Dorrin K Mace, Horologost

Dorrin K Mace, Horologost
The Clock Man in a pensive moment

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The art of display

The art of display
It is now an established fact – Enrico Morpurgo proved it some years ago – that a certain Pietro Guido was the first person ever to make a watch at the Court of Mantua, around 1505. The idea of reducing small portable clocks to ceremonial items to be carried around on one's person for show - hence the French term "montre" - took hold in the late 15th and early 16th century, in Italy, Germany and also France. It was nothing other than the natural consequence of the gradual miniaturisation of clocks; in South Germany, the region of Nuremberg and Augsbourg saw the first flicker of industrial development. Professor Morpurgo, with the help of iconographic documents, has even advanced 1460 as the birth date of the watch in north Italy.

Some great watchmakers rose to distinction in the 16th and 17th centuries. Among them, around 1620, was Giovanni Batista Mascarone of Milan and his astronomical watches.

It is worth recalling the discovery of the law of isochronism of pendulum oscillations by the Florentine scientist Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) and the fact that he is said to have designed a clock fitted with this mechanism. His son, Vincenzo, and his disciple, Vincenzo Viviani, have left us several drawings (1641-1659) of this machine, none of which appear to have been built during Galileo's lifetime. At the close of 1656, the Dutch mathematician Christian Huygens (1629-1695), working in conjunction with the clockmaker Salomon Coster of the Hague, produced a pendulum clock. The clock can nowadays be found at the Boerhaave Museum in Leiden. Timekeepers were spectacularly enhanced by this new  process. Their accuracy went from 15 minutes or thereabouts a day to 10 or 15 seconds. The spread of this invention caused a real outcry when knowledge of it reached in Italy. Passionate debates ensued and Huygens was accused of plagiarising Galileo. This historical controversy is still very much alive today and has been the subject of numerous publications since the 17th century.

In his treatise entitled “Horologi Elementari” (Venice, 1669), Domenico Martinelli explains one of the features of the hour display in Italy, namely: the division by 6 and not by 12 of the dials of clocks and watches. He calls them "6 hour clocks in the manner of Rome". A process that dates back to mediaeval times. Its origin appears to lie in the monastic tradition of dividing the day and night according to prayer times, with the day starting at midday. Commonplace throughout Italy on clocks from the 15th to the 17th centuries, this form of display fell from use in the north of the peninsula in the early 18th century following the adoption of duodecimal time. It was still regularly used however in the central and southern parts of the peninsula up to the Napoleonic Wars.
 

No comments:

Post a Comment