The Changing Face of Early Modern Time, 1550–1770

  • Jane Desborough

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xv
  2. Jane Desborough
    Pages 1-25
  3. Jane Desborough
    Pages 27-70
  4. Jane Desborough
    Pages 71-109
  5. Jane Desborough
    Pages 111-145
  6. Jane Desborough
    Pages 147-183
  7. Jane Desborough
    Pages 185-222
  8. Jane Desborough
    Pages 223-263
  9. Jane Desborough
    Pages 265-278
  10. Back Matter
    Pages 279-292

About this book


‘‘In this compelling interdisciplinary book, Jane Desborough brings lucid academic analysis to explore the practical world of skilled craftsmanship. Focusing on Britain, but with extended European comparisons, she examines over 250 dials to reveal how their multi-functional appearance gradually evolved into a standard format... a brilliantly original and comprehensive approach.’’ Patricia Fara, President of the Antiquarian Horological Society and Emeritus Fellow, Clare College, University of Cambridge, UK

‘’By showing the ways in which the information conveyed by clock and watch dials changed over time, Jane Desborough’s excellent book reveals and explains the changing needs of their owners and therefore the underlying changes in society and culture. The result is eye-opening, enlightening, and continually fascinating.’’ John Henry, Professor Emeritus, University of Edinburgh, UK

This book provides a reinterpretation of early modern clock and watch dials on the basis of use. Between 1550 and the emergence of a standard format in 1770, dials represented combinations of calendrical, lunar and astronomical information using multiple concentric rings, subsidiary dials and apertures. Change was gradual, but significant. Over the course of eight chapters and with reference to thirty-five exceptional images, this book unlocks the meaning embedded within these early combinations. The true significance of dial change can only be fully understood by comparing dials with printed paper sources such as almanacs, diagrams and craft pamphlets. Clock and watch makers drew on traditional communication methods, used different formats to generate trust in their work, and tried to help users in different contexts. The calendar, lunar and astronomical functions were useful as a memory prompt for astrology up until the mid-late seventeenth century. 


Clocks Watches Dials Knowledge transmission Time-piece Calendrical Lunar Astronomy Material culture Design Technology

Authors and affiliations

  • Jane Desborough
    • 1
  1. 1.Science MuseumLondonUK

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Print ISBN 978-3-030-15352-6
  • Online ISBN 978-3-030-15353-3
  • Buy this book on publisher's site