- Museum number
Spring-driven table clock with astrolabic dial (now missing).
The gear trains are arranged one above the other, with the striking train at the bottom.
Spring-driven going train with gilded brass plates, barrel and fusee.
Verge escapement with steel balance.
Striking train, for hours only powered by a fixed barrel with engraved decoration on the visible side. The count-wheel is mounted on the lower side of the bottom plate,
Alarum train located above the bell.
At the top of the clock beneath the dial (now missing) is a rotating cage which operated the following indications:-
A disc rotating once in a sidereal day; a sun-pointer showing the time on a twenty-four hour dial and the position of the sun in the zodiac; a moon pointer showing the position of the moon in the zodiac.
Around the sides of the clock are three dials:-
Upper left indicating the hours.
Lower left indicating the day of week - this now has a red glass cabouchon replacing the hand.
A dial at the right is for alarm-setting.
There is a religious inscription in Latin around base of case.
- Production date
Height: 168 millimetres
Width: 104 millimetres
- 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The following text is the entry for this object from the unpublished catalogue of pre-pendulum clocks by John Leopold, former Assistant Keeper of Horology at the Museum.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.
HEXAGONAL VERTICAL TABLECLOCK, FRENCH 1545.
Cat. Bernal (1855) no.3970 ("arabesque arches": 18 l. 10 s. C.O.Morgan,M.P.)
PSA 3 (1856) 230 (meeting of 6th December 1855).
AJ 13 (1856) 98 (meeting of 7th December 1855).
Wood (1866) 56.
Postcards (1925) no.4 (thought to be Italian).
Lloyd (1964) 95.
Tait (1968) 38-39, pl.35.
Jagger (1977) 83.
Tardy 5 (1981) I 104.
Hutchinson (1983) no.12.
Cardinal (1986) 33.
Vincent/Chandler (1989/90) 174-5, 180.
No signature or mark. Above the dial the engraved inscription "15 45" (covered by the case). The lower profile band has, divided over the six faces and starting from the double dial, a punched inscription:
.TIMETE.DEVM .GLORIAM.QUIA IVDICII. .SVNT.ANNI.
.ET.DATE.ILLI .VENIT.HORA. .EIVS. .MORRE (changed from MORTE)
(Fear God and render him glory, for the hour of His judgement comes.
The years are like flowing water and the hour that has passed does not return.
On the movement back plate, near the winding squares, there are two deeply scratched letter: at the going "T", at the striking "B" (no letter for the alarum). They apparently stand for "Tempo" and "Bateria", and suggest that at some stage the clock had an Italian owner.
The case is largely constructed of brass, gilded on the outside only and with traces of a band on the lower inside. It consists of a lower band of six arched panels separated by fluted corner pillars, and an upper band of openwork panels with classical busts, surmounted by pediments separated by turned finials.
The case is constructed out of several cast sections. The lower part, consisting of the arched panels and the profile bands below and above them, is built up out of six cast panels brazed at the corners. Two of the panels have apertures for the dials. The tendril-ornament within the arches is raised on thin sheets which are riveted to the background; behind one of the sheets (between the dials) there is the aperture for a door to inspect the state winding, showing that these ornamental sheets are not original (see Commentary). The band of openwork panels is constructed similarly out of six parts, brazed on top of the lower part. The six classical busts, three male and three female, were cast separately and riveted into place (only the attachment of the one to the left of the main dials is without repairs). At the bottom of the side pillars of this upper portion there are small volutes, pinned and brazed into place (one replaced, one missing). A hexagonal plate, with a circular aperture for the upper dial, was brazed to the top of the openwork panels, being recessed within the small capitals. On top of the hexagonal disc a profile band was brazed, built up out of six parts brazed at the corners. Above the profile band there is a hexagonal ring with six cast pediments brazed to it; this assembly of ring and pediments appears originally to have been screwed to the main portion of the case by means of the finials; it is now riveted in the same places (with several repairs) and new threaded holes made into the rivets to take the present finials.
In the bottom of the case, at the corners, there are six screwholes, showing that originally there was a base-plate with screw-on feet.
The clock has four dials: three small vertical ones and a large horizontal one at the top. The two vertical dials situated above each other are for 12-hours (top) and weekdays (bottom); the third small dial is for the alarum. The large horizontal dial, which is incomplete, was for the astronomical indications.
The dials for the hours and the weekdays are mounted on the same plate, dovetailed and pinned to the top portion of the movement (going train). This gilded brass plate, which is engraved with the date 1545, has riveted to it the chapterring for the hours, divided I - XII with simple half-hour marks, and under it the weekdays ring, marked counter-clockwise D - L - M - ME - IE - VE - SA for the French names of the weekdays. The centre of the hour dial has a thin silver overlay engraved with a starburst; this dail has gilded brass hand. The centre of the weekdays dial has a silver disc engraved with a geometric patern set at the centre with a white stone with red backing; both disc and stone are later additions.
The alarm dial is likewise mounted on a gilded brass plate dovetailed and pinned between the plates of the going train. Its gilded brass chapterring is divided I - XII with simple half-hour marks; the centre is engraved with a starburst. Where the chapterring was filed very thin in order to accomodate the contrate wheel part has broken off. The hand of this dial is missing.
Of the top dial only the 24-hour outer ring remains; it is stamped 2x I- XII.
Plated two-stage movement, constructed largely of gilded brass. Six pillars, one at each corner; they are in two parts, the half pillars being riveted to the lower and central plates while the plates above them have studs that extend into the tops of the half pillars and are pinned into place. In the upper part the top of one pillar has been partly broken off. Movement and dials slide into the case from the bottom, being retained by three brass latches: one plain, two spring loaded. The plain latch is original and so is one of the springs; the other two latches and the remains of the second spring are replacements.
All train wheels have four crossings, except the great wheel of the striking which is solid and forms part of the going barrel.
The great wheel and second wheel have ornamentally turned arbors; the contrate wheel has a faceted arbor and (steel) collet. The teeth of the second wheel are individually marked.
weekdays ← ...
(5) (6?) (43) 18 4 ┐ 8 ║ 54 54 42
─── ──── ──── ─── ── │ ─ ║ ── ── ── 15 (x 2)
24-hours ← 215 (6) (6?) (6) 36 ├ 8 ║ 8 6 6
(upper dial) ↓ │
(4) 8 ┘
alarum ← 48 (6)
Barrel: gilded brass, the wall engraved with mauresque ornament. One cap brazed, the other friction-tight over four studs. Outer end of the spring attached by a crossbar which is inserted through two slots in the sping; inner end riveted. Blued spring, not original; 18.2 x .3 mm. Brass set-up wheel of 8; brass click and spring (modified bow-and-arrow).
Great wheel: split construction, the arbor pinned to the top of the fusee while the wheel and pinion, which are attached to a pipe inside the fusee, move freely. Fusee 20 turns, re-cut for chain; hole sideways. Fusee has 11 ratchet teeth for winding. All parts of this assembly, except the arbor, are of gilded brass. Conventional stopwork, the spring integral with the stop.
Scape wheel: potence pinned over a stud on the top plate, counter potence riveted (replacement). Balance and cock missing; the stud for the cock has been filed away.
Drive for the dials.
A wheel of 8 attached to the great wheel drives a small brass contrate of 8, which has on its arbor a pinion of 4 meshing with the main hour-wheel of 36. This hour-hand wheel, of steel, is friction-tight on its arbor, which carries the star for unlocking the strike as well as a steel contrate wheel of 18. This contrate drove (upwards) the astronomical dial, as well as (downwards) the dial for the weekdays.
The small contrate of 8 additionally meshed with another wheel, the pinion of which drove the brass dial wheel of the alarum dial (48). The wheel of 48 is friction-tight on its arbor, which carries as teel disc with the stud for unlocking the alarum.
The astronomical dial at the top was driven by the hour-dial, but all the connecting elements are missing. However, there are holes and circular rub-marks, which make clear that the connection was a complicated one: the contrate wheel attached to the hourhand wheel (18) drove a pinion with a long vertical arbor, which carried, above the upper plate, a fairly large wheel. This drove a small idler pinion which meshed with a pinion of about equal size on another vertical arbor, the end of which carried the pinion which drove the cage of the epicyclic assembly for the dial (215). There are two studs with pinholes, which held arms to secure the arbors. Since it is clear from the construction that the cage of the epicxclic gearing carried the sun-hand, and therefore revolved once per 24 hours, the count of the connecting elements can be calculated; in the fractional notation of the going train these numbers have been placed in brackets.
The dial at the top was an astrolabic one, driven by a epicyclic gearing. The moving elements of the dial have all disappeared but the epicyclic construction largely survives. This is constructed as a cage, the top portion being pinned to the wheel by three pillars. The wheelcount shows that the cage was connected to the sunhand, while the moon was driven from within the cage and the rete-wheel lay on top of it. The number of teeth of the rete wheel, which is missing, was calculated and is marked in brackets.
6 8 6
── ────── ──
24 59 60 (73) → rete
The cage revolves in 24 hours around a fixed steel pinion of 6, which imparts motion to the 1st planet wheel of 24. The pinion of the 1st planet wheel meshes with both the moonwheel and with the 2nd planet wheel, which carries a lantern of 6 brass pins which meshed with the rete wheel.
Second, third and fourth wheels have faceted arbors; the fifth and the fly-pinion have decoratively turned arbors.
40 ┌ 36 40 40 36
── │ ── ── ── ──
6 ┤ 6 6 6 18
6 ║ ┘
countwheel ← 78 ║
Great wheel: going barrel, the wheel brazed to the wall and the cap riveted over four studs. The barrel wall is engraved with a patern similar (but not identical) to that of the going train. Spring later, 19.5 x .3 mm; not blued. Spring now hooked over studs in the barrel wall and the central arbor, but there are holes in the caps for the crossbar of the outer end, and two holes for rivets in the arbor. Brass ratchet wheel of 8 for winding.
Second wheel: six brass pins for hammer lifting. Brass pinion-of-report pinned to the end of this arbor (pinion replaced). The teeth are individually marked.
Third wheel: two pins on the rim, one for warning, the other for locking. Wheel much repaired and the position of the pins changed. The brass disc for indexing is mounted on a sleeve over this arbor and pinned into position.
Fourth wheel: teeth individually marked.
Fly-pinion: brass wheel, much repaired.
Countwheel: internally geared brass ring held in position by a cross pinned over a stud. The teeth are individually marked.
Detends: two steel detends (the indexing arm repaired in brass). The bell is screwed to the inside of the spider.
Warned striking, the warning detend being pivoted to the centre plate (the spring replaced) and the locking detend pivoted between the centre and the lower plates.
This train is entirely missing: all that remain are the brass click and clickspring for the winding. The remaining traces show that the train consisted of a going barrel meshing with the scape wheel, and there is on the centre plate a stud with a pinhole to secure the frame for the escapement. Behind the alarum dial, attached to the top plate, are the spring and brackets for the release mechanism.
Going train: great wheel - 1 rev. in 80 mins.
escapement - 9568.125 beats per hour.
duration - ca. 27 hours.
Striking train: in 24 hours great wwhel makes 3.9 revs.
There are few traces of conversions. The stud over which the original cock was pinned has been filed away, and a large screwhole marks the place where a subsequent cock was attached. This presumably coincided with conversion to balance spring, but no proof now survives to show that a spring was ever fitted.
The alarum train seesm to have been discarded at a fairly early stage; it had presumably already disappeared when the other winding squares were marked.
When the astronomical dial with most of its driving elements, and when the (silver?) panels for the sides of the clock were lost, is not clear; all that is certain is that by 1855 a figure of Time had become attached to the top, and the present embossed plaques (rather vaguely described as "arabesque arches") had been fitted (see History). These additions probably form part of an early 19th century restoration.
Height - 168 mm
Width - 104 mm
Movement: distance between the plates, upper part - 33 mm
lower part - 32 mm
PROVENANCE AND HISTORY.
The scratched letters "T" and "B" on the movement suggest that the clock was at one time in Italy; since the alarum is not marked it would appear that this train was then already missing.
The clock is first recorded in 1855, at the sale of the collection of Ralph Bernal: no.3970, sold to Octavius Morgan for £18/10/-. The description ("A clock, in the form of an hexagonal temple, metal-gilt, with classical busts above, and arabesque arches beneath, surmounted by a small white-metal figure of Time") shows that the clock was then already in the condition in which it entered the Museum.
Morgan showed the clock at the Society of Antiquaries of London on 6th December 1855, and (according to Wood) at the Archaeological Institute on the next day.
Octavius Morgan bequest, reg. 1888,12-1,123. IN ca.1925 a picture postcard was made of this clock, which suggests that it was displayed in the new gallery. The postcard shows the clock with the Chronos figure still in place; this was not removed until ca.1960 (preserved with the clock).
The surviving epicyclic gearing leaves no doubt that the missing horizontal dial was an astrolabic one. Such dials are very rare on French clocks, and they all appear to be similar to that of no. (Mudge/Ferguson).
Of the clocks quoted in Cardinal (1986) the Bargello one is closest: the delicate work of the top of the case is very similar. There is also obvious similarity with the Jean Naze in the Petit Palais.
All the surviving 16th cent. French clocks with horizontal astrolabes that are signed are by one of two Lyon makers: Pierre Fobis and Jean Naze. In date they vary from 1535 (Fobis) to 1581 (death of Naze). The only later clock appears to the one by Nic. Féau, Marseille (early 17th cent.). However, there is too much difference between the various unsigned clocks to justify attribution of all of them to these two makers.
The engraved spring-barrels of the present clock are reminiscent of those in the extraordinary movement of a clock by Fleurent Valeran, Paris (Wallace Coll.) and in a spherical clock by Jaques de la Garde, Blois, dated 1552 (Nat.Maritime Museum, Greenwich; Maurice  fig.494).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, has a drawing of a chalice (ink on vellum) ascribed to Jaques Androuet du Cerceaux; it has a nodus in the shape of a double-tierced hexagon with pilasters at the corners, similar to the present case. - Similar (but free-standing) pillars on the Fobis globe-clock in Vienna.
For the general design of the case compare the ambulatory of the Church of St.Pierre, Laon: built between 1518 and 1545 by Hector Sohier (check).
The spring of the going is very regular and even; the barrel is very crowded. Depth of the barrel 20.5 mm.
The spring of the striking is definitely later: very smooth edges, surfaces fairly rough with traces of black finish. Depth of the barrel 22 mm.
One of the feet of the spider is marked for positioning.
BIBLIOGRAPHY (Pauline Wholey – 2019)
Bernal (1855) H.G.Bohn, A Guide to the Knowledge of Pottery, Porcelain, and other Objects of Vertu. Comprising an illustrated catalogue of the Bernal Collection of Works of Art (London 1855) Check this date!
PSA 3 (1856) 230 (meeting of 6th December 1855).
AJ 13 (1856) 98 (meeting of 7th December 1855).
Wood (1866) E.J.Wood, Curiosities of Clocks and Watches (London 1866).
Postcards (1925) - British Museum, Set 77, Clocks from the 16th to the 18th Century ... 15 Pictorial Postcards (London? ca.1925). Envelope containing 6 pages of text and 15 postcards. There exist two issues; in the earlier one the postcards are slightly larger and they have no printed material on the back. NB: "No photographs seem to be available" (HJ [April 1923] 158).
Lloyd (1964) H.A.Lloyd, The Collector's Dictionary of Clocks (London 1964).
Tait (1968) H.Tait, Clocks in the British Museum (London 1968).
Jagger (1977) C.Jagger, The World's great Clocks and Watches (London etc. 1977).
Tardy 5 (1981, 1982) Tardy, The French Clocks, 5th ed., Part 1, 2 (Paris 1981) Part 3 (Paris 1982).
Hutchinson (1983) - B.Hutchinson, Orologi antichi (Milan 1983). Page numbers refer to the introduction, which is followed by numbered descriptions.
Cardinal (1986) C.Cardinal, `Horloges de Table astrolabiques françaises du XVIe Siècle', ANCAHA no.46 (1986) 19 36.
Vincent/Chandler (1989/90) C.Vincent/B.Chandler, `A case study of dependency: the mathematical competence of a renaissance clockmaker', Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien 85/86 (1989/90) 163 181.
When acquired in 1888, the clock had a figure of chronos at the top. As a later misleading addition, this has been removed and is stored separately.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1998 23 Apr-12 Sep, London, Sir John Soane's Museum, A Renaissance Artisan's Designs
- Latest: 2 (Oct 2015)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Purchased by Octavius Morgan in 1855, at the sale of the collection of Ralph Bernal: cat.no. 3970 for £18/10/-.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number