Keith Piggott


 Its continued place
in modern scholarship

Table of contents:

The Notarial Act or Contract.
Forensic Verbatim Transcripts.
Pre-contract pendulum history.
Huygens First to Publish.
New Orthodoxy is Posited.
Time To Re-Appraise Fromanteel Contribution.
Fromanteel's Pendulum - Intuitive Leap Or Chance Discovery?
Remarkable Elevation By The City Of London.
Interpretations Being Placed On The Contract.
Personal Perspectives On These Interpretations.
Internal Evidence, The Coster Fromanteel 1657 Contract.
Internal Evidence, Dereham's History (1696).
Other Inferences of the Dereham Link.
Contrary Evidence to Dereham's Canard (1696).
Perspectives Testing Dereham (1696).

Conclusions Drawn from Perspectives.
The 1657 Contract And Future Scholarship.
The Fromanteel Enigma.
New Blood New Approaches.

Links & legends.



I accept the Horological Foundation's unexpected invitation to contribute to their compilation 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 Although that clock's new verge escapement remained long unpublished (until 1673), we do know from extant records -also from 'Horologium'- that plagiarism (pirating) then flourished.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.


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 widely exported.

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 wait.


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 was not.

(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 in 1642.



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 to text)

a2  This 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 counter.
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 reverse.
(back to text)


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 nothing.
Fromanteel himself left us only one advertisement
(in "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
, a 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.



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 Parliament.

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).

(nb). See "Was there an Elizabethan Telescope?", bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society (June 1993, No.37, pp.2-10)*.
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 to text)

Fig. 4 (click to enlarge)
Under dial of Fromanteel's massive Chef d'Oeuvre, showing its unique, counterpoised, dynamic Solar carriage moved by William Oughtred's year train to show Solar Declinations, Amplitudes, Azimuths, Solstices, Equinoxes, Sunrise and Sunset, etc. etc.
1  2 3

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 recorded spring-remontoire 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 conversions.  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 Perspective #2).

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 to text)


 End of this section, click here to continue.


Compilation of the Coster Fromanteel notarial act.
Scientific Instruments Society.
Jean Babtist van Helmont.
Huygens' Legacy.


= click for relevant notes.
* = see relevant Links.
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back to early pendulum clocks  

  Back to end of previous section.


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 circumstantial evidence.


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 in 1660.

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 #3).

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 not lie.


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 England.

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?


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 fallacious.

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 Perspective #2).


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 fees!

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!

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 enforcement penalties.

Rev. William Dereham
A fatal error in Dereham's chronology, shown by the Royal Society's historical record of minutes for 1662.


The new 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 Perspective
#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]...

b.  ‘Which is made exactly to Mr.Zulichem’s directions’ [but which system?]...
c.  ‘For several 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 Perspective
#1). Did Dereham, writing in 1696, compress the historical chronology "a verge too far"? I do suggest so.


Other inferences may properly be drawn from Dereham;

a.  Fromanteel was 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.
b.  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 thesis purports?

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!


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:

a.  If no Licence is actually being granted by the Contract,
b.  If any ‘secret’ therein is actually not within Coster’s
c.  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 accident).


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 1662:

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 (therefore having 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 to pivoted-pendulums?

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 infers?

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)
 Imposing, 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.

Fig. 12 (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, pp.602-627). (back to text)

4. Empiric Testing By The Fromanteels:

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 escapement ?

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).
(back to text)


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.

a7 Dereham 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? (back to text)


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 1655/6?

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 circulated
1989/1994 theses, "Ahasuerus Fromanteel - Emerging from the Shadows", I nominate Ahasuerus 'The True Patriarch of English Clockmaking'. So he was.


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 future scholarship.

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.

Keith Piggott.

Copyright R. K. Piggott, 13-08-2005 

(about R. K. Piggott)

Amended: 22-11-2008





























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