Collection online

Bridges' Microcosm

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1958,1006.2101

  • Title (object)

    • Bridges' Microcosm
  • Description

    Microcosm, or the world in miniature.
    Large astronomical clock with multiple dials, originally housed in a very large case with music and automata (now missing).

    Dial:
    Arched dial with repoussé foliage spandrel.
    Two large silvered-metal astronomical dials, upper with twenty-four hour ring, centre seconds, based on the Ptolemaic system; lower with Copernican system having four subsidiary dials showing: (top left) date, day and month, (top right) age of moon, new moon and full moon, (bottom left) dominical letter and year in the solar cycle, and (bottom right) the epact and golden number (ie number of the year in the lunar cycle).

    Movement:
    'Ting-tang' quarter-strike. Compensated pendulum.

    Case:
    Mahogany case (later date than movement) with plain panels and moulded bridges; domed hood surmounted by five metal-gilt spherical and obelisk finials. TRAIN-COUNTS. Upper section of movement carries hour and quarter trains:- Hours. Gt wheel 80 2nd wheel 80/10 3rd wheel 64/8 4th wheel 56/8 Fly 8 Quarters. Gt wheel 80 2nd wheel 84/8 3rd wheel 64/7 4th wheel 56/8 Fly 8

    More 

  • Producer name

  • Date

    • 1733
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 9 feet
    • Height: 77 centimetres (dial and movement)
    • Width: 38 centimetres
    • Depth: 13 centimetres
  • 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.Text from 'Clocks', by David Thompson, London, 2004, p. 104.
    Henry Bridges
    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.
    Ilbert Collection.Movement re-discovered in Paris in 1920; original case containing the moving picture scene and the organ had not survived

    More 

  • Bibliography

    • Thompson 2004 p.104 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G2/fc166

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:
    2014 Oct 14 - London, BM, G2, 'Collecting the World'

  • Associated places

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1958

  • 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.

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number

    1958,1006.2101

  • Additional IDs

    • CAI.2101 (Ilbert Collection)
Microcosm, or the world in miniature; movement re-discovered in Paris in 1920; original case containing the moving picture scene and the organ had not survived; two silvered-metal astronomical dials, upper with twenty-four hour ring, centre seconds, based on the Ptolemaic system; lower with Copernican system with four subsidiary dials showing calendar, age of moon, dominical letter and golden numbers, with 'ting-tang' quarter-strike and compensated pendulum; arched dial with repoussé foliage spandrel; enclosed in mahogany case with plain panels and moulded bridges; domed hood surmounted by five metal-gilt spherical and obelisk finials; enclosed in massive mahogany case of later date.  TRAIN-COUNTS.   Upper section of movement carries hour and quarter trains:- Hours. Gt wheel 80 2nd wheel 80/10 3rd wheel 64/8 4th wheel 56/8 Fly 8  Quarters. Gt wheel 80 2nd wheel 84/8 3rd wheel 64/7 4th wheel 56/8 Fly 8   This view is upper dial

Detail: Other

Microcosm, or the world in miniature; movement re-discovered in Paris in 1920; original case containing the moving picture scene and the organ had not survived; two silvered-metal astronomical dials, upper with twenty-four hour ring, centre seconds, based on the Ptolemaic system; lower with Copernican system with four subsidiary dials showing calendar, age of moon, dominical letter and golden numbers, with 'ting-tang' quarter-strike and compensated pendulum; arched dial with repoussé foliage spandrel; enclosed in mahogany case with plain panels and moulded bridges; domed hood surmounted by five metal-gilt spherical and obelisk finials; enclosed in massive mahogany case of later date. TRAIN-COUNTS. Upper section of movement carries hour and quarter trains:- Hours. Gt wheel 80 2nd wheel 80/10 3rd wheel 64/8 4th wheel 56/8 Fly 8 Quarters. Gt wheel 80 2nd wheel 84/8 3rd wheel 64/7 4th wheel 56/8 Fly 8 This view is upper dial

Image description

Recommend


Feedback

If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: collectiondatabase@britishmuseum.org 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: MCC3115

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 

Supporters

Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help  

Loading...