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Review: Carte/Turner: John Carte on Horology and Cosmology – A Transcription ca1710

  • Thread starter Fortunat Mueller-Maerki
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Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

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Finally A Scholarly Transcription of an early 18[SUP]th[/SUP] Century British Horological Manuscript

John Carte on Horology and Cosmology – A Transcription, with Introduction and Notes, of Bodleiam Library Ms Carte 264 ff. 183-57r. [No.5 in Series Turner & Devreux Occaisonal Papers]. Published 2014 by Antiquarian Horological Society, Ticehurst UK, and by Rogers Turner Books. 96 pages, softcover, 25cm x 15 cm, ISBN 978 0 901180 49. Available for UKP 25 plus shipping through anthonyjturner@9oline.fr .

One of the more obscure, but also one of the more fascinating historic horological texts was penned in the first decades of the 17[SUP]th[/SUP] century by a London clockmaker named John Carte [Baillie, p,135, 1708{?}]. Very little is known about him, only 8 specific pieces of his oeuvre are documented and of these have probably not survived to modern times. However in contemporary reports Carte’s work was compared to that of Quare and Thompion, and both the Landgraf of Hessen (the patron of Jost Buergi) and the Russian Czar were among his customers. The signed, but mistitled, script survives in the Bodleian library at Oxford, but until now no transcript – let alone a scholarly analysis of the text had been published. Carte’s main claim to fame were his ‘cosmographical clocks’, a style documented in broadsheets published in 1702 and advertised till 1706, featuring a 2x12 hour dial, with concentric annual dial with numerous astronomical indications.

Anthony Turner, the Paris based, British historian of scientific instruments and early clocks has finally transcribed the Bodleian manuscript by Carte, and - in cooperation with the Antiquarian Horological Society- published a well annotated and illustrated scholarly edition of this text. The resulting booklet is slso ‘Issue No.6’ (and reportedly the final issue) of the longstanding series ‘Turner and Deveraux Occasional papers’.

The text of the transcription contains countless passages of interest to serious historians of timekeeping and the efforts to find the longitude in the early 18[SUP]th[/SUP] century. But the manuscript appears to be more a collection of bits-and-pieces than a coherent and finished text of a book. The author and the publishers deserve the gratitude of the community of horological historical scholars, for making this obscure but important text more widely available, but clearly this new book will be of interest to a rather limited and elite small group of readers.

Fortunat F. Mueller-Maerki, Sussex NJ July 2014
 

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