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The Changing Face of Time: the Making of the Modern Clock & Watch Dial 1550-1770

Desborough, Jane (2016) The Changing Face of Time: the Making of the Modern Clock & Watch Dial 1550-1770. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

This thesis provides a reinterpretation of early modern clock and watch dials on the basis of use, in response to an immense gap left in horological historiography where dial designs have been dismissed as insignificant beyond aesthetic concerns. By 1770 a standard design had emerged, which represented hours, minutes and seconds. Yet, between 1550 and 1770 dials represented combinations of calendrical, lunar and astronomical information using multiple concentric rings, subsidiary dials and apertures. Change was gradual, but significant. I have developed a unique methodology for unlocking the meaning embedded within these early combinations and the significance of dial change, by closely comparing a selection of clock and watch dials from different museum collections with printed paper sources such as almanacs, astronomical, astrological and mnemonic diagrams, craft books, and art works. Multiple concentric rings and subsidiary dials bore similarity to circular and tree diagrams and were conducive to perceptions of stepped knowledge acquisition. Both media became plainer in appearance from the mid-late seventeenth century as these perceptions declined. Some makers utilised different formats to generate trust in their work, from alternative hour schemes during the late-sixteenth century to imitation of precision timepieces from the early-eighteenth century. Others utilised touch-pins, during the mid-late sixteenth century, and illumination of numerals, from the late-seventeenth to the early-eighteenth century, to enable users who were otherwise excluded. The calendar, lunar and astronomical functions were useful as a prompt for recalling astrological advice up until its decline during the mid-late seventeenth century. After which, the three functions enjoyed different lifespans, while they continued to be useful for other purposes, but none survived to be part of the standard format. It is only through the lens of use and comparison with the wider context that the significance of early modern clock and watch dials can be fully appreciated.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Clock, Watch, Dial, Early modern
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science
Depositing User: Jane Desborough
Date Deposited: 14 Feb 2017 14:25
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2017 14:25
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/16245

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