THE COSTER-FROMANTEEL CONTRACT ITS
CONTINUED PLACE IN MODERN SCHOLARSHIP.
Table of contents:
The Notarial Act or Contract.
Pre-contract pendulum history.
First to Publish.
New Orthodoxy is Posited.
Time To Re-Appraise Fromanteel Contribution.
Fromanteel's Pendulum - Intuitive Leap Or Chance
Remarkable Elevation By The City Of London.
Interpretations Being Placed On The Contract.
Personal Perspectives On These Interpretations.
Internal Evidence, The Coster Fromanteel 1657
Internal Evidence, Dereham's History (1696).
to Dereham's Canard (1696).
Perspectives Testing Dereham (1696).
Drawn from Perspectives.
The 1657 Contract And Future Scholarship.
The Fromanteel Enigma.
New Blood New Approaches.
I accept the Horological Foundation's unexpected invitation to
contribute to their
of the famous Coster and Fromanteel Notarial Akte or 'Contract' of
3rd September 1657*; being a didactic exhibit at the spectacular Huygens'
Legacy exhibition (2004)*; also subject of articles in Antiquarian
Horology (March 2005). Exchanges arising at that exhibition led to those
articles; also exposed hiatuses in history and scholarship that I felt
wanted deeper explorations; questions that aught to have been asked were
not. Our subject merits this thorough review. I pretend to no answers,
but I offer alternative perspectives to counter-balance a new debate.
The sine qua non of the 1657 Contract was Christiaan Huygens' (Monsieur
Zulichem) assignment of his intellectual rights to Mr Salomon Coster
-also of the Hague- for the first pendulum clock patent, on 16th June
1657, for which Huygens rightly was lionised. Its uniqueness rested on
his crutched-pendulum suspended between cheeks; fitted into Coster's
spring clocks, it took all Europe by storm. Although that clock's new
verge escapement remained long unpublished (until 1673), we do know from
extant records -also from 'Horologium'- that plagiarism (pirating) then
flourished. At first, Huygens and clockmaker Coster intended to dominate
their new pendulum-clock market.
THE NOTARIAL AKTE, OUR CONTRACT
By means unknown; a young Fromanteel -even one not
yet a free-Clockmaker (until 1663) but whose father's two London
workshops already had a huge reputation- had soon inveigled himself into
the confidence of Huygens' patentee Salomon Coster, to obtain a secure
foot in Europe's most significant workshop [already denied to Mr. Simon
Douw, City Clockmaker of Rotterdam]. On 3rd September 1657, young John
closed his intriguing Contract before the Hague public notary Josua de
Putter and witnesses. Was he empty handed, as dogma suggests?
Many scholars have interpreted the Contract, many more sought to unlock
its 'secreet', not a Dutch word at all, its etymon seems to be entirely
English; if so what then? Orthodox dogma regards any
contractual 'secreet' (be it remontoire? pendulum? escapement?
theoretical calculation? endless rope? OP-gear?) as being solely in
Coster's gift (regardless of Huygens).
The recent publications all endorse that view, and all link that 1657
Contract to the Rev.William Dereham's history 'The Artificial
Clockmaker" of 1696, to posit that 1657 Contract also be recognised as a
Licence, which Coster had (freely) granted to England's Fromanteels.
This thesis has profound consequences; Huygens' sole primacy for
pendulum clocks; but Fromanteel's exclusion and deference. Even were the
mooted thesis true, (and who can definitively prove it is not?), it
remains here unproven and the Dereham link being posited to corroborate
the facts alleged must now be tested.
In 2000, during our joint enquiries into several historic documents and
clocks, the noted Dutch horologist Berry van Lieshout made the first
forensic verbatim transcript of the famous 1657 Contract; including
marginal notes, deletions and amendments. He found errors in former
transcripts all scholars relied on, including an omission of Coster's
name from the perplexing clause dealing with the unexpressed secret. In
2005, after I had disclosed Berry's success to a correspondent, Frits
van Kersen, he then replicated Berry's work and he first published,
[aided by John Leopold, also informed of Berry's success], except for
clauses which Fritz dismissed as 'last lines with the usual
formalities', (Antiquarian Horology, March 2005).
Berry and I long debated the significance of Coster's name being
reinstated into the 'secret clause'; finally we both surmised it gave a
new mirror-image of all previous under- standings. For my part, I was
especially struck by perceived inequality of potential legal penalties
(sanctions) vis a vis established Coster and his young visitor
Fromanteel. Then, on re-examining early pendulum clocks, Berry also
identified one component that had previously escaped all notice as
potential silent secret. Dr R.Plomp noted it, in his "Spring-driven
Dutch pendulum clocks 1657-1710", but he made no connection with the
secret, (see. p.34, his Fig.55 shows developed form; whereas Severijn
Oosterwijk's earliest 'haagseklok -recently found in England- has
diminutive internal stop-work without pinion, beneath an outer
barrel-cap bearing a steel ratchet disc). We are now re-examining
early pendulum clocks, seeking to establish craft lineages and
authorship of the novel device that both limits spring range and
prevents derangement. Both of our contractual parties would have
understood that the device was an invaluable feature for clocks to be
Here I cannot go into our evidence and accumulated findings nor our
tentative conclusions. But I can say our compilation is promising, craft
lineages are being revealed. Some knowledge of our endeavour may have
led to the unexpected invitation to here contribute. But that story must
I return to events preceding the 1657 Contract, when Europe set out on
Galileo Galilei's course. By 1635/6 the pendulum's time had come, when
Galileo's French agent Elia Diodati then proposed Galileo's
pendulum-counter to the States General of Holland. And after "DISCORSI"
was published, by Elsevier in Leijden in 1638, all Europe began
experimenting with free pendulums. Huygens' pendulum demonstrates his
astronomer's adherence to Galilei's principles; likewise Johannes
Hevelius of Danzig, whose own 1658/9 pendulum clock was itself freely
suspended to form a pendulum, (Hevelius "MACHINAE COELESTIS", De
Horologiis, 1673). However Galileo himself did not adhere, neither in
his Marine Counter (1636) nor concept Timekeeper (1641). Europe believed
Galileo's pendulum was isochronal (or tautochronous), a long-sought
panacea; but first Galileo, then Godfrey Wendelin in 1643, observed it
(click to enlarge)
Jan Babtist van Helmont *,
Galileo Galilei, Johannes Babtista Riccioli and Johannes Hevelius, also
Dr. Seth Ward with Robert Hooke, all employed 'pendulum timing devices' before 1657. And
Richard Harris of London is said to have converted a clock to pendulum
FIRST TO PUBLISH A WORKING PENDULUM CLOCK
In September 1658, Huygens augmented his status with his seminal
"HOROLOGIUM". He and it were acclaimed across Europe, the first
published description of a working pendulum clock with construction
drawings. He was also first to identify and modify circular-error, in
1657, first by his empirical cheek profiles mentioned in Horologium,
then his proven cycloids from 1660; his stunning incremental 'evolutes'
proof being published only in 1673. He had also resolved Solar Aequating
to assist mariners, and prepare way for his automatic system only put
into effect in 1694 (before any Englishman). Already 'Horologium' cites
domestic plagiarists, meaning his legal action in the Hague against Mr
Simon Douw of Rotterdam, then sub-judice. That soon proved ill-founded,
costing Huygens and Coster dear. In a Court imposed 'settlement' (nl.
'dading'), one-third of all future pendulum profits would be shared with
Douw; who kept consent (nl. 'attache') to sell in the Hague. Huygens'
evident income expectations were thus considerably curtailed, ie. until
Douw died suddenly in September 1663.
But in 'Horologium" (1658) Huygens had only released his new -so called-
'OP' design, for longer pendulums; Europe ignored it, few were made,
none are thought extant. He chose not to publish the simpler horizontal
verge, for spring-clocks. Was Huygens intentionally being obtuse? He
well knew about OP's limitations but probably his simpler Coster made
spring-clock showed too good an income to simply give away for glory. He
relied on sales (see Douw), so would Huygens have given away Licences,
as dogma asserts Coster did? Could Coster freely dispose of his
sponsor's potentially valuable Licences?
'We have no evidence of Huygens applying formally for a pendulum Patent
in England. Was that curious omission due to Ahasuerus Fromanteel's
pre-emption by his own pivoted pendulum, or to Coster's purported
licence to John Fromanteel? In Holland in 1658, Huygens and Coster
jointly sued Simon Douw to stop him selling his competing but
fundamentally different system; evidently more concerned for their
incomes, rather than feigned plagiarism of their Dutch Patent
(nl.Octroi). In France, Huygens did apply for, but failed to obtain, a
Patent, to earn royalties from licences he might then grant to French
clockmakers. The facts do not suggest that Huygens, nor Coster, ever
intended to freely dispose of their lucrative short-pendulum,
purportedly given away by Coster in his contract with John Fromanteel.
Conversely, in Horologium, Huygens did give away his complex 'OP-geared'
long-pendulum, perhaps to divert attention yet have the glory?'
Mostly overlooked, from mid-1657, Mr Coster's ubiquitous new pendulum
spring-clock was being made and exported, but its new verge escapement
remained long unpublished
a1 until depicted in "HOROLOGIUM OSCILLATORIUM"
(1673). It was however a simple clock, reflecting new status as
scientific instrument rather than art object; also reflecting rapid
speed of production to meet the market demand and pre-empt pirating.
Also overlooked, that unpublished but ubiquitous 1657 clock imposed a
singular consequence. All unlicensed would-be pendulum makers (were not
all?), had either to invent, or directly to copy (pirate) a Coster clock
actually in their hands. Augsburg's J.P.Treffler did in 1658, for Grand
Duke Ferdinand II of Tuscany; he retained (ie, added) the proven
indispensable German fusee. Thuret in Paris too fell foul of Huygens for
his direct plagiarism of other constructions.
But several pendulums were wholly independent of Huygens. Campanis' also
Hevelius' were each very different, as was Galilei's concept Timepiece
design of 1641. Huygens soon learned of Galilei's and other Italian
pendulum escapements, via his correspondent Ismael Boulliau in Paris.
Jost Burgi's tradition too persisted, Nicholas Radeloff of Schleswig
maintained radial cross-beat (BXR3 in my codified system) in his
rolling-ball clocks; Johan Zayller of Ulm used spring-remontoires
(SG<H60 in my codified system) in
long duration fusee clocks. In Holland, in a Patent dated 9th August
1658, Simon Douw rightly cited irregular escapement forces present in
all of Hugens-Coster systems, which Douw corrected. But they had
obtained a prior knowledge of Douw's patent; a spring-remontoire with a
single vertical beam (possibly cross-beat) escapement
a2, that would
astonish a later Court. The famous duo jointly served an Writ to end his
competition, falsely alleging Douw's plagiarism of their pendulum. But
even their expert Professor Frans van Schooten was confounded by Douw
-who realised that his spring remontoire (crossbeat?) created a train
discontinuity so he bet Van Schooten a purse of 1,000 Guilders on it,
which he kept. Their main allegation of plagiarism was also refuted by
several professional clockmaker witnesses, before astonished Court who
had witnessed Douw's demonstrations, who forced the famous Plaintiffs
into a humiliating settlement (nl.'Dading') by December 1658.
But I come to the 'Sixty-Four Dollar Questions': Where was Ahasuerus
Fromanteel in all this? How came a Fromanteel into Europe's most
significant workshop? And what preceded, lay behind and followed the
1657 draft Contract's frenetic and distracting multi-layered texts? It
is the meat of debate, and horological scholarship.
a1 But by 1673, all of
Huygens' terrestrial and intrinsically flawed maritime pendulums were
long obsolete; made so by English Fromanteel's advances. Already, by
February 1664, even Huygens conceded 'Fromanteel's new way of long
pendulum', ie. one not having Huygens' 'OP-gear'; being probably the
first true 'cross-beat pendulum', [evidence for which still exists in
Fromanteel's settable Aequating clock, according to my report lodged at
Belmont in 1994. (back
author's view is Douw's 'timekeeper' might have succeeded tolerably well
at sea. He certainly would never have alerted plaintiffs Huygens-Coster
to that potential application, but he may have intended it for maritime
use to benefit his home port of Rotterdam. Whereas all Huygens' various
maritime pendulums were flawed in conception, as Robert Hooke always
understood. Within two years of Douw's untimely
death, in 1660, Huygens had designed a new weight-remontoire; then in
1664 he sought a Patent in Holland, despite being chided by Sir Robert
Moray who asserted Fromanteel's priority -in an old spring-clock at
Court in England. Significantly, although Huygens conceded to
Fromanteel's priority, he cited neither Burgi's nor his arch nemesis
Douw's priority; just as Coster had totally ignored Galileo in Huygen's
assigned Patent application, (G.Doorman, 'Octroijen',VI. Serie Der
Staten-Generaal, 16-6-1657, fol.36, ASG3341, G449), ie. despite Huygens'
father being on the 1636 board who had considered Galileo's pendulum
I have formed a view that, solely due to Christiaan Huygens, Douw is
misjudged by history; ie. like Robert Hooke in the shadow of Isaac
Newton, to whom he had passed his pivotal Gravitation Theory in 1679
only to then be excluded. Both debts never acknowleged, instead just the
A NEW ORTHODOXY IS POSITED
At a stroke, it seems for lack of evidence, Huygens' Legacy's first
premise -of several- erases England's Fromanteel from any origination of
the newly emergent pendulum clock. The gauntlet is thrown. But recent
history teaches us that a lack of evidence does not rule events. And
lest we forget, double standards always mitigated against craftsmen. All
academics, especially those inventive scientists like Huygens, needed to
publish; but the merit of gifted or ingenious craftsmen, like Jost Burgi
and Fromanteel, relied on word-of-mouth and mostly they published
Fromanteel himself left us only one advertisement
"Mercurius Politicus", October 1658, being repeated in "Commonwealth
Mercury" of 18-25th November 1658); but also the evidence of his
artefacts; those superb animated automata and awesome clocks that were
famous long before Huygens' simple pendulum clock.
Fig. 1 (click to enlarge)
William Leybourne’s description of Fromanteel’s table automaton
silver lady Froe (Frau) bearing a Wine Cup, made for Sir Robert Paston,
Norfolk’s richest family, in 1649-50. (“Pleasure With Profit”, 1694,
Recreations, Mechanicals XVI).
I fear, instead of resolving historical dichotomy, this new orthodoxy
puts modern horological scholarship in Limbo. It cannot be left there.
Ongoing research into the 1657 Contract itself, without any fallacious
links, will soon challenge both old and new dogmas; and perhaps also
redeem Fromanteel's now inevitably sullied craft integrity. Re-appraisal
of the Contract itself, now Dereham's remarks, has become urgent.
TO RE-APPRAISE FROMANTEEL'S CONTRIBUTIONS
Fig.2 (click to enlarge).
Extant relic of Fromanteel's
great Chef d¹Oeuvre, made in 1649 for Mr Dudley Palmer of Grey's Inn, a
descendant of Elizabethan scientists Leonard Dygges and Thomas Digges.
Re-appraisal of Ahasuerus Fromanteel's contributions, before and during
that pivotal decade, does not diminish Huygens. Here I kick- start the
process. Who was this Fromanteel? What makes him a candidate for honour
as a pendulum innovator? I am fortunate to have had opportunities
to examine Fromanteel's archaic works, made long before Huygens' fame.
Ahasuerus mixed in London left-of-centre circles having access to
Galilei, with knowledge of Galileo's several pendulums; the pivoted sort
(ie. Craft way) in a marine counter proposed to Holland in 1636, and
suspended sort (ie. Astronomy's way) published in 1638. Therefore I do
credit Fromanteel with knowledge of pendulums, and I am entirely
confident of his personal involvement at the pre-dawn of the pendulum
clock era (1635-1658); ushered in by the genius Galileo; illuminated by
polymath Huygens. Ahasuerus was a humbler player, no academic author but
a genius craftsman -'verbum sapienti sufficit'!
Fig.3 (click to enlarge)
The Interregnum (between Reigns)
began with the execution on 30th January 1649 of King Charles by
As the decade-long Puritan
led interregnum began, in 1649 Fromanteel constructed his famous Chef
d'Oeuvre the awesome Solar-Zodiac-Musical Spring Clock; only possible with masterly understanding of
pan-European technologies. William Oughtred's year train, (10x73/2),
drives its dynamic solar- disc set upon an exactly counterpoised sliding
year-carriage. In this he was aided by mathematician William Leybourne,
both commissioned by Mr.Dudley Palmer of Grey's Inn, whose Digges'
forebearsa3 had promoted Nicholas Copernicus' heliocentric system, and
described a telescope
(nb). See "Was there an Elizabethan
Telescope?", bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society (June 1993,
This author's 'perspective' was
formed in preparing his 1989/1994 theses.
a3 Europe was not alone in engendering such enquiring minds. Elizabethan
scientist Leonard Dygges, inventor of Theodolite who described an
enlarging mirror (telescope) and who drafted "A Prognostication", was
Palmer's maternal great-grandfather. He had joined the Wyatt rebellion
so was condemned to death, but was instead attainted, with loss of all
possessions. His son Thomas Digges, Dudley Palmer's grandfather,
(re)published his father's tracts in 1575, including "A Perfit
Description of the Celestial Orbes" (Copernican theory). By his mother,
Margaret, Dudley Palmer was also nephew to Sir Dudley Digges, Master of
the Rolls, who built Chilham Castle near Canterbury -reputedly by
architect Inigo Jones (see Galilei). Palmer's cousin Sir Edward Digges
became Governor of Virginia, sending many specimens to the new Royal
Society, and whom registered Administration of Palmer's intestacy only
four months after the Great Fire had raged through Dudley's Grey's Inn
home, where he had dined his Royal Society Colleagues and shown off his
rare collections, also Fromanteel's unique clock, (John Evelyn, Diary
9th August 1661). Dudley Palmer, a lawyer, was a friend of Sir Robert
Moray, he was to draft the Charter of the new Royal Society; as Council
Member, he would sit on its Astronomical and Optical Committee -almost
by right- to his death in December 1666. Most oddly, for a lawyer and
endowed landowner, he died intestate, when forfeiture of estates to the
Crown was usual (see John Aubrey, 'Nicholas Mercator' and Fromanteel's
equation clock). (back
Fig. 4 (click to enlarge)
Under dial of Fromanteel's massive Chef
d'Oeuvre, showing its unique, counterpoised, dynamic Solar carriage
Oughtred's year train to show Solar Declinations,
Amplitudes, Azimuths, Solstices, Equinoxes, Sunrise and Sunset, etc.
This almost forgotten, but formerly Fromanteel's most famous Chef
d'Oeuvre was a multi-spring clock, having interchanging music barrels,
grand-sonnerie and minute strike, showing an astonishing (still unique)
dynamic Solar display indicating annual and diurnal astronomical
informations also the Zodiac.
Fig. 5 (click to enlarge)
Leybourne's description of Mr Dudley
Palmer's famous and awesome Solar-Zodiac-Musical Clock of 1649. (Op.cit.
1694, Recreations, Mechanical, XXXVII)
Leybourne is oddly silent about its escapement and motive drive; as were
all the witnesses who each recorded different aspects of its appearance,
its sound, its alterations and its provenance. Those contemporary
witnesses are 'my dogs who did not bark', none exclaimed "Pendulum!" Its
period of beat or time-standard was probably one second -like Burgi's-
it would have sounded like the familiar old Balance, not a much busier
new short pendulum. To confound spectators its unique English cross-beat
was protected by all-concealing false backplate, the earliest I am aware
of in any English spring clock.
Leybourne's odd use of 'John' puzzled me, then I recalled old farmhands
giving 'John' to unpronounceable prisoner-of-war co-workers; seemingly a
universal practice. Dudley Palmer's still unique clock did survive the
Great London Fire of 1666, being then not in Grey's Inn but at Gresham
College for first of Mercator's demonstration of new motions for the
equations -fitted to an old Fromanteel clock- which hearings resumed at
Gresham College soon after the Fire; Mr Palmer attended.
Fig. 6 (click to enlarge)
Portrait of mathematician, teacher,
author, and publisher, William Leybourne in 1674, aged 48 years.
(Frontispiece of "Dialing", 1682). William Dereham named him, with
Oughtred and Sir Jonas Moore, as 'three such famous men'. I suppose him
to be a reliable and relevant contemporary witness.
More significantly, Fromanteel's Chef d'Oeuvre contained his only
being rewound by the
fusee-driven Quarter train (discussed by Moray and Huygens late in
1664), driving an hitherto unrecorded English radial cross-beat (my code
BXR3) Burgi would have recognised: perhaps Burgi's "baton" was passed to
northern Europe and to London by Benjamin Bramer who had left Burgi's
workshop for Holland. [I have found evidence of links between the next
generation, but not yet of Benjamin with Ahasuerus]. Brian Loomes may be
forgiven for asserting the Solar-Zodiac clock -that had once stood in
the King's Closet of Rarities (John Evelyn, Diary 1st Nov.1660)- had to
have had pendulum; because its dynamic Solar Disc must visibly always
remain true to the actual Sun's course, or be ridiculed.
Evidence for these Burgi systems was only revealed after rediscovery of
the relic clock in 1989 and its two-year sojourn with Ronald A Lee in
London's Bruton Street, for open inspection by any Fromanteel enthusiast
and professional experts.
Fig. 7 (click to enlarge)
Rear view of Fromanteel's relic solar-astronomical musical
grand-sonnerie minute striking movement 'as found', having a
third-generation escapement with spring-pendulum raised above the
centrally sited first and second generation escapements. The
interchanging music part was located within adeep inferior plinth, now
lost to the extant case, which nevertheless provided much evidence. Photograph
courtesy of Ronald A Lee (1990).
The original, hand fabricated, wide back-cocka4 enabling any pivoting beam or beams for cross-beat- had migrated north
in two much later pendulum conversions
. Firstly, raised
slightly for a central short pivoted verge-pendulum, now on a crown
wheel; then by a much extended crown arbor to an overhead ten-inch
verge-pendulum having a crutched spring suspension and top regulation,
by removal of a top pillar and butchery of unique trains. That original
back cock revealed dual pivots, of no use in either of the pendulum
Diagnosis was confirmed by several vestigial
components; two flanged sabots or sleeves around 153 mm long
centre-arbor, the rear pinned fast, the front sleeve bearing centre
wheel seemingly free
, yet coupled to an idler, the two
central pillars being tapped to mount a remontoire spring barrel
, having a central port in the backplate for adjustments to it
and the pallets. Whereas the original train plant provided for an
off-centre Burgi radial escape wheel; proving Ahasuerus was supremely
conversant with his pan-European craft. As to the new thesis; whenever
Fromanteel converted his masterpiece to Pendulum, and it seems probable
he made the first but not the second, why did he not then adopt Huygens'
far superior system if 'the only method'? But it was not! (see
a4 His extraordinary backcock -at first sight an anachronism- was later
adapted by Fromanteel workshops as a casting, for early anchor-clocks,
by adding dovetailed suspension chops extended to clear the weights
below. [Has no one asked why these are needlessly wide for a single
pivot?] However, due to several sightings of Palmer's clock at different
venues, its first pendulum conversion probably was after 1661, maybe
mid-1666 for Mercator's demonstrations to the Royal Society, or even as
late as 1683/4 when
end Fromanteel had bought it back, from clockmaker Knibb
after the King's de-acquisition, (see John Aubrey's notes on Mercator's
Equation Clock). The King probably acquired it by Palmer's intestacy in
December 1666. Ahasuerus paid just £5- to Mr Knibb, "who understood it
not", then reoffered it for £200-; as he well knew all its secrets and
true worth; equal to Charles I's German 'bullet-clock', sold by the
Commonwealth to Mr Henson, which Charles II soon impounded. (Diaries of
Pepys and Evelyn). (back
of this section, click
here to continue.
of the Coster Fromanteel notarial act.
Scientific Instruments Society.
= click for relevant notes.
* = see relevant Links.
use 'F11' to view full screen. (mac:
Yellow characters indicate
a bookmark or 'clickable' links to relevant pages or bookmarks.
Back to end of previous section.
PENDULUM - INTUITIVE LEAP OR CHANCE DISCOVERY?
Could Fromanteel have made the intuitive leap, from his old cross-beat
to pivoted pendulum? Or might he have found that pendulum by chance like
Campani? I credit him with intuitive insight and empiric skills. To
exclude Ahasuerus is to ignore the wider history, also abundant
ELEVATION BY THE CITY OF LONDON
Fig.8 (click to enlarge)
Oliver Cromwell, the hero of Parliamentary forces during the Civil Wars,
who in December 1653 was made 'Lord Protector', personally elevated
Ahasuerus Fromanteel to Freeman of the City of London in January 1656.
His learned doctors tested and approved Fromanteel's
pendulums. He died on 3rd September 1658 to be succeeded by his son
Richard, 'tumbledown-Dick' Cromwell, until the Restoration of Charles II
As Brian Loomes discovered; in January 1655/6 England's Lord Protector,
Oliver Cromwell, elevated Ahasuerus to Freeman of the City of London. It
was a singular honour; one he would never have had of his
Clockmakers' Company guild, due to his politics and his faith. What then was
his unspecified and perhaps secret contribution? Only at Cromwell's
death did he advertise his skills publicly to assert his pendulum
clocks' pre-eminence in England; and ride the pendulum hysteria? Was
Huygens' pendulum ever 'examined and proved before' Cromwell?
Fig. 9 (click to enlarge)
Might Oliver Cromwell too have admired Mr Dudley Palmer's unique
astronomical and musical spring-clock by Ahasuerus Fromanteel?
So can Fromanteel be written out of the early pendulum story? I suggest
not. But in view of this spotlight upon Dereham's history, scholars
should take a new account of Fromanteel's known pre-Royal Society pendulum
clocks, especially one bearing name of Davis Mell (1604-1662) which
retains extremely rare -possibly unique- unaltered original
Fromanteel-type pivoted pendulum and associated trains (see Perspective
To resolve this history, one must also address wider and more
contemporary sources than just Dereham, writing in 1696; ie. Huygens,
also his correspondents, also Aubrey, Campani, Douw, Evelyn, Hevelius,
Hooke, Leybourne, Moray, Smith, Ward, Wren, Wallis, invaluable Royal
Society records (my Perspective
#1), also Europe's many public archives,
libraries and museums. In the fogs of history it is well to explore
beyond the orthodox wisdoms. Huygens' Legacy threw the gauntlet, let it
BEING PLACED ON THE CONTRACT
In that recent catalogue, also the articles referred to, this 1657
Contract has been presented -quite properly- as a Dutch sponsored
sub-contract to make Coster's pendulum spring clocks for his
exclusive use and resale; then by Mayday 1658, to transfer Coster's
secret to John Fromanteel -the orthodox wisdom. It is also posited
-though I cannot read it so- the Contract is also a Licence to John for
the Fromanteel family to make Coster- Huygens' pendulum clocks in
This last -for me too liberal- interpretation founds a new thesis, to
assert a total hiatus of contemporary or earlier pendulum clocks in
England. This thesis posits that Ahasuerus Fromanteel had to seek out a
Licence in the Hague, to make the new Coster-Huygens suspended pendulums
having a pivoted crutch; by licence running several years; until
eventually Fromanteel adopted his own pivoted pendulum; (like Galileo
1636/1641) affixed to the verge-staff (like Campani 1657/8).
New dogma infers that Fromanteel intended his proto-English form to
succeed Huygens' superior pendulum, which new dogma claims he had used
first. To prove thesis that 1657 Contract was also Licence,
corroboration is sought from Dereham's renowned history (1696); "for
several years this way of Mr.Zulichem's was the only method". Even in
marketing speak Dereham is ambiguous, which way is not stated, but even
the wider historical evidence just does not sustain his sweeping
assertions. Did Fromanteel know or discover evidence of other
alternative pendulums, or did he follow Dereham's dogma?
PERSPECTIVES ON THESE INTERPRETATIONS
One of my perspectives is internal evidence of the Contract's express
terms. The document that I read had very different meanings also
different consequences, especially in draconian closing legal penalties
writ large in manuscript!
Another perspective regards a fatal error in Rev. Dereham's chronology,
shown by Royal Society's minutes for 1662 (Birch, History of RS, 1756).
That RS pendulum clock is lost, but the cited excerpt is misleading and
a canard (my Perspective
#1). Personally, I hold the link made is also
Another perspective regards the physical evidence of extant clocks;
original English pivoted pendulums that antedate Dereham's singular
example of 1661/2. All are unmentioned in scholarly argument, but their
very existence must put thesis upon its head (see Perspective
#3 ). Is
one reconstructed Huygens' pendulum, Fromanteel's spring clock dated
1658, the best reliable evidence for Dereham? What of all others?
Yet another perspective regards ignored documentary evidence by other
reliable sources, not mentioned in new thesis; ie. contemporaneous
documents citing the pivoted pendulums that antedate or are contemporary
with Huygens' 1656/8 crutched suspended pendulum systems (see
EVIDENCE, THE COSTER FROMANTEEL CONTRACT (1657)
Here I leave aside ongoing secret clause research, pending completion.
However, most of the problems inherent in the new thesis lies in other
clauses. First, the 1657 Contract is what it is, not what one might like
it to be. If its internal terms are not to be read literally then better
to ignore than invent. The Contract speaks for itself, needing no
fallacious link to buttress any external interpretations. I read Dutch
adequately enough to declare that there is no Licence being expressed or
inferred. All the contracted work is 'in-house', it certainly does not
even let John Fromanteel market any of the new pendulum clocks he would
make with his own materials, which I suggest would ordinarily be thought
implicit in any Licence agreement. And no reference to future ties or
Neither are there any terms for voiding or ending Contract, ie. in case
of any dispute or default. For instance, who would have John's movements
he made with his own materials? Were I John, then Coster would not then
have had them.
But yet the Contract's closing terms actually lay down very express,
rigourous, legally enforceable financial penalties, ie. draconian
sanctions that could not lightly be dismissed by either of its
signatories. To hold that these are 'last lines with the usual
formalities' is simply untenable, unless proven by examinations of all
Notarial Acts (Contracts). So I recommend all enthusiasts to peruse
these formidable clauses for themselves (in original Dutch or new
translations); then answer my conundrums!
'When an established man of property
(Salomon Coster) joins contract with an itinerant
young man of straw (Joh Fromanteel); where each freely pledges 'all his present also
future goods, both moveable and unmoveable' to secure his own
performance of his own obligations; Who then accepts the potentially
most ruinous costs? For what desired gain? So who actually possesses the
silent secreet? Elderly Dutch sponsor, or his young English visitor?'
I have formed a personal view. I suggest, in any purported
sub-contracted employment and licence agreement, such heavily weighted
and seemingly unreasonable legal risk imbalance is most unusual; if not
a paradox. It does seem to reverse the so-far understood relation-ship
between parties; seeming more to corroborate our new mirror image in
context of a 'secreet' to be imparted by Mayday 1658.
Furthermore, both the signatories must be presumed to have understood
the Contract's terms; both must have valued the silent secret, and both
evidently accepted what now appear to be paradoxically unequal financial
Rev. William Dereham
A fatal error in Dereham's chronology,
shown by the Royal Society's historical record of minutes for 1662.
DEREHAM'S HISTORY (1696)
thesis, in the contexts cited by Huygens' Legacy catalogue (pp.22-23),
et al., links that 1657 Contract to Rev.Dereham's history (1696) to
purport that the earliest pendulum clocks, in Holland and England, must
all antedate Fromanteel's pivoted pendulum clocks. My concern here is,
Dereham's remarks may be read in several ways and on several levels (see
#2), but he actually misleads, or is wrong, or both; so new
thesis already rests on quicksands.
In "Pleasure with Profit" (1694), William Leybourne -being Fromanteel's
old 1649 collaborator, one of Dereham's "three such famous men"-
had already cited the bare facts of Huygens' new pendulum being
suspended in cheeks. But Dereham writing in 1696 went on to embellish,
he also mistook John's nationality for Dutch, I quote the relevant
citations by new thesis:
‘One of the first pieces [any
pendulum clock] that was made in England [by Fromanteel] is now
in Gresham Colledg’ [home to the Royal Society from 1661, also
Robert Hooke from 1662]...
||‘Which is made
exactly to Mr.Zulichem’s directions’ [but which system?]...
years this way of Mr.Zulichem was the only method’.
Dereham clearly asserts a total hiatus of pendulum clocks in England,
except for a version or versions of Huygens' new pendulum system. But
which? The normal 'cheeks' modifier, or the rare 'OP-gear' arc-limiter
for longer pendulums? In latter alternative, Dereham might be correct.
Dereham removes Ahasuerus from the early pendulum story; he even gives
no credit to Fromanteel/s, who had made that Royal Society pendulum
clock. Dereham's reader is left to infer that clock must be at least
contemporary with Fromanteel's 1658 advertisements, ie. made before the
Royal Society even existed. But RS records for 1662 show when it was
presented, so it cannot be one of the first of English pendulums (see
#1). Did Dereham, writing in 1696, compress the historical
chronology "a verge too far"? I do suggest so.
INFERENCES OF THE DEREHAM LINK;
Other inferences may properly be drawn from Dereham;
ignorant of Galilei's pendulum, also his own pan-European craft,
until Coster's Patent 16/06/1657. Dereham mentions no failed
experimental English pendulums.
||Fromanteel failed to conduct
meaningful empiric tests on his pivoted pendulum alternative. If
he had, would he have changed horses midstream, and in the order
Dereham makes no mention of any Licence, neither
express nor inferred; an omission that does not surprise me. Whereas the
new thesis asserts Fromanteel had made all his early English pendulum
clocks under Licence; ie. the 1657 Contract; there being no other
licence recorded, nor yet any mention found in Huygens' correspondence.
Thus the central tenet, of a Licence gifted to the Fromanteels by
Coster, is nowhere proven!
DEREHAM'S CANARD (1696)
What is the contrary evidence, and the alternative histories? Robert
Hooke's 1673 lecture notes cite other early players, (BM MSS.Sloane
1039, fol.129). It is also a logical fallacy to link a factual 1657
draft Contract to Dereham's historical canard, citing the Royal
Society's 1661/2 pendulum clock as being one of the first such clocks to
be made in England.
The logic of this artfully contrived link must also fail:
||If no Licence is
actually being granted by the Contract,
||If any ‘secret’
therein is actually not within Coster’s
||if it can be shown that the pivoted
pendulum antedates Huygens' pendulum and Fromanteel knew of it,
or discovered it for himself (either intuitively or by
TESTING DEREHAM (1696)
In my perspectives, none of the evidence indisputably upholds the new
thesis. However, enthusiasts should conduct their own enquiries. Here I
offer my own perspectives;
1. Records of the Royal Society (RS) in
Thomas Birch, in "The History of the Royal Society of London" (1756,
Vol.1. p.98), puts Dereham's RS clock among the '1662' Minutes; being
the new Bishop of Exeter Dr. Seth Ward's very generous commemoration of
Lawrence Rooke's untimely death on 26th June 1661. Thus Dereham's
pendulum clock, whatever its pendulum system, was not one of
Fromanteel's first pendulums made in England. Anyway, Fromanteel himself
also contradicts Dereham by his advertisements in 1658
Fig. 10 (click to enlarge)
Dedication in Latin, to Lawrence Rooke, inscribed upon the centre of
the dial of Bishop Dr.Seth Ward's commemorative pendulum clock.
Birch reports, "a large pendulum clock made by Fromantel". Might it have
had Huygens' long pendulum with the published form of OP-gear
no cheeks)? That RS clock is now lost. No extant OP-gear long pendulum
is known. [Yet a small early wall-mounted ebony-on-oak (English?)
box-case for such a movement is known to the author].
Dr. Ward's 1661/2 gift might well have been an observatory timepiece,
one having a long pendulum beating seconds. As Dr. R.Plomp's erudite
scholarship proved, from the earliest days Huygens had his own and also
exported others to Paris; and in 1661 Huygens had been elected to the
Royal Society as Fellow. Who could doubt that Huygens would have
promoted his own long pendulum? Indeed, the RS clock probably was such a
pendulum, because of the scientific nature of that august new body, also
because Ward himself had been a noted scientist at Oxford; in February
1656 he had used a long pendulum with an escapement by young Robert
Hooke to observe a solar eclipse. Hooke succeeded Rooke, he too was a
scientist and observer and would make much use of Ward's gift. So
whomever made Dr. Ward's RS clock in 1661/2, if a long pendulum then it
would almost certainly have had Huygens' OP-system; being two years
before Fromanteel's "new way of long pendulum" (1664). But even having
Huygens' pendulum, one exception makes no rule.
2. Pivoted-Pendulum Origins:
In Italy, in 1660, one Giuseppe Campani published his own "DISCORSO". At
pages 58-59 he describes a pivoted pendulum clock he discovered with his
brother, circa 1658, as they tested a defective single-beam (maybe
cross-beat?) escapement that lost its upper beam weight. They
immediately took their new found pendulum clock to the Grand Duke
Ferdinand, only to find Huygens' clock there; one sent by Signor
Burattinij in September 1657. Nevertheless, Campanis' clock antedates
the RS clock by several years. Earlier, in March 1636, Galilei proposed
a marine pendulum-counter to Holland, Constantijn Huygens was on the
examining board, he would certainly have informed his 'little
Archimedes' of Galileo's pendulum. Its configuration remains uncertain,
but in any proposed marine application, in order to achieve stability
also sufficient rigidity to trip its crown-wheel pendulum counter below,
the pendulum was probably suspended within pivots; ie. unlike his
astronomers' terrestrial suspended pendulum described in his "DISCORSI"
(1638); but like his concept 'Time-keeper'
(clock) described to son
Vincenzio Galilei (1641), whose construction of which remained
unfinished when he too died in 1649. Later, Viviani took Gallilei's
movement to the Grand Duke as part of a formal enquiry of priority for
the pendulum clock.
Admittedly, Dereham, Leybourne and Wallis all pay homage to Huygens.
But, if Fromanteel's pendulum was later, as the new thesis asserts,
where now are all those extant English clocks having Huygens' superior
system? Bar one dated 1658, have our English restorers wrongly put all
Merely to now assert that Fromanteel's pivoted method must post-date
Huygens' pendulum, without any other evidence, is unconvincing; it is
also wrong. Fromanteel's pendulum like Campanis' was affixed to the
verge staff, and like Galilei's pendulums -in his marine counter and
concept Clock- was also pivoted. The pivotal question is, when did
Fromanteel adopt it? In 1655/6?, 1657?, or post-1662 as Dereham/thesis
3. Pre-Royal Society Pivoted-Pendulums:
Several English and Fromanteel pre-RS pivoted pendulums remain extant;
admittedly most have been reconstructed by restorers. But one signed
"Davis Mell Londini" (1604-1662)a5
survives virgo-intacta; an automaton, selectable musical, quarter
striking, original pendulum Chamber clock; Mell's only known pendulum.
Never having a balance; never having Huygens' suspension or crutch;
never given Hooke's spring suspension; its yet unmodified original 4.5
inch (11.4cm) Fromanteel-type pivoted pendulum is buried internally deep
within the striking and musical parts; safe from improvers! Probably it
was made during Mell's rather short flirtation with clocks (1655- 1660),
before his July 1660 appointment to King Charles II's Court as Royal
Musician. He had played at Whitehall for Cromwell, might he there have
met Fromanteel, and ordered a musical clock playing his own
compositions? Yet the new thesis and new orthodoxy purport that such an
early English pendulum clock could only have an Huygens' pendulum, not
the inferred anachronism of Fromanteel's allegedly later
pivoted-pendulum. This clock confounds Dereham, and thesis.
Fig. 11 (click to enlarge)
pre-Royal Society, Chamber (Lantern) clock having pivoted pendulum,
bearing name of 'Davis Mell Londini'. The absence of 'fecit' at that
early date, and the presence of Fromanteel's earliest pivoted pendulum,
makes it probable that this magnificent house clock was commissioned by
Mell; ie. like much earlier 'Fromanteel-East' silver table clock.
(click to enlarge)
Inside Davis Mell's unique musical automaton
chamber clock, the unaltered trains with an original Fromanteel-type
pivoted pendulum fixed to horizontal verge on crown-wheel escapement.
'In passing, I mention that Mell's verge
has a steel-shim fixed beneath a conventional rear pivot. It appears to
be a rare interim form, between Fromanteel's unique 'roller-cage' (at
the Museum of The History of Science, Oxford) and his 'knife-edge'. Or,
might it be a first modification to a conventional pivot, that might
help to establish a dateable chronology to his several pendulums?
Evidence shows Fromanteel's pivoted pendulum was not a single belated
contribution to the pendulum story. In fact, he developed his pendulums,
continuously, even before he adopted Huygens' seminal crutch with
Hooke's spring suspension (c.1661/2), which led him to his 'new
long-pendulum' by early 1664'.
a5 Very few
clocks and watches signed Davis Mell are known. Curiously, but perhaps
only a co-incidence, I found that his Will dated 23rd April 1662 has two
Probate Inventories dated 1st and 6th May 1662, for addresses in Poplar
and the Strand. These inventories show four clocks and three watches;
being almost his total known Oeuvre. All Mell's other Lanterns, all very
different but all made
for balance wheel, most closely resemble Peter Closon's fine work;
perhaps significant? (For a history of Davis Mell, violinist, composer
and clockmaker, see MP & PC Fernandez, Antiquarian Horology, June 1987,
4. Empiric Testing By The
Did Fromanteel forego and abandon Huygens' superior pendulum systems,
without first conducting meaningful empiric trials? Every horologist now
understands that the pivoted pendulum, especially one having
going-barrel motive powera6, is markedly
inferior to Huygens' methods. Was Fromanteel so stupid, as the new
thesis infers, ie. after John's Contract in 1657, and after making the
1661/2 RS clock, only then to adopt as his proto-English system a
clearly retrograde pendulum.? We must allow that Fromanteel knew it too.
And why is Huygens silent on the point, also on Coster's award of
Licence, also on the chronology of Fromanteel's competing alternative
All evidence I have seen, Fromanteel's Solar-Zodiac-Musical Clock, his
silver mounted grand-sonnerie table clock bearing East's names, his
early long pendulum with later Equations, and many others, all
demonstrate an intuitive mind. He would adapt extant technologies to
perform in novel ways; always improving, never retrograde. And in this
case too, I make no exception. Therefore I suggest that the evolvent
chronology is clear, dare I suggest even self-evident?
a6 Many regard the going-barrel, as found
in the earliest of English pendulums, as denoting Dutch origins. But
Fromanteel's 1649 Chef d'Oeuvre had several. [Did it house the silent
secret?] Galilei's pendulum was even then still regarded as a panacea,
cancelling irregularities of the going-barrel, seducing even Huygens to
follow Coster's lead in abandoning the fusee. Only Treffler and their
arch-nemesis Simon Douw did not concur. Douw's original Patent
application makes interesting reading, both disproving and also showing
cause for Huygens' still persisting traductions. (For a published
transcripion, see G.Doorman, 'Octroijen', VI, 9-8-1658, fol.196, G454).
CONCLUSIONS DRAWN FROM
I suggest these perspectives, even taken singly, all refute Dereham's
canard and also contradict the evidently fallacious link made back to
the 1657 Contract. It follows that historic Contract, between Salomon
Coster and John Fromanteel, remains curious and by no means yet fully
understood. But it is only one of many unresolved enigmasa7
in the history of European horology. Drawing out the hidden truth of
such enigmas, and their triumphs, is a personal goal, one that till now
was conducted in private.
also overlooks the earliest of cited post 'DISCORSI' pendulum conversions,
ie. Richard Harris' alleged conversion in 1642, of a clock in a London
church designed by architect Inigo Jones who had twice visited Italy.
(Reid's "Treatise" of 1826, p.179, being prompted by Grignons' tribute;
also see Chilham Castle, Sir Dudley Digges). Was Dereham then unaware,
or did he regard that possibility as too fantastic? Why so?
THE 1657 CONTRACT AND FUTURE SCHOLARSHIP.
I conclude by saying with assurance, this part of the history does not
rest easily in a neatly labelled box marked 'Limbo'. Like many of the
historic manuscripts we have investigated (or shall review) the 1657
Contract is revealing more as it becomes better understood. Whenever its
silent secret is positively established, with proper authorship and
craft lineages, then this Contract may offer new perspectives to better
access Horology's fascinating early pendulum period.
Admittedly one central enigma must yet be proven, ie. whether or not
Fromanteel's seminal even pivotal Chef d'Oeuvre -that bore him much
fruit in subsequent pendulum clock innovations- also led him to
Galileo's pivoted pendulums at a much earlier date; perhaps contemporary
with Huygens' own achievements on Christmas Day 1656, patent in July
1657, publication in 1658. Or, was Fromanteel's possibly even earlier,
gaining Ahasuerus his Freedom of the City of London from Cromwell in
Evidently Ahasuerus did adopt the pivoted pendulum several years before
new dogma and Dereham purport. And I suspect he also kept his craft
integrity; by not pirating Huygens' still unpublished Coster escapement,
but only making the published 'OP-type' after Huygens visited him -and
the Royal Society- during visits to London in 1661, and then only for
specific and approved commissions -like Dr Ward's- for long pendulums
destined for scientific use; ie. before his own long-pendulum of 1663/4.
Here I suggest it is significant, that, even when Fromanteel ditched the
going-barrel and reinstated the old fusee -yet was still unable to match
Huygens'- he doggedly -even perversely- held to his pivoted pendulum; as
evidently he did in his first pendulum conversion of his great Chef
d'Oeuvre the Solar-astronomical and Musical spring clock.
Only when they adopted Hooke's spring suspension (c.1661/2), coupled to
Huygens' seminal 1656 crutch, did the Fromanteels finally abandon his
lame nag pendulum and achieve parity with Huygens. Hardly the stuff of a
domain name legend? But it is telling circumstantial evidence. [Yet his
old nag, used with fusee, was adequate enough to function for lesser
makers well into the eighteenth century].
By 1663/4, Ahasuerus's undoubted craft ingenuity took him to surpass all
of Huygens' pendulums, with a new long-pendulum system being inspired by
his earlier Burgi radial cross-beat (BXR3); extant evidence suggests was
the first cross-beat pendulum (my code PXR1). I also suggest Fromanteel
acolytes Josepk Knibb and William Clement merely conjoined his coupled
pallets at differing pitches, to invent Tic-Tac (my code PR1) and Anchor
(my code (PR2). And at about that time the young Thomas Tompion first
appeared, to cast his obscuring shadow! Nevertheless, in my privately
theses, "Ahasuerus Fromanteel - Emerging from the Shadows", I nominate
Ahasuerus 'The True Patriarch of English Clockmaking'. So he was.
BLOOD NEW APPROACHES
Enthusiasts can contribute to the history by their private research. Any
tyro might find gold, where experts too familiar with old wisdoms do
not. Our absorbing arena of antiquarian horology needs new blood, we
must inspire and challenge younger minds to accept our roles so the
definitive story of the 1657 Contract might one day be written.
One lesson must be learned. Any non literal or too liberal
interpretation of historic documents, or too literal reliance on
histories, creates unsound orthodoxies and dogmas; which potentially
puts all research and discussion in Limbo. That is especially true where
theses choose to ignore the extant evidence of contemporaneous artefacts
or documents. I trust the Horological Foundation's compilation shall
regenerate studies into the 1657 Contract's general and specific terms,
ensuring its continued place in ongoing horological research also in
I hope, together with Berry van Lieshout and collaborators, we may be
permitted to add to the story of the 1657 Contract whenever our ongoing
study of the secret is concluded. To paraphrase (misquote) playwright
John Osborne, "let righteous Curiosity lead, not its deadly enemy
Opinion". We shall go wherever the evidence points.
This author is indebted to two very different antiquarian horologists;
to J.Drummond Robertson for his penetrating historical perspectives into
European archives and unsung collections, and H.Alan Lloyd for raising
my understanding of the complexities of clockwork. I am also indebted to
two old friends since 1974, the late Willem Hana -a true anglophile who
adopted my family in Holland- who obtained for me copies of rare Dutch
manuscripts, also Berry van Lieshout who has allowed me into his
clockmaker's working habitat and shared his bibliophile love of
recording and preserving horological heritage, being a rigourous
sounding board. Thanks too to the Royal Society for permission to quote
Ward's dedication; also to Antiquorum of Geneva for consent to use their
photograph of an early automaton figure; finally to private owners of
the rare clocks here discussed also editor Fred Kats who persuaded and
then encouraged me to
write my maiden article and become IT-connected.
Copyright R. K. Piggott, 13-08-2005
(about R. K.