- Museum number
Pamphlet describing Bridges' Microcosm.
'A succinct description of that elaborate and matchless pile of art, called, the Microcosm. With a short account of the solar system, interspersed with poetical sentiments on the planets. Extracted from the most approved authors on that subject. The seventh edition, with additions.'
- Production date
- 1763 (after)
Height: 204 millimetres
Thickness: 4 millimetres
Width: 128 millimetres
- Curator's comments
John R. Millburn, "The Meandering Microcosm", paper now in Horological Study Room (pa.912) and also 'Antiquarian Horology', Vol. XXII (Summer 1995), pp.160-161.
This is one of two Microcosm booklets (see also 1958,1006.2101.a), which are slightly different. They refer to the microcosm clock by Henry Bridges q.v. which is object 1958,1006.2101.
Text from 'Clocks', by David Thompson, London, 2004, p. 104.
Monumental astronomical clock, 'The Microcosm'
Waltham Abbey, c. 1733
Dial and movement: height 77 cm, width 38 cm, depth 13 cm
"In Justice to the Memory of the late Mr. Henry Bridges of Waltham Abbey, Architect, I must inform the Reader, that the MICROCOSM was constructed by that excellent Artist. It was the Produce of more than twenty Years close Study and Application; and when completed, it received the Approbation of the Nobility, the Royal Society, the Gentry, and the curious Part of Mankind in general.
It is most beautifully compos'd of Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Music, and Astronomy, according to the most approved Rules and Principles; and contains an infinite Variety of Moving Figures, whose Motions are a judicious Representation of Life. The Beauties of its internal Parts are calculated to delight the Eye, please the Ear, and improve the Mind; its external to strike every Beholder with Admiration and Magnificence of its Structure.
A Succinct DESCRIPTION OF THAT Elaborate PILE OF ART, called the MICROCOSM With a Short Account of the SOLAR SYSTEM, third edition with additions, Coventry, MDCCLXIII".
The clock consisted of a large edifice in the form of a Roman temple, ten feet high and six feet wide (305 x 183 cm). A number of levels displayed representations of the nine Muses on Parnassus, Orpheus charming the wild beasts in the forest, a grove with birds flying and singing, a clock with both the Ptolemaic and Copernican celestial systems and a landscape with a prospect of the Ocean and ships sailing. The foreground was animated with coaches, carts, chaises, people, birds and dogs. Finally, there was a busy carpenter's yard. An organ, harpsichord, spinet, flute and whistle with thoroughbass accompaniment played eight melodies:
"At length all the various Parts of this Machine are at once presented to the Spectator's View in Motion, when upwards of one thousand two Hundred Wheels and Pinions move all together; And during the whole Performance, it plays several fine Pieces of Music on the Organ, in a very elegant Manner; and the Organ is likewise provided with a Set of Keys, so that Ladies or Gentlemen may, themselves perform on the Organ what Pieces of Music they best like."
This monumental clockwork automaton was conceived as an entertainment. Thanks to researches into advertisements for the 'The Microcosm' by a number of people, particularly John R. Milburn and W.R. and V.B. McLeod, it is known that the edifice was exhibited in London and various locations around the country, in America, in Ireland and even in Jamaica. Following the death of Henry Bridges in 1754 'The Microcosm' continued to travel, but at some time must have fallen into dereliction and disrepair. There is even a tradition that it was destroyed during the French Revolution. It was rediscovered in Paris in 1938 by CA. Ilbert, but sadly only the clock dial and movement had survived and, indeed, an extra quarter-striking train had been added to the mechanism.
- On display (G2/fc166)
- Exhibition history
2014 Oct 14 - London, BM, G2, 'Collecting the World'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The Ilbert Collection of clocks, prints and other related material was destined to be sold at Christie's auction house on 6th-7th November 1958. As a result of the generous donation of funds by Gilbert Edgar CBE the sale was cancelled and the material purchased privately from the beneficiaries of the Ilbert Estate.NL1Ilbert's watches were then acquired with further funds from Gilbert Edgar CBE, public donations and government funds. These were then registered in the series 1958,1201.NL1The clock was rediscovered in Paris in 1920.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Previous owner/ex-collection number: CAI.2101b (Ilbert Collection)