Article ID: CBB558253384

Obtaining Quality in Marginal Places: The Clocks and Quadrants of the Clementinum Observatory in Prague in the 18th Century (2021)


The large number of observatories founded in the 18th century is a clear indication of the upsurge in popularity that astronomy experienced during this period. However, many of these new observatories were small and located far from the international centres for astronomy. Though their occupants often enjoyed a high local reputation, they were rarely known internationally and their networks were similarly limited. Where then did these astronomers buy their instruments? Which channels did they use? What quality of material could they obtain? The paper explores these issues using the Jesuit Clementinum observatory in Prague as an example. The study focuses on the quadrants and clocks acquired around the middle of the 18th century. It traces the astronomer’s sources of information as well as the process of evaluation, and describes the difficulties involved in the transmission of technical knowledge, which could not be gained by reported sources alone, such as letters and books, but needed to be based on personal experience. In this context, astronomers tended to turn to local instrument-makers, as personal contacts, rather than the fame of an instrument maker, usually determined the choice of an instrument. The quality of instruments obtained in this way is checked by using the registers of the Clementinum clocks. The analysis of these same sources also serves to present the first results of an ongoing research project on the degree of precision attained by 18th-century clocks used for astronomical purposes.

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Authors & Contributors
Serrano, Elena
Simões, Ana Luís
Tortzen Chr
Harriet J. Mercer
Alves Diniz, Marcio
Fabricius, Claus
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
British Journal for the History of Mathematics
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage
Journal for the History of Astronomy
Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies
Tinta da China
Society for Danish Language and Literature
Springer International Publishing
Yale University Press
Presses Universitaires de Rennes
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Scientific communities; interprofessional relations
Knowledge circulation
Instruments, astronomical
Astronomical observatories
Social networks
Correspondence and corresponding
Vigo, Joana de
Betancourt, María de
Delisle, Joseph-Nicolas
Beccaria, Giambattista
Horrebow, Peder
Safont, Joan de
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
17th century
20th century, early
Uppsala (Sweden)
Padua (Italy)
South Korea
Università degli Studi di Torino
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
Palermo. Osservatorio Astronomico
Observatoire de Paris
Pulkovo Observatory
Accademia delle Scienze di Torino

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