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Title: Instruments in context : telling the time in England, 1350-1500
Author: Eagleton, C.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2004
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John Whethamstede, Abbot of St Albans, (d. 1463) listed all the astronomical instruments he knew in a section of his encyclopaedic work, the Granarium, compiled c. 1440, explaining that there are so many of them as to be almost infinite. Among the instruments he lists, over half are designed for, or can be used for, telling the time. Of these time-telling instruments, the majority are portable: a quadrant or a cylinder dial could be carried around so that someone did not have to be able to hear the chimes of the town or church clock to know what time it was. Fortunately, some medieval timekeeping instruments survive, as well as a large number of texts about their construction and use. Yet despite the resources available, little detailed work has considered the surviving instruments along with the texts about them, and references to their use in letters, inventories and images. My PhD thesis begins this essential work by studying a number of instruments for telling the time in England, 1350-1500. In the first chapter I consider why astronomical instruments were in medieval libraries, through close analysis of a text about the invention of the liberal arts and their instruments that was written by John Whethamstede, Abbot of St Albans, in the mid fifteenth century. I show how the instruments Whethamstede discusses can be seen as sources of astronomical knowledge, as sources of information about the achievements of great astronomers, as well as practical objects. In the second chapter, on a group of quadrants linked to King Richard II, I analyse a reference in an inventory of the treasure at the Tower of London, compiled in c. 1400, to consider the reasons why a king and his supporters might own quadrants. These instruments can be linked to the turbulent political situation in the late 1390s, and they can be fruitfully considered as objects of a gift exchange, as symbols both of astronomical knowledge and of political events.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available