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  1. #1

    Thumbs up BOOKREVIEW: Huygens’ Legacy – The Golden Age of the Pendulum Clock

    Book review by Fortunat Mueller-Maerki ---- For NAWCC Bulletin

    Huygens’ Legacy – The Golden Age of the Pendulum Clock (An Exhibition coordinated by the Dutch Section of the Antiquarian Horological Society in collaboration with other collectors).

    Authors: Hans van den Ende, Frits and Maria van Kersen, John C. and Neil R. Taylor. 301 pages, ISBN 0 9548339 0 2; published 2004 by Fromanteel Ldt, Isle of Man (UK), US$100 (Hardback) or US$90 (Paperback) incl. shipping from Europe, order by e-mailing to ahsnl@hccnet.nl. Also available for lending by members from the Library and Research Center at the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, PA.

    To start with my conclusion: This is the most gorgeous and the most informative book ever published on 17th century pendulum clocks.

    The Dutch Section of the Antiquarian Horological Society went out of its way to put on what I consider the most important temporary (September through November 2004) show of clocks exhibited in many years. When learning of a few of the pieces featured I decided to make a special trip to the Netherlands and the former royal summer residence, the Paleis Het Loo in Appeldoorn. I was not disappointed. Previously my favorite exhibit had been “Horological Masterworks”, produced in 2003 in the United Kingdom. The 2004 Dutch exhibit not only contained the highlights of the 2003 British exhibit, but built on this core of masterworks, by adding continental pieces of similar importance and rarity to “tell a story”, the story of the first 50 years of the pendulum clock.

    Ninety clocks were carefully selected for their historical significance to the early history of the pendulum clock. A handful were borrowed from major museums, including the earliest know surviving pendulum clock (Costers’ 1657 clock from the Boerhaave National Science Museum in Leiden) at one end of the time line, and the first year-going, striking, repeating, spring-driven clock (Thompions’ 1695 “Mostyn clock” from the British Museum) at the other end. But the vast majority of the clocks exhibited come from a few private collectors, and have hardly -if ever- been seen by the public, including the earliest known Paris “Religieuse” (Saude, 1659), the earliest known French provincial “Religeuse” (Gilbert, 1660), the earliest hour striking pendulum clock etc, etc. These collectors and the organizers of the exhibit deserve our gratitude for sharing their treasures with horological enthusiasts and the public at large.

    Of course not everybody was able to visit the Paleis Het Loo during the 80 day display. From the beginning the AHS Dutch Section was determined to also provide a published record of the exhibit. A small brochure in Dutch (Opwinde Klokken, 20 pages, approx. $7) was ready for the opening of the exhibit, but the more scholarly full catalog was slightly delayed. Catalogues from temporary museum exhibits, if done properly, often contain the most important scholarship on their subject. “Huygens’ Legacy” lives up to the most stringent standards for content, readability, organization and production quality. It is so good that some serious horologists have remarked -only semi-facetiously- “there is no need to go visit the exhibit in person”.

    Hans van den Ende and his team of co-authors and photographers had the great advantage that all of them are accomplished and serious horological scholars, so there never was a need to explain things to those who pushed the pen or looked through the lens, they all knew exactly what would be of importance to the reader. The result is a book that closely parallels –and in some ways exceeds- the experience a thoughtful and inquisitive visitor would have going through the exhibit. With only minimal text introducing the chapters (Prologue, Invention & Development, Progression & Innovation, Further Developments and Perfection), the lions share of this 300 page book is devoted to describing in-depth the 90 clocks that tell the early history of the pendulum clock. Each clock gets two, four or six pages of text and images.

    Each entry starts with the facts on movement, escapement, dial and case (maker, date, dimensions, functions, special features) in table format, followed by a concise description and narrative of why this clock is an important step in the overall story. Each clock than is shown through a minimum of three (or as many as 11) large photographs. Each piece has an overall (cased) view and at least one movement view. In many cases the movement is shown separately from the left, from the right and from the back – simulating the way a student might examine a movement he can take in his hands. Additional pictures provide more than life size blowups of details worth further examination, e.g. of a signature, an escapement, a spandrel, a case detail or some unusual detail. The photography (and the lighting and printing) are of a quality and crispness that exceeds what is usually achievable by physically examining the piece (not to mention that none of us could ever dream of actually handling those priceless masterpieces). Forty-seven short biographies of all the makers represented, Glossary, Bibliography and Index follow the main body of the book.

    I have little doubt that this book will stand as the definitive work on early pendulum clocks for many years to come. I predict that its print-run will be sold out soon and that this title will within years will be a rare and prized possession for serious students of horological history.

    Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, Sussex NJ


    FMM December 2004
    Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, -Chair NAWCC Library Com./ Editor & Publisher of BHM
    Mem.NAWCC Mus.Coll.Com. / VP, USA Sect. Antiq.Horolog.Soc.

  2. #2
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    Default REVIEW: Huygens’ Legacy – The Golden Age of the Pendulum Clock (RE: Fortunat Mueller-Maerki)

    FMM,

    What is the total printing of this book and size?

  3. #3

    Default REVIEW: Huygens’ Legacy – The Golden Age of the Pendulum Clock (RE: Fortunat Mueller-Maerki)

    Fortunat,

    Are the catalogs available at the Palais Het Loo?

    Thanks, Ralph

  4. #4

    Default REVIEW: Huygens’ Legacy – The Golden Age of the Pendulum Clock (RE: Fortunat Mueller-Maerki)

    Ralph,
    The catalogs should be at available at the Het Loo palace in the Netherlands.

    Jon
    I am not sure on the print run, I think there 2000 printed.

    Fortunat
    Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, -Chair NAWCC Library Com./ Editor & Publisher of BHM
    Mem.NAWCC Mus.Coll.Com. / VP, USA Sect. Antiq.Horolog.Soc.

  5. #5

    Default REVIEW: Huygens’ Legacy – The Golden Age of the Pendulum Clock (RE: Fortunat Mueller-Maerki)

    I am fully cognizant of the contributions of John Taylor to both these wonderfull books and did not mean to minimize his contributions in any way. John is appearently -as became clear to anybody seeing the Masterworks book- an absolute genius when it comes to photographing horological artefacts. Also he must be a perfectionist and have inexaustible patience to mind the details.

    For one thing it is most refreshing to see scores of horological photographs in a book where not in a single one is a technically important horological detail obscured or covered by another part. In most other clockbooks the photos were obviously taken by non-horologist photographers who treated their "subjects" as aestethic objects, and e.g. some functionally all important release pin is hidden by some lever. Not in these books, here they are treated as mechanical artefacts and it is obvious that the person looking through the lens fully and completly understands the mechanisms.

    In addition John Taylors photography reveals a mastery of photographing techniques (particularly lighting and focussing) which -in my judgement- is unmatched anywhere. I don't know how he does it: Not one important part in a movement photograph is in the dark, is obscured by reflections, or is out of focus. Studying the movement shots is allmost as good as having the movement in your hands and turning it every which way, and it is certainly "better" than examining the object in a glass case in the museum.

    I also understand that the book production knowhow of Fromanteel Ldt was most critical in making the book so extraordinary (And I understand who the person behind that corporate label is).

    In suggesting solely the AHS Dutch Section as a source for "Huygens' Legacy" in my posting here (on a US message board) I am only following the suggestion in the AHS per-publication subscription flyer that directed UK customers to order from Fromanteel and "international" customers to order from the Dutch Section. Obmitting the second source was an oversight on my part. My appologies.

    I am also very happy to hear that Fromanteel Ldt still has a few copies of "Masterworks" available. I mistakingly was of the opinion that it is completly sold out (and the prices paid for copies on e-bay seem to support that assumption).

    While there are overlaps between the two books, there is no excuse for any serious student of horology for not owning both. Get Masterworks now while Fromanteel still has some. (That book may appreciate more in the next 50 years than your clocks will(:-) )

    Fortunat-Mueller-Maerki
    Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, -Chair NAWCC Library Com./ Editor & Publisher of BHM
    Mem.NAWCC Mus.Coll.Com. / VP, USA Sect. Antiq.Horolog.Soc.

  6. #6

    Default REVIEW: Huygens’ Legacy – The Golden Age of the Pendulum Clock (RE: Fortunat Mueller-Maerki)

    I just received a reply from May@fromenteel.com and my inquiry to the museum was forwarded to her. The book is available in hardback and paperback. The HB is $122.00 and about $21.00 for surface mail shipping (insurance is EXTRA). Wow!!

    Jeff

  7. #7
    Registered User LaBounty's Avatar
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    Default REVIEW: Huygens’ Legacy – The Golden Age of the Pendulum Clock (RE: Fortunat Mueller-Maerki)

    Hi Jeff and Fortunat-

    Thanks for the info! I may have to put this on my Christmas list .

    I think May Basset's e-mail address is may@fromanteel.com though. It looks like you have too many e's and not enough a's.

  8. #8
    Registered User LaBounty's Avatar
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    Default REVIEW: Huygens’ Legacy – The Golden Age of the Pendulum Clock (RE: Fortunat Mueller-Maerki)

    Hi Dave-

    I can imagine you wouldn't want to pay $21 postage since you are only a stone's throw away! But if you talk to Fromanteel, they may allow you to pay in Euro's and adjust the postal rate for your location in the UK.

    Have a Happy Holidays!

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