BOOKREVIEW: Loomes - Lantern Clocks and their Makers (2008)

Discussion in 'Horological Books' started by Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, Mar 9, 2009.

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  1. Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

    Fortunat Mueller-Maerki National Library Chair
    NAWCC Star Fellow NAWCC Life Member Donor

    Aug 25, 2000
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    BOOKREVIEW

    Everything you wanted to know about British Lantern Clocks - and then some


    Lantern Clocks and Their Makers, by Brian Loomes.
    First edition, published 2008 by Mayfield Books, Ashbourne (www.mayfieldbooks.co.uk); hardcover, dustjacket, 528 pages, 22x28 cm; ISBN 978-0-9554460-1; heavily illustrated (1145 illustrations, many in color). Text in English. Includes alphabetical, 73-page directory of over 1000 known English makers of lantern clocks; bibliography of about 90 publications; geographical index by county. General index. Available at the publisher’s website at www.mayfieldbooks.co.uk for UKP 85 (approx. US$135) plus postage, or borrow from the Library & Research Center at the National Watch & Clock Museum.


    Brian Loomes needs no introduction to readers who are familiar with the clock literature of the late 20th century. My own library contains 19 volumes by this prolific British writer and horological scholar, and many of them are considered the ‘standard text’ on their subject. His new book on lantern clocks undoubtedly will also be the most authoritative text on this type of timekeeper for many years to come.

    While not the most massive book by Loomes (that distinction will stay with his 2006 expanded re-edition of the directory “Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World” with its nearly 900 pages) the lantern clock book comes close. The book has 528 large format pages, each one crammed full of data on British lantern clocks. But it is not primarily the quantity that matters but the quality of the information presented.

    Loomes is a systematic and thorough scholar; all aspects of the subject are covered in depth. The book is split into 28 chapters, which make up the six parts of the book: I. Before the Civil War, II. During the Civil War, III. After the Civil War, IV. Lantern Clocks in the Provinces, V. Variations, and VI. Other Aspects of Lantern Clocks. The five chapters that make up the last part are really five ‘Appendices’: The other four chapters in the final part of the book are: Chapter 24: A summary of common –and uncommon- lantern clock sizes; Chapter 25: A discussion of casting marks; Chapter 26: An overview of the mechanics of lantern clocks (by John Robey); Chapter 27: “Makers of Lantern Clocks”, a name directory of 73 pages, would make a most valuable publication in its own right. That alphabetical list contains more than 1000 names, each with a short biographical paragraph, plus in most cases references to any known clocks and where that data was published. Chapter 28: A geographic index of makers by county.

    The main section of the book consists of the three chronological parts on the London makers which dominated British clock making at that time, and Part IV with 9 geographic chapters on the provinces (including a chapter on Scotland, Wales and Ireland), plus Part V “Lantern Clock Variations” which documents many lantern-clock- like horological oddities, such as ‘Primitive lantern clocks’, ‘Cased lantern clocks’, and ‘Clocks for the Turkish market’.

    The 19 chapters on the London and provincial makers tell the history of the lantern clock chronologically by describing a large number of examples in text and images. The value of the pictures cannot be overstated. These are clocks the reader is unlikely to ever encounter physically, some are in museums (where they arehard to see in their display cases), but most are hidden in private collections. Virtually all are illustrated in this book, and rarely only with one photograph. More typical, there are two or three pictures of each clock (dial and movement), and in most cases where there is an unusual feature there are three, four or five images including close-ups of such details as signatures, casting marks, escapements, or unusual frets, hammers, bells or finials. The amount of visual information in this book is overwhelming. While many photographers have contributed material a large number of images are by the author, and one can tell that the person behind the camera is a horologist, as they all highlight the horologically important features. This reviewer’s enthusiasm for the pictures is not meant to denigrate the words; Loomes’ text is comprehensive, yet easy to read.

    This book is a long overdue addition to any well appointed horological reference library. English lantern clocks are one of the key building blocks in the history of clock making, and every student of horological history needs a lantern clock book, yet few comprehensive books exist on the subject: So far the gold standard was George White’s “English Lantern Clocks”, published 1989 by the Antique Collectors Club, long out of print (and currently available only for prices of above US$700). The second available title in English, the John Tyler translation of 1979 of “English Lantern Clocks” by the Dutchman W.F.J. Hanna (available online for prices starting around US$ 30) is a useful introduction to the subject, but is clearly in another league from White’s classic or Loomes’ new book.

    Thank you, Brian Loomes, for filling that gap on our horological bookshelves.

    Fortunat Mueller-Maerki. Sussex NJ March 12, 2009






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  2. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

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    The ACC have been rumoured to be reprinting White's book for some time and indeed it was actually listed on their website as such a while back with an advertised price of £75, not cheap but less than Loomes' book which is on my Xmas present list though I may have trouble finding someone to choose it.
     
  3. Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

    Fortunat Mueller-Maerki National Library Chair
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    I sure hope the White book does get republished, as I said, it is the 'gold standard ' in the field, and without it laying the foundation Loomes could never have produced the broader and updated book he just published.
     
  4. Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

    Fortunat Mueller-Maerki National Library Chair
    NAWCC Star Fellow NAWCC Life Member Donor

    Aug 25, 2000
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    A reader of this thread, a horological scholar whose judgement I highly respect, has commented to me 'Off-Messageboard' about the book under review. For valid reasons I understand he did not want to go on record with his comments, so I will respect his wish and I will not quote him here.

    The issues raised by this communicaion however are relevant to judge the book written by Loomes, so I made a several additional inquiries, and I feel it is approriate to summarize what I heard from several sources for the benefit of the readers of this thread:

    • Several prominent horological scholars in the United Kingdom were upset when the Loomes book was released in late 2008. They felt that the author had unfairly exploited the delays in getting an updated version of George White's "English Lantern Clocks" published.
    • Moreover some felt that -while the Loomes book documents in detail many additional fine samples of lanternclocks- his basic narrative on the history of this clocktype relies to such an extent on White's earlier publication that portions of the Loomes book may possibly qualify for plagarism.
    I do not have a copy of White's book at hand to to either make or to denie such such claims myself (I read a borrowed copy of the the White book several years ago).

    But in fairness to the readers of this Messageboard I feel obliged to report here on this thread the essence of various comments I have picked up in my inquiries since writing my review posted at the top of this thread.
     
  5. Nick Ryan

    Nick Ryan Registered User

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    I have both copies of the Books, English Lantern Clocks by George White and Lantern Clock by Brian Loomes, I have met Brian and would like to state here and now I do not find any plagiarism between the two. Imagine such a tight field of expertise to work in, there are only so many ways & words to describe all the parts and functions of the same & similar timepieces.

    Anyone as serious in collecting these beautiful clocks as I am, will source both books regardless, I see George Whites as the bible and Brian's as the follow up, both are needed for cross reference.

    Kind regards, Nick
     

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