Only scientists and noblemen could afford an instrument like this back in the 17th century. Therefore, only few were ever made. Once dropped to the ground, the instrument was destroyed. Most individuals never heard of a clepsammia dating to the 17th century, not even of a single double bubble clepsammia, a double, or a triple. There is nothing on Google; that is how rare these are. I was only able to find records of two other quadruple clepsammias or hour-glasses. The other two are not complete and have missing parts. They are also of lesser quality. The one I'm offering here is in all original complete preservation, and this after 400 years! These are so rare that you can't even find an image in any book about scientific instruments.
This hour-glass with four original double-bulbs is most-likely the best extant specimen of a quadruple clepsammia of the 17th century. This fine scientific instrument comes with provenance back to its journey over the Atlantic in the 17th century.
The eight spheres are blown separately from each other and have many air bubbles, indicative of 17th century blown glass. The spheres are connected through a knot connection with fine brass wire.
This instrument has running times of 10 minutes (10:47), 30 minutes (30:22); 45 minutes (43:15), and 60 minutes (58:32). Times in parenthesis are times I measured.
The frame measures approximately 10 by 5½ by 1¾ inches and the top is connected to the bottom by 18 slender brass rod pillars and is beautifully decorated with upper and lower frieze all around, also acting as protective guard for the fragile spheres. Adorned with rich engravings, the top and bottom plate also bear two engraved aphorisms in Latin. The sand inside the glass spheres is fine ground orange-red colored marble sand. The frame was gilded as there is still some gold visible underneath the glass spheres.
In ancient times they also measured time with a controled flow of water; these instruments were called Clepsydra.
The top-plate has the following aphorisms in Latin engraved; in the center of the top plate:
and at the left and right end of the top-plate:
SUMMA BREVIS VITÆ LEVIBUS COMPONITUR HORIS & QUIA PULVIS HOMO EST PULVERIS INSTAR ABIT;
The instrument maker made an error while engraving the top plate by hand as he misspelled the word, “COMPONTUR”, which should read “COMPONITUR”. As you can see the instrument maker added the letter “I“ on top of the letter “N” to correct the error.
DVBIA OBNIBUS ULTIMA MULTIS. PEREUNT IMPUTANTUR.
There are no repairs, breaks, chips, cracks or the like; this fine and unreplaceable object of art and science will be available for pick-up or personal delivery only as I do not want to risk having it damaged, destroyed, or lost during shipping. Amazingly, all for double glass spheres still work as intended and are fully functional with good regular passage of the sand.
Please think about it; in its 400 year history it was not dropped once! I feel strongly that this quadruple Clepsammia is the finest extant specimen there is. I have only found one other comparable specimen, it was sold at Christie's on April 15, 1999 as lot 44 with an estimate of £5,500 - £7,000; at the time $8,800 - $11,200. I could not find out the actual realized price. Where could you buy another one for ten times the price I'm asking anyway? Click here, to see the page with images and description of the one Christie's sold.
The incredible hour-glass offered here was the holy grail in the family when he grew up according to the previous owner; he was not allowed to even touch the instrument. According to his account, it had its secure place on a book shelf way up, out of his reach.
I bought this hour-glass from Christopher Potter, 13th generations removed from Nathaniel Potter who came to the USA in 1628.
At the time Christopher Potter was still living at, 143 E Killingly Rd, Foster, RI, 02825-1630. Christopher Potter is a direct descendant of the Nathaniel Potter who came to the USA in 1628.
Immigrant Nathaniel Potter was born October 7, 1616. Birthplace, Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, England. He died October 1, 1644 in Portsmouth Colony, Aquidneck Island, Colony of Rhode Island, of Colonial America. Place of Burial, Portsmouth, Newport County, Rhode Island, United States.
His son was, Nathaniel Potter, II, born September 1637, birthplace, Newport, Rhode Island, Colonial America. He died October 20, 1704 in Dartmouth, Bristol, Massachusetts, Colonial America. Place of Burial, Dartmouth, Bristol, Massachusetts, United States. He returned from one of his trips to Europe and brought with him this hour-glass sometimes between 1650 and 1700.
Nathaniel Potter was one of at least three early immigrants to Rhode Island (the others being George and Robert Potter). He is stated to have been admitted an inhabitant of the Island of Aquidneck, RI in 1639. Current researchers believe that Nathaniel may have been the son of Robert Potter of Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire, who married Elizabeth Marshall 4 Nov 1591, and who mentions a son by this name in his will. While many online genealogies show Nathaniel's father as George Potter, this appears to be a fabrication; George Potter was of London, England, and the only Nathaniel which appears in the baptismal records (1622) was far too young to have been the RI immigrant Nathaniel Potter. It should also be noted that Susannah Potter, wife of John Anthony, was likely a sister to Nathaniel Potter; she was christened 18 Apr 1619, at Newport Pagnell, her father shown as Robert Potter.
GL: Rhode Island Vital Records, New Series, Volume 13, Newport County, R.I. Births 1751-1860 from Death and Marriage Records, p 153; Rhode Island Genealogical Register, Volume 7, No. 2, Inscriptions from Island Cemetery, Newport, p 74; Descendants of Nathaniel Potter; SG. The visit this website, click here!
Inventory Number 09184;