BOOKREVIEW: Thomas Tompion at the Dial and Three Crowns, by Jeremy L. Evans

Discussion in 'Horological Books' started by Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, Apr 18, 2006.

  1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  1. Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

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

    Aug 25, 2000
    1,486
    47
    48
    Male
    Horological Bibliographer -
    Sussex New Jersey USA
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Bookreview

    Jeremy L. Evans:
    Thomas Tompion at the Dial and Three Crowns

    With a Concise Check List of the Clocks, Watches and Instruments from his Workshops. Published 2006 by the Antiquarian Horological Society (AHS), Ticehurst, East Sussex (United Kingdom), http://www.ahsoc.demon.co.uk/ . ISBN 0 901180 43 2, 131 pages, Hardcover, Dustjacket. 110 illustrations, most of them in color; 102 bibliographic footnotes; Index. Order through their website for UKP 30 plus postage (UKP 25 for AHS members); credit cards accepted.



    Thomas Tompion (*1639, †1713) undoubtedly is the best known British clockmaker from the “classic period” of English horology in the late 17th century. While most horological enthusiasts have heard of him, many know very few details about the life and oeuvre. There are two reasons for this: a) Although Tompion was prolific, his clocks and watches have been sought after for so long that few appear in the marketplace, and at prices that are out of reach for most collectors. b) No new book dedicated to Tompion has been published since 1951 (republished 1969). “Thomas Tompion - his Life and Work” by Robert Symonds is a 300 plus page, well illustrated monograph, but has been out of print for decades, and can cost up to $200 if you can find a used copy at all. Much additional information (including many newly discovered timekeepers) has come to light in the last half century.

    Jeremy L. Evans, for many years Curator at the horological department of the British Museum until his recent retirement, has been a lifelong scholar of Tompion’s life and his output. Evans is generally considered the leading global authority on the subject. It is well known that for decades he has been amassing facts and details with the eventual goal of creating the definitive text on Tompion. The book under review is NOT this long awaited opus magnum, but a “teaser” that will only whet the appetite of Tompion aficionados around the world.

    In 2003, on occasion of the 300th anniversary of Tompion becoming the Master of “The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers of the City of London”, Evans was invited to give the prestigious Dingwall-Beloe Lecture at the British Museum. The lecture was subsequently printed in “Proceedings of the AHS” (September and December issues 2004), a members only publication not very widely read in this country. Now this text –slightly enlarged- has been combined with Evans’s hereto unpublished “Concise Checklist…” into this book, the first new book on Tompion after more than fifty years.

    The lecture, taking up about 50 pages, focuses on Tompion’s life in a building at the corner of Fleet Street and Water Street, a house known as the “Dial and Three Crowns”. This corresponds to the time from 1676 till around 1705, and offers only a cursory coverage of his youth and formative period, and of the final stage of his life with the transfer of the business into other hands. This is biographical overview, covering mainly his personal and professional life, rather than providing an in depth assessment of his inventions, or a technical description of his oeuvre.The lecture, taking up about 50 pages, focuses on Tompion’s life in a building at the corner of Fleet Street and Water Lane, a house known as the “Dial and Three Crowns”. This corresponds to the time from 1676 till 1713, and offers only a cursory coverage of his youth and formative period, and of the final stage of his life with the transfer of the business into other hands. This is a biographical overview, covering mainly his personal and professional life, rather than providing an in depth assessment of his inventions, or a technical description of his oeuvre. This reviewer found the account entertaining, interesting and easy to read. The fact that this text was originally an illustrated lecture is still quite evident: nearly every other paragraph specifically refers to one of the 110 illustrations. Both text and images are witness to the incredible depth of Evans’s scholarship; he must have spent decades searching through old manuscripts, maps and records to find the many interesting tidbits of Tompiana he presents. These informational nuggets make this reviewer anticipate with great eagerness the forthcoming comprehensive Tompion book by Evans, which presumably will also cover the rest of his life and his oeuvre with the same amount of highly illuminating detail.

    The second half of the book under review is dedicated to what is labeled “A Concise Checklist of the Clocks, Watches and Instruments from the Workshops of Thomas Tompion”. The “concise” list covers some 58 pages! Evans describes it as a “simple checklist of all surviving Tompion items who have been recorded thus far, … includes numbered items that have been identified in manuscript and printed sources”. The list leaves out much of the data gathered by Evans over the years on such aspects as dimensions, descriptions, signatures, other marks, etc. The list is organized into sections:

    --- Section 1: ? Section 1: Clocks (about 200 unnumbered clocks in 15 categories, and nearly 500 numbered clocks [of a possible range of about 800 numbered clocks])
    --- Section 2: Watches (about a dozen unnumbered watches, ca. 800 numbered watches from the first series, a small number of alarm watches and clock watches, nearly 300 watches from the repeating series)
    --- Section 3: Instruments and Tools (Sundials, barometers, tools)
    --- Section 4: Works by Apprentices and Associates (Clocks, Watches)

    True to the “concise” nature of the list, information provided on each item is limited to the essentials on one line: Signature, type, duration, a few words on case and dial, a few words of Notes, and –most helpful- where appropriate, bibliographic references to other publications. General dating guidelines are also provided. Obviously, the list is a perpetual work in progress, if for no other reason that every year a handful of Tompion clocks and watches resurface.

    This publication is neither an introductory, overview text on Tompions role in horological history, nor is it the –still outstanding- definitive volume on Tompion. But it is a welcome advance view of what presumably will -in due course- be only two elements of the comprehensive book.

    Given the enormous volume of information on Tompion already collected by Evans it may well be a while before we see the “big book”; but given the richness of what is in the current publication I have no doubt that it will have been worth the wait. Any horologist seriously interested in classic British clocks, or in Tompion specifically will consider the current book a ‘must have” title. The AHS deserves praise for taking the initiative for making this horological scholarship available now, and for giving us all so much more to look forward to.



    Bookreview by Fortunat F. Mueller-Maerki, Sussex, New Jersey (USA)- April 16, 2006
     
  2. Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

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

    Aug 25, 2000
    1,486
    47
    48
    Male
    Horological Bibliographer -
    Sussex New Jersey USA
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    REVIEW: Thomas Tompion at the Dial and Three Crowns, by Jeremy L. Evans

    Bookreview

    Jeremy L. Evans:
    Thomas Tompion at the Dial and Three Crowns

    With a Concise Check List of the Clocks, Watches and Instruments from his Workshops. Published 2006 by the Antiquarian Horological Society (AHS), Ticehurst, East Sussex (United Kingdom), http://www.ahsoc.demon.co.uk/ . ISBN 0 901180 43 2, 131 pages, Hardcover, Dustjacket. 110 illustrations, most of them in color; 102 bibliographic footnotes; Index. Order through their website for UKP 30 plus postage (UKP 25 for AHS members); credit cards accepted.



    Thomas Tompion (*1639, †1713) undoubtedly is the best known British clockmaker from the “classic period” of English horology in the late 17th century. While most horological enthusiasts have heard of him, many know very few details about the life and oeuvre. There are two reasons for this: a) Although Tompion was prolific, his clocks and watches have been sought after for so long that few appear in the marketplace, and at prices that are out of reach for most collectors. b) No new book dedicated to Tompion has been published since 1951 (republished 1969). “Thomas Tompion - his Life and Work” by Robert Symonds is a 300 plus page, well illustrated monograph, but has been out of print for decades, and can cost up to $200 if you can find a used copy at all. Much additional information (including many newly discovered timekeepers) has come to light in the last half century.

    Jeremy L. Evans, for many years Curator at the horological department of the British Museum until his recent retirement, has been a lifelong scholar of Tompion’s life and his output. Evans is generally considered the leading global authority on the subject. It is well known that for decades he has been amassing facts and details with the eventual goal of creating the definitive text on Tompion. The book under review is NOT this long awaited opus magnum, but a “teaser” that will only whet the appetite of Tompion aficionados around the world.

    In 2003, on occasion of the 300th anniversary of Tompion becoming the Master of “The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers of the City of London”, Evans was invited to give the prestigious Dingwall-Beloe Lecture at the British Museum. The lecture was subsequently printed in “Proceedings of the AHS” (September and December issues 2004), a members only publication not very widely read in this country. Now this text –slightly enlarged- has been combined with Evans’s hereto unpublished “Concise Checklist…” into this book, the first new book on Tompion after more than fifty years.

    The lecture, taking up about 50 pages, focuses on Tompion’s life in a building at the corner of Fleet Street and Water Street, a house known as the “Dial and Three Crowns”. This corresponds to the time from 1676 till around 1705, and offers only a cursory coverage of his youth and formative period, and of the final stage of his life with the transfer of the business into other hands. This is biographical overview, covering mainly his personal and professional life, rather than providing an in depth assessment of his inventions, or a technical description of his oeuvre.The lecture, taking up about 50 pages, focuses on Tompion’s life in a building at the corner of Fleet Street and Water Lane, a house known as the “Dial and Three Crowns”. This corresponds to the time from 1676 till 1713, and offers only a cursory coverage of his youth and formative period, and of the final stage of his life with the transfer of the business into other hands. This is a biographical overview, covering mainly his personal and professional life, rather than providing an in depth assessment of his inventions, or a technical description of his oeuvre. This reviewer found the account entertaining, interesting and easy to read. The fact that this text was originally an illustrated lecture is still quite evident: nearly every other paragraph specifically refers to one of the 110 illustrations. Both text and images are witness to the incredible depth of Evans’s scholarship; he must have spent decades searching through old manuscripts, maps and records to find the many interesting tidbits of Tompiana he presents. These informational nuggets make this reviewer anticipate with great eagerness the forthcoming comprehensive Tompion book by Evans, which presumably will also cover the rest of his life and his oeuvre with the same amount of highly illuminating detail.

    The second half of the book under review is dedicated to what is labeled “A Concise Checklist of the Clocks, Watches and Instruments from the Workshops of Thomas Tompion”. The “concise” list covers some 58 pages! Evans describes it as a “simple checklist of all surviving Tompion items who have been recorded thus far, … includes numbered items that have been identified in manuscript and printed sources”. The list leaves out much of the data gathered by Evans over the years on such aspects as dimensions, descriptions, signatures, other marks, etc. The list is organized into sections:

    --- Section 1: ? Section 1: Clocks (about 200 unnumbered clocks in 15 categories, and nearly 500 numbered clocks [of a possible range of about 800 numbered clocks])
    --- Section 2: Watches (about a dozen unnumbered watches, ca. 800 numbered watches from the first series, a small number of alarm watches and clock watches, nearly 300 watches from the repeating series)
    --- Section 3: Instruments and Tools (Sundials, barometers, tools)
    --- Section 4: Works by Apprentices and Associates (Clocks, Watches)

    True to the “concise” nature of the list, information provided on each item is limited to the essentials on one line: Signature, type, duration, a few words on case and dial, a few words of Notes, and –most helpful- where appropriate, bibliographic references to other publications. General dating guidelines are also provided. Obviously, the list is a perpetual work in progress, if for no other reason that every year a handful of Tompion clocks and watches resurface.

    This publication is neither an introductory, overview text on Tompions role in horological history, nor is it the –still outstanding- definitive volume on Tompion. But it is a welcome advance view of what presumably will -in due course- be only two elements of the comprehensive book.

    Given the enormous volume of information on Tompion already collected by Evans it may well be a while before we see the “big book”; but given the richness of what is in the current publication I have no doubt that it will have been worth the wait. Any horologist seriously interested in classic British clocks, or in Tompion specifically will consider the current book a ‘must have” title. The AHS deserves praise for taking the initiative for making this horological scholarship available now, and for giving us all so much more to look forward to.



    Bookreview by Fortunat F. Mueller-Maerki, Sussex, New Jersey (USA)- April 16, 2006
     

Share This Page