is striking on the unequal-pin principle, which is occasionally found in English repeating work of the 17th century, and was often used for striking trains in Italian clocks of the 17th-18th century.
It may be noted that the musical train is entirely independent of the striking trains. This was probably done in order to avoid problems when the owner wanted to set it off at will. If the weights of the clock had just enough drop for 24 hours there would be reserve to play the music twice extra. The construction of the barrel with the hammer arranged around it is an early one: it is essentially the same as that shown in the Brussels miniature of ca.1450 ^) and is used in a silver French vase clock of the middle of the 16th century ^^).
Most of the ornamentation of the clock (the figures of the pannels and those in the corners of the dials) was executed after the designs by Tobias Stimmer which had been previously used for the great clock (the six Virtues are not used on the clock but are entirely similar in style). The figures of the two angels of the dial, the planets, the Ages of Man, Christ and Death are also after Stimmer, whose designs for the Ages of Man and for the Planets are preserved in the Musée d'Art et Histoire, Strasbourg <). The caryatids of the side pannels and the upper front portion are after a series of prints by Jan Vredeman de Vries, Caryatidum (vulgus termas vocat) sive athlantidum of 1565 ^^^). The patern for the Last Judgement has not been traced; it may also derive from Stimmer, but it is different from the corresponding representation on the great clock.
A somewhat puzzling feature of the clock is that the figures of the theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity) are placed in reversed order, and the panels can not be interchanged. Prof.P.Lasko has suggested an ingeneous solution: the panels are to be read horizontally from top to bottom: we are born to learn Charity and Wisdom that we may pass through life with Fortitude and supported by Hope that in the end we may be rewarded with Justice '').
>) "Automatarius" should be translated "clockmaker" rather than "maker of automata". Compare Tycho Brahe's translation of a letter in German by Landgraf Wilhelm IV of Hesse-Kassel: "unsern Uhrmacher Iosten Byrgi" = "automatopaeum nostrum Iustum Byrgium" (T.Brahe, Epistolarum astronomicarum Libri primus [Uranienburg 1596] 269, 271).
") These are the so-called Houses of the planets. Sun and Moon have a single house, the other planets each have a day-house and a night-house. Represented on the clock are the day-houses, except Jupiter, who is associated with his night-house (his day-house is Sagittarius). The same mistake was made on the great clock (Oestmann  56).
***) Schlee (1975) 68, 82, 83; Ungerer (1925) 27-28, 31-32 (with picture of the movement)..
#) For the second Strasbourg clock see Ungerer (), Bach/Rieb (1992) and Oestmann (1993). Most of our information about the first clock derives from Dasypodius (1580), which includes an account of what he found. In this he mentions: "auff dem öbersten boden ist ein ronde ausladung gewesen / darauff ein rad gemacht ward / auff welchem die drey könig stunden / vnnd ein Maria bild von holtz geschnitzelet / vor welchem sie sich bucketen wann das ober Vhrwerck so dazu gemacht war gienge. Dasselbige kleyn vhrwerck hat auch Cimbalen getriben / welche auff ettliche gesäng gerichtet / auch am ende der selbigen / vnd anderen zeyten der Hann zu krägen pflegte. ..... von welchem werck nichts anders in disem (i.e. the new clock) kommen / dann allein das gestell / vund ettliche wenig meins peheltens redder so das hanen geschrey vnnd die Cymbalen treyben / die der Vhrmacher darzu gebraucht hat" (Dasypodius  3, 6). The carillon of ten bells, which (like the cock) was used in the great Habrecht clock, disappeared in the 19th century (Bach/Rieb  16) but part of the mechanism survives (Musée d'Art et Histoire, Strasbourg; Bach/Rieb  56-58; Oestmann  90). No record of a trumpetter in the first Strabourg clock has been found, but it may be noted that the clock in Villingen (finished in 1401), which is thought to have been similar to the first Strasbourg clock, had a display of the three Magi which included two trumpetting angels ("vnd ständ zwain engel vff dem gehús vnd bläsent": Oestmann  19-20, quoting a document of 1401). For other clocks with a display of figures that bow towards the centre see .... ( Nef).
****) Ungerer (1925) 28-29; Ungerer (1930); Oestmann (1993) 261-264.
##) For the Habrechts see Ungerer (1925), which is the basis of every subsequent study (most recently Oestmann  42-43).
###) Ungerer (1925) 15; Abeler (1977) 197 (detail).
') In the dial for the moonphases, the astrolabe and the globe: Bach/Rieb (1992) 43, fig.39, 85 and 99, fig.80.
^^) Brusa (1978) fig.191, 192.
<) Illustrated Ungerer (1930) ...; Bach/Rieb (1992) 33-34.
^^^) I am grateful to Mr.A.Wells-Cole of Leeds City Art Galleries, Temple Newsam House, Leeds, for this identification.
'') Coole (1964-5) II 20.
EXPLANATION OF THE FUNCTIONS OF THE CLOCK.
Divided into 4 'balconies' on which moving figures appear:
On the lowest, the days of the week in the guise of their planetary deities, executed in silver relief.
Seated Madonna and Child; at each hour four angels - modern replacements probably for the Three Magi - revolve in front while the "Vater unser" is played on the ten-bell carillon.
The Four Ages of Man; at each quarter, four figures revolve, the bell being struck by each in turn, commencing with the child and finishing with the old man just before the hour.
Death and Christ; at each hour Death strikes the bell. Christ moves inwards and outwards 30 times per hour.
Surmounting the cupola is a silver cock; at the end of the carillon's tune, it opens its wings and emits a note produced by a pipe and bellows.
The small dial records the quarters and, on the inner ring, the sixty minutes of the hour. In the centre a map of the world.
The putto on the right turns over his hour-glass as the quarters are struck.
The putto on the left moves his sickle as the hour is struck.
The large dial shows the 24 hours.
The outer ring revolves once a year and is read against the small pointer on the left. It indicates: the month, the day-letter (which indicates the day of the week if the letter for Sunday, the so-called Dominical Letter, is known), the date, and the saints' feast days.
Within the ring is the fixed portion of the dial, engraved with the twelve signs of the Zodiac. The two hands indicate the postion of Sun and Moon in the Zodiac; through an aperture in the centre disc the phase of the moon is shown, and at its rim the moon's age is indicated.
Movement: going train without the wheels
one pillar (at 45)
great wheel of going dismantled
Angled views of the top frame:
2nd level without barrel and turntable
2nd level with barrel and turntable
top (copper plate with bellows)
Cock (inside in two parts)
The horizontal cross-straps in the movement are forged into the rings. The front bar is hooked over the ring(?) at the bottom and pinned at the top.
I tried the solar disc mounted so as to read the date at the bottom, but that yields the same faulty result for 1.Aries.
I measured all barrels; they are all 68 mm.
The scribed lines on the calendar disc suggest they were drawn on a dividing plate with the division on the outside of the disc (like the Gebe-disc in Dresden.
The Zodiac disc has around its central hole four small holes (now unused); they appear to be left-overs from some earlier idea abandoned while the clock was made.
Checked the saints of the calandar.
Pamphlet relating to clock from 1848 in BM Horological Archives.
Text from 'Clocks', by David Thompson, London, 2004, pp. 48-51.
Height 140 cm, width 38.5 cm, depth 38.5 cm
This clock is undoubtedly one of the most important surviving examples of Renaissance clockwork. It was made by Isaac Habrecht in Strasbourg in 1589. Its design was conceived in imitation of the great astronomical clock in the cathedral there, a clock which Habrecht had completed in 1574 under the direction of Conrad Dasypodius, a mathematician at Strasbourg University, who had been commissioned to design a new clock for the cathedral. This domestic version of the cathedral clock is one of two surviving examples by Habrecht (the other is in Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen). It stands more than five feet tall and is a magnificent example of the clockmaker and engraver's art, combining a superb mechanism with a magnificently engraved case of the finest quality.
As well as the two main dials which show the time separately in hours and minutes, there is an annual calendar at the bottom with astronomical indications in the middle, showing the position of the sun and moon in the zodiac throughout the year, as well as the age and phase of the moon. Above the time dials, a carousel shows the days of the week, each personified by its ruling deity riding in a chariot pulled by fabulous beasts. In the stage above, in its original conception, the Three Magi processed before the seated Virgin and Child as the clock played music after the hour was struck. Now the procession consists of small, rather badly-cast angels who replace the original figures. Above this, the Four Ages of Man strike the quarters on a bell, but here one of the Four Ages has been replaced with one of the Magi figures from the stage below, who now strikes the bell with his incense jar. At the top the figure of Christ appears through a doorway, and at the hour the figure of Death strikes the passing hours on a large bell. When the hours are struck, the two small silver putti on the front move their arms, one turns an hour glass while the other raises and lowers a sickle (formerly a sceptre, now missing). The automaton figures are an impressive blend of the religious and the secular.
In addition to striking the hours and quarters, the clock plays music at each hour; a setting of the 'Vater Unser' first published in 'Geistliche Lieder auffs neu gebessert und gemehrt' (Leipzig, 1539). The clock is housed in a fine gilt-metal case engraved with Faith, Hope and Charity on the right, Wisdom, Fortitude and Justice on the left, and the Three Fates, Glotto, Lachesis and Atropos on the back. On the front, the emblems of the four ancient empires of Greece, Rome, Asia and Persia surround the calendar dial, and the four seasons fill the spandrel spaces around the main dial. In addition to these lavish decorations, the clock is also adorned with biblical quotations.
The movement consists of four weight-driven gear trains, for time indication, quarter strike, hour strike and music, all contained in a massive steel frame. The wheels are made of brass which was, by 1589, becoming more commonly used. In later years, perhaps at the beginning of the eighteenth century, the clock was converted from its original balance-controlled verge escapement to have the new pendulum control in order to greatly improve its timekeeping.
It was long thought that this clock had been made for Pope Sixtus V, but the music played by it and the engraved subjects which decorate it suggest very strongly that it must have been destined for a Protestant prince. The attribution to the Pope was based on the fact that it is known that the clock was in the Papal collections in the early nineteenth century. That a clock playing music written by Martin Luther should be commissioned by a Pope in the sixteenth century is inconceivable. One possible explanation for the existence of the clock in Rome is that during the Thirty Years War (1618-48) the library of the Elector of the Palatine in Heidelberg was seized as spoils of war by the Papal army and taken to Rome. Later it was placed in the possession of the King Willem I of the Netherlands as surety for a loan that the King gave to Herman Kessels (1794-1851) in 1829. Kessels was raising money to fund the exhibition of a massive whale carcass. In 1848, however, the clock appeared in London where it was exhibited at the Royal Society. It was here that Octavius Morgan saw it. In 1853, Morgan wrote the following letter to Augustus Wollaston Franks at the British Museum:
"I have again inspected the clock and fear that I must give it up from the difficulty of finding a place for it in my house as well as the removal of so large and heavy a thing to so great a distance - but I do so with great regret - for it would be an invaluable addition to my collection. I believe it to be the finest and grandest specimen of ancient clockwork in the world. I mean of course of a moveable kind for I except such horological structures as those in the cathedrals of Strasbourg and Lübeck. It is a genuine production of the date and was made by the same artist who made the Strasbourg clock and somewhat in imitation of it. I have never seen anything like it to my recollection of clocks in the Museums of Brunswick, Hesse-Cassel, Dresden or Vienna. I should like to see it in our national Museum for it is more fit for that than a private collection and I am inclined to think that if placed there and kept in order would be one of the most curious and interesting objects there. I have the refusal of it for one hundred pounds which from its being an unique specimen and so fine and curious a thing I do not think much out of the way for when I saw it some years ago I was asked four hundred pounds for it. I am obliged to give an answer by Tuesday as other parties are after it - some dealers are I believe willing to give that sum for it."
Unfortunately the Museum was not willing to part with one hundred pounds for the clock. Morgan bought it for himself and took it back to his house, The Friars, in Newport, South Wales. It stood at the bottom of the main staircase until his death in 1888, when it was bequeathed to The British Museum along with the rest of his amazing collection of clocks and watches.
Octavius Morgan Bequest.
- On display (G37)
- Exhibition history
1992 17 Nov-1993 14 Mar, France, Strasbourg, Old Astronomical Observatory, Le Jardin des Sciences
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number