Last Updated: 10/8/2008


"The Clockwork Universe; German Clocks and Automata 1550-1650," Edited by Klaus Maurice and Otto Mayr. Published in 1980 by Neale Watson Academic Publishers, New York. A German edition titled Die Welt als Uhr was also published in 1980. Hard cover with dust jacket, 322 pages with numerous drawings and photographs. in both black-and-white and in color. The book measures 11-1/2 inches (29 cm) high by 8-3/4 inches (22.3 cm) wide.

This book is the catalog of the exhibition The Clockwork Universe shown in Munich from April 15 to September 30, 1980, and in Washington, D.C. from November 7, 1980 to February 15, 1981. The exhibition was conceived, planned and produced jointly by the National Museum of History and Technology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich.

Text from the dustjacket is as follows:

"The Clockwork Universe depicts the golden age of German clockmaking, 1550-1650, in fourteen contributions from European and American scholars; in over 200 illustrations and technical drawings; and in detailed physical descriptions of the finest clocks, automata and mechanical celestial globes surviving from the time. Collectively the contents reveal that the period's mechanical clock represents not only the product of a unique and sophisticated technology, but also an art work of the highest aesthetic standards and an intellectual metaphor for the workings of the universe.

This volume, along with the exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of History and Technology, offers the most comprehensive examination of the German Renaissance clock ever undertaken. From the founding of the clockmaker's guilds to the eventual shifting of the craft's supremacy from German-speaking Central Europe to Holland and England after the Thirty Year's War, it both defines and conclusively treats a significant episode of horological history.

During this period, 1550-1650, professional clockmakers produced mechanical clocks of mature design. For the first time, these timepieces were made systematically and in quantity for an extensive market. Yet the editors, in an introduction which provides a provocative conceptual framework for the book, remind us that Renaissance clocks kept time only imprecisely, and argue that these exquisite and ingenious machines had two other levels of appeal. The first was their immediate charm, which lay in the astonishing capacity to predict celestial movements, play mechanical music and animate lifelike figures, in short the imitation of the natural world. The second was a more fundamental appeal, which was essentially abstract in character: the embodiment of an ideal world. The mechanical clock, at least in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, with its rational design and regular running, demonstrated an orderliness lacking in almost every aspect of life at that time. The clock came to offer an explanation for the mysterious workings of the cosmos: living creatures were in fact automata, and the universe itself was an enormous clockwork.

This is a lively history and carefully documented reference work. The Clockwork Universe will engage students of cultural history, historians of science and technology, horologists, and clock collectors alike."



  1. A Mechanical Symbol for an Authoritarian World
  2. The Clock as Intellectual Artifact
  3. The Mechanical Clock and the Scientific Revolution
  4. Propagatio fidei per scientias: Jesuit Gifts to the Chinese Court
  5. The Role of Clocks in the Imperial Honoraria for the Turks
  6. Astrolabe Clock Faces
  7. The Augsburg Clockmakers' Craft
  8. Jost Bürgi, or on Innovation
  9. To Finance a Clock: An Example of Patronage in the 16th Century
  10. History and Methematical Analysis of the Fusee
  11. The Clock and Its Base
  12. Automatic Music: The Bidermann-Langenbucher Lawsuit
  13. Telling Time Without a Clock
  14. Counting the Hours in Community Life of the 16 Century

  1. The Clock as an End in Itself: The Ideal of the Perfect Machine
  2. The Guild: Quantity Production and Craft Conservatism
  3. The Court: Source of Support and of Challenge
  4. Artificial Life: Automata and Figure Clocks
  5. The Clockwork Universe: Mechanical Models of the Heavens

              Index of Names
              Photograph Credits

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