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CLOCK AND WATCH-MAKING,
THEORETICAL AND PRACTICAL.
Introductory and Historical Remarks-Vick's Clock, &c. THE art of constructing machines for measuring time has sometimes been denominated Horology. This word is derived from the Greek Q, (through the Latin Horologium) compounded of g, an hour, and yw, to read or point out; hence gayir, a machine for indicating the hours of the day.
Long before sun-dials were invented, Clepsydræ, or water clocks, had been made in the most remote periods of antiquity, and were used in Asia, China, India, Chaldea, Egypt, and Greece, where Plato introduced them. Julius Caesar found them even in Britain when he carried his arms thither, and it was by them he observed that the nights in this climate were shorter than those in Italy; (see his Commentaries, lib. v. xiii.) Clepsydræ had been known at Rome about an hundred years before this, and it is probable, they may have been as long known in Britain, seeing the early intercourse the Phoenicians had with our ancestors in quest of tin. See a description of a very curious Clepsydra given by Mr. Hamilton in No. 479 of the Phil. Trans.
Toothed wheels, although known a considerable time before, were first applied to Clepsydræ by Ctesibius, a native of Alexandria, who lived 145 years before the Christian æra. But at what time, or by whom, the clock with toothed wheels, crown-wheel scapement, and the regulator in form of a cross suspended by a cord, with two weights
to shift on it when regulating the clock, was invented, can now only be guessed at, as no positive information on this subject has been handed down to us. It was this kind of clock, a large turret one, which Charles V. King of France, surnamed the Wise, caused to be made at Paris by Henry Vick, who was sent for from Germany for the express purpose, and which was put up in the tower of his palace about the year 1370. Julien Le Roy, who had seen this clock, has given some account of it in his edition of Sully's Règle artificielle de temps, Paris, 1737. See this ancient clock by Vick, in Plate I. No. 1. a description of which shall be given afterwards.
Before a clock could be brought even to the state of the one made by Vick, there must have been many alterations and progressive improvements upon that which had first been projected, so that it must have been invented at least two or three centuries before Vick's time.
As the same word for a sun-dial among the Greeks and Romans, was also that for a clock, disputes have arisen, whether the horologia of Pacificus and of Gerbert, were sun-dials or clocks. Father Alexander asserts, that the horologium of Gerbert was a clock; while Hamberger supposes it to have been a sun-dial, from the pole star having been employed in setting it. Pacificus was Archdeacon of Verona about the year 850. Gerbert was Pope, under the name of Silvester II. and made his clock at Magdeburg about the year 996.
Richard of Wallingford, Abbot of St. Alban's in England, who flourished in 1326, by a miracle of art constructed a clock, which had not its equal in all Europe, according to the testimony of Gesner. Leland too, an old English author, informs us, that it was a clock which shewed the course of the sun, moon, and stars, and the rise and fall of the tides; that it continued to go in his own time, which was about the latter end of Henry the Seventh's reign; and that according to tradition, this famous piece of mechanism was called Albion by the inventor.
"In 1382," says Father Alexander, "the Duke of Burgundy ordered to be taken away from the city of Courtray, on the French army entering it, a clock which struck the hours, and which was the best at that time known, either on this side or beyond seas, and made it to be brought to Dijon, his capital, where it still is in the tower of Notre Dame. These are the three most ancient clocks that I find
after that of Gerbert."
"We know no person," continues this author, "more ancient, and to whom we can more justly attribute the invention of clocks with toothed wheels than to Gerbert. He was born in Auvergne, and was a Monk in the Abbey of St. Gerard D'Orillac, of the order of St.
Bennet. His abbot sent him into Spain, where he learned astrology and the mathematics, in which he became so great a proficient, that, in an age when these sciences were little known, he passed for a magician, as well as the Abbot Trithemius. (It may have been for the erime of magic imputed to Gerbert, that he was afterwards banished from France.) From Spain he came to Rome, and being a man much superior to the times in which he lived, he was there appointed to superintend the monastic studies in the Abbacy of Bobio, situated among the Appenines in Liguria, founded by St. Columbanus in the year 612; but the low state of its funds compelled him to return to France. The reputation of his learning and uncommon genius induced Adalberon, Archbishop of Rheims, to establish him in 970, as rector of the schools there, and at the same time to make him his private secretary.
It was near the end of the tenth century, about the year 996, when he made at Magdeburg this clock so wonderful and surprising, as to go by means of weights and wheels. He was Archbishop of Rheims in 992, a situation which he held during three years, then Archbishop of Ravenna in 997, and at last, Sovereign Pontiff, under the name of Silvester II. in 999; he died at the beginning of the fifth year of his pontificate, in 1003." The clock constructed by Gerbert seems to have been made after he left Rheims, and before his appointment to Ravenna; and, it is highly probable, that this was the period when clock-making was introduced into Germany.
"William Marlot, to show how wonderful this piece of work was, makes use of an expression which can hardly be suffered in our language: Admirabile horologium fabricavit per instrumentum diabolica arte inventum."
The western Christians were particularly indebted to Gerbert for having transmitted to them the arithmetic which we make use of at the present day. Abacum certe primus a Saracenis rapiens regulas dedit quæa sudantibus Abacistis vix intelliguntur, says the historian, William of Malmesbury, ad annum 999. Gerbert had also a great taste for mechanics. William of Malmesbury says, ibid. “ that in his time" (that is to say, some time or long before the year 1142, the year in which he died,)" there was to be seen in the church at Rheims, a mechanical clock which Gerbert had made, and hydraulic organs, where," says he, " the wind, pushed in a wonderful manner by water, made them give des sons modulés à des flutes d'airain." "Les horloges à roues sont une invention du moyen age, dont on ignore la datte et l'auteur. Dans les usages de Citeaux vers 1120, il