Alternative spelling or acceptable mistakes?

Discussion in 'General Clock Discussions' started by novicetimekeeper, May 20, 2017.

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  1. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    We are familiar with various versions of place names and surnames in clock and watch signatures from the 18th century and earlier but I was wondering are they really alternatives or is it that brass was so expensive you had to put up with engraving errors?

    I have some here from my own collection, but I've seen many more.
    I have one that appears to have been corrected to make an i into an e. I have seen them with letters in superscript above the middle of a name to try and add them back, and in one book saw one once that had a bit crossed out.

    I'm sure others here have examples. These are from my clocks but I have a pocket watch spelling signed for John Spurrier from wimborne as winborne. A longcase of his recently sold had Wimborn.

    This is Thomas Barrett, you can see somebody tried to make the i into an e.

    305398.jpg

    This is Richard Fennel spelt with an i instead

    305399.jpg

    Nowhere is Mr Monkland's name spelled like this

    305400.jpg

    This one is correct, but I know another clock with an almost identical dial but the spelling is Blanford

    305402.jpg
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    I would guess that many of the tradesmen who made our clocks were either illiterate or near illiterate. In 1700 about 40% of London males were considered literate and 25% of the females. Literacy was determined by their ability, or lack of, to sign their marriage documents. Poorer people were less literate. Tradesmen were not generally "upper class". So, it is possible that many of the errors we see were a result of skilled craftsman who may not have been truly literate. They engraved what they thought was correct, and did it very well....sometimes later learned of the error and tried to correct it. But more often it was accepted as is. And there is always the possibility that the client wasn't extremely literate either. And signing one's name is not conclusive proof of true literacy. I suspect literacy was quite a bit less than the previously mentioned litmus test would suggest. And I think it was even less the further one traveled from larger cities and towns.
     
  3. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    The spelling often seems phonetic, I just wondered if there really was that much flexibility on spelling or if people had to accept the mistakes because the price of brass was so high and by the time the spelling mistake was made most of the labour content had been spent too. The corrections you see suggest the part was too expensive to scrap.
     
  4. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    given the economics... and that people struggle with basics like 'to' vs. 'too' and 'your' vs. 'you're' (for example)... i think the OP is correct.
     
  5. itspcb

    itspcb Registered User
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    An expert dial engraver did have a tool to alter engraving-- a hammer. By hammering on the rear the brass could be brought forwards, flattened and refinished and a new engraving or alteration performed. I suspect this was only done when significant change was required, because of the expense.
    Attached is an example of such a change.
    Peter 305471.jpg 305472.jpg
     
  6. roughbarked

    roughbarked Registered User

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    Let us drag this into perspective a bit.

    Each apprentice would have a job to do.
    Each master too.
    They would all be handling a number of bits of brass each day.
    The real expense is about wages for those who were capable of doing the engraving or the re-hammering.

    It seems the OP is worried about their spelling skills. More than how they can form the letters. It should really come down to who is in charge of quality control.

    Over the ages, there have always been what some of you call fakes. Others might call it similar branding.

    It became easier when dials could be printed. ie: Cimier, could be read by the illiterate or dyslexic as Cyma.
     
  7. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    I have seen that localised hammering before and it has not occurred to me that was the reason, thank you.
     
  8. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    I'm not short on perspective, I'm pondering on whether spelling truly was as flexible as suggested or whether they were mistakes that were accepted on grounds of cost.

    It's unlikely that any of the dials I have shown were engraved by the clockmaker, they would have gone to a specialist and it would be up to the clockmaker whether to accept it.

    In the case of the Fennel above, it seems very likely that was done by the same engraver Charles Gretton was using at the time (about 1705) as it has the same half hour markers. So a top class maker was using the engraver, but perhaps the name lost something in the translation or they all fell out because Gretton doesn't seem to have used that style again.
     
  9. roughbarked

    roughbarked Registered User

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    #9 roughbarked, May 21, 2017
    Last edited: May 21, 2017
    It is always possible that some dials were fitted before someone in quality control stopped the error. Human relationships often let things slip for a bit.
    Though it is feasible that phonetics always works.

    i'm going into anecdote mode; http://users.tpg.com.au/users/bev2000/strine2.htm
     
  10. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    This is actually an interesting discussion that I have been following.

    Alternative spellings of names, and not just of clock or watch makers, is something that can bedevil attempts of all sorts research.

    Some were probably mistakes. One well known example is the misspelling of "Forestville" on clock dials. The basis for such errors is probably multifactorial ranging from lesser rates of literacy to just being careless.

    But I believe there may be a more fundamental reason.

    It is my understanding that standardized spellings, both of words and names, is something relatively recent.

    I believe in this country, efforts towards a standardized "American" spelling and definition of words occurred through the efforts or reformers like Noah Webster.

    RM
     
  11. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    [QUOTE=rmarkowitz1_cee4a1;1115210It is my understanding that standardized spellings, both of words and names, is something relatively recent. I believe in this country, efforts towards a standardized "American" spelling and definition of words occurred through the efforts or reformers like Noah Webster. RM[/QUOTE]


    yes, but the effort started earlier. here's a link to a wikipedia page on the subject... check out the 'history' section: https://goo.gl/GBhBh9
     
  12. zedric

    zedric Registered User

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    When teaching us Chaucer in school, my teacher was keen to point out that spelling was simply not standardised in early English. I don't recall when the push for standardised spelling started, but an English teacher, or a good search on the web might help.. There are a lot of surnames and first names that have variations in spelling to this day, so obviously the push to standardisation (or for those in the USA standardization) clearly never reached its ultimate goal...

    Phil (or by my parents spelling, Phill)
     
  13. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    Yes, I get that, and it was always my view that this explained the difference.

    However it doesn't explain the corrections that you see. If there are corrections then there was an agreed way of spelling, which is the reason for the thread. Do the corrections suggest that the alternatives were just acceptable mistakes rather than acceptable alternatives?
     
  14. zedric

    zedric Registered User

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    My guess, and it s a guess, is that the clockmaker was the final arbiter of quality. So, if the spelling is unusual, then either the maker considered it ok, or they thought the customer would not notice...
     
  15. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    That's what is surprising about the corrections. The one I show is minor, but some are obvious. The customer is going to see a correction much more easily than a mistake.
     
  16. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    And then we have engravers who went out for coffee and didn't return? Why this was acceptable originally and remained as is for 250 years remains a valid question? It should say "Bridgewater" One might think someone would have finished this up sooner or later? 305633.jpg 305634.jpg
     
  17. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    That's a good one, haven't seen that before
     
  18. The Treasured Clock

    The Treasured Clock Registered User
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    Hi Guys,
    Even this may not be directly related to this thread, if you permit to give an example I think it might get the point across. I find that few of the words has spelling variation, or in this case alternatives​. I find the word clock can be spelled at least four different ways depending upon what language it is and what it means. So more to the point of this thread so yes there can be can be a variation or alternative to the spelling of names. Also the spelling can be standardized as well.
    Jonathan Lee Jones
     
  19. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    I'm not sure foreign languages are involved here, although obviously English is a language that has absorbed many words from other languages.

    The variation seems based on phonetics, something particularly difficult in English with all its homonyms, heteronyms, homophones, heterophones, homographs, and heterographs.
     
  20. kinsler33

    kinsler33 Registered User

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    This is indeed an interesting discussion. It occurs to me that accuracy in spelling simply might not have been as important to our ancestors as it is to many of us (I'm a stickler about it, unfortunately.) And since so many people couldn't read anyway, the corrections we've seen here wouldn't have seemed so glaring.

    I guess you could think of it this way: I'm illiterate in everything but English, and so if the lettering on a clock dial was in Hebrew or Chinese or Russian, I don't care very much if there were inconsistent spellings or even corrections thereupon.

    One exception was probably tombstones. There, you wanted everything spelled correctly, so I guess they looked at the decedent's name in the church registry and copied it carefully.

    M Kinsler

    not so literate in English, either.
     
  21. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    Given an 8 day clock would equate to several years' pay for the average worker I would think those who could afford them were probably educated enough to read. It's the corrections that surprise me, not the variations in spelling.

    Mine is only minor and would not offend anybody, took me a while to see it, but I've seen pictures of crossing out of letters and superposition of missing letters. That's just spoiling a dial. How about Jim's? You would have to be all kinds of odd to think that was ok.
     
  22. Sooth

    Sooth Registered User
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    Here's a fantastic engraving error. Clearly the person engraving had not marked out the lettering on the plate, and they engraved "man" and then tried to write over it very poorly to "must". From a John Sanderson dial with a religious verse in the centre.
    John Sanderson Clock (Engraving Error) 03.jpg
     
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  23. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    That's a goody, clearly got caught up following the line above. Perhaps their strong religious beliefs in the Sanderson school were against waste. I would have thought they would planish that out to correct it. I have a chapter ring on a waywiser where a whole register was corrected but I suppose that is more important to function than a bit of text.
     
  24. Les harland

    Les harland Registered User

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    There are still places in the UK with multiple spellings for example St Ippollitts also spelt St Ippolyts plus other various ways
    It is said no one knows the correct spelling
    St Ippolyts is a village in Hertfordshire roughly 30 miles North of London
     
  25. shutterbug

    shutterbug Moderator
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    They could have changed it to "may" easier :)
     
  26. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    Below are some spelling excerpts from the day journal of John Head, Philadelphia, cabinet maker. He made cases for Peter Stretch, one of Phildelphia's first clockmakers, if not the first. Also other early clockmakers. His story is an interesting one and it has been documented in a very recent book entitled "The Cabinet Makers Account" by Jay Robert Stieffel. In one of Heads daily entries, he spelled one word three different ways in a single paragraph. He was a great cabinet maker and I guess we can forgive his spelling?

    Customers include "John Roberson, ye Lawyour;"dyer turned property speculator Lodwick Christian Sprögel; clockmakers John Wood, John Hood, and Peter and William Stretch; six chairmakers, including Solomon Cresson, Alexander Foreman and Benjamin Trotter; pewterer Simon Edgell (c.1688-1742); brickmakers Abram Cox and the Coates family; "Thomas Shut[e] sope biler;" "Thomas Pars [Pearse] plasterer;" and, not least, "Ladwik Sipel, the Dutch Loksmith." "Sader Chest And Table of drawers," "To a scrudore and Bookcas [secretary desk and bookcase] apon a Chest of drawers." "Badstad," "picttur frames," "Cambrik [cambric]," "Carsey [jersey?]," "Chaney [cheney]," "Coten [cotton]," "Coue Hide [cowhide]," "Crape [crepe]," "Doules [toile]," "Diper [diaper-pattern]," "Druget [drugget]," "Duroy [corduroy]," "flanel [flannel]," "Garlick [garleck]," "Leghther [leather]," "Linen," "Spakd Linen [speckled linen]," "Linzey woolsey," "muslen [muslin]," "osinbrig [osenbirk]," "Sarge [serge]," "Sholune [shalloon]," "Stript hollon [striped Holland]," "Tape," "Twill," "Wan [?]," and "Woosted Wool [worsted wool]."
     
  27. JTD

    JTD Registered User

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    Might have been easier but it wouldn't have made sense or rhymed.

    JTD
     
  28. shutterbug

    shutterbug Moderator
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    I don't know. "Must" or "May" are pretty close in meaning. I can't opine on the rhyming :)
     
  29. JTD

    JTD Registered User

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    On the clock it says:
    Remember man
    That dye thou must
    And after that to
    Judgement just.

    Your version would be:
    Remember man
    That dye thou may
    And after that to
    Judgement just.

    JTD
     
  30. Steven Thornberry

    Steven Thornberry User Administrator
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    :???: When did that happen?
     
  31. zedric

    zedric Registered User

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    I can just see the court room scene now. The judge pronounces sentence on the accused, and then says "and now you may go to prison"....
     
  32. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    That's a very polite judge.
     
  33. shutterbug

    shutterbug Moderator
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    Now that I see the poem, I retract my statement .... although subbing "judgement day" for "judgement just" would be just as good :D
     
  34. DeanT

    DeanT Registered User

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    Here's a late 17thC clock by James Gavell(e), London.

    The back of the dial is signed Gavell and the calendar ring Gaville…..



    7264686-1-3.jpg
     
  35. Levi Hutchins

    Levi Hutchins Registered User

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    I was a letting artist for 40 years and fairly literate, but when your concentration is on the letterforms, orthographic considerations can be overlooked.

    The most illustrative example that comes to mind is one of my first teachers, many years ago, completing a lengthy illuminated citation for Harvard College. It was to be presented the evening of the day she delivered it, only to be devastated when told that she had omitted a letter in the recipient's family name. She assured them she could correct it in time, and fretted over how during her train journey back to her studio. Her solution was to lay gold leaf over the entire name, and re-write it correctly with the gold as an elegant background.

    Her spelling prowess was clearly not the problem. She happened to share the family name she had misspelled.

    Then, there is also the sentiment often attributed to Andrew Jackson:
    “It is a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word!”
     
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