A Thousand Words
Jost Bürgi & Hans Jacob Emck's Equation Clock
by Mary Elizabeth Podles
According to modern schemes of classification, scientific instruments and works of art (with the possible exception of fine Swiss watches) exist in separate worlds. Such a sharp line did not always divide them: Jost Bürgi's astronomical clock from 1591 was both a cutting-edge technological achievement and an esthetic object with an artistic program that imbued it with further meaning. It was a collaboration between a clockmaker, a goldsmith, an astronomer, and, ultimately, a philosopher-prince. It measures small in size (4 3/8" x 6 1/8" x 6 1/8"), but into it is packed a great deal more than clockwork.
The astronomical clock was commissioned by Willem IV, the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel. The clock in common use prior to this time was the sundial, but because of the earth's tilt and the eccentricity of its orbit, sundial time does not run at a constant, even rate like 24-hour clock time. In the sixteenth century, clock time was even more eccentric than sundial time, since the uneven regulation of early mechanical clock balances made Renaissance clocks run an average of twenty to thirty minutes too fast or too slow per day.
THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:
Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.
more on art from the online archives
calling all readers
"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand
"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor
• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!
Purchase Print &
Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!
Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives including pdf downloads for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!
GIVE Print &
Give six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for the reduced rate of $29.95. That's only $2.50 per month!
Transactions will be processed on a secure server.
Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.
OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)
Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.
more from the online archives