Gaffarel's Description of The Dial of Achaz, after R. Chomer
Browne discourses in his Pseudodoxia Epidemica on the age of the clock, giving as a riddle the mention of a dial (מעלה) in 2 Kings 20:11, and referring us to the following description in Gaffarel's Curiositez Inouyes.
[The author has just discussed the armillary sphere and decided that it was not in use among the ancient Hebrews.] The figure of Ahaz his Diall is more certaine; or rather, is lesse suspected of Novelty: but that the Fabricke of it, as it is delivered to us, is entirely perfect, and such as it was Anciently, I finde not many Reasons to induce me to beleeve. For as much as, except only one Rabbine, who is indeed a very Learned man, I have not met with any Historian, either Christian, Hebrew, Ægyptian, or Arabick, that hath taken any notice of it, or so much as touched upon it. Yet because there is lesse uncertainty found in it, then in the Sphere aforesaid; and also, in case any man should have a minde to take one single Authors word in this matter; I am content to give you the Description of it, as he hath delivered it, seeing it is Proper to my Subject in hand. For the Ancients, in their Horoscopes, did often make use of these Dials, whatsoever the Fashion of them was, observing exactly the just motion of the two Greater Luminaries. We doe not finde then, throughout the whole bible, any mention made, of these Sciotericall, or Sunne Dials, save only in the Last Booke of the Kings; the Author wwhereof, speaking of the Cure of that Good King, who was Sonne, and Father to two other so Abominable ones, saith: Invocavit itaque Isais Propheta Dominum, et reduxit umbram per lineas, quibus jam descenderat in Horologio Achas, retrorsum decem gradibus. The original Hebrew calls this Instrument אכז מעלה, Maghalot Achaz; that is to say; the Ascensions, or Degrees of Achaz. So much for the Name: but as for the Figure of it, there is no man hitherto, that hath published, what it was: I shall therefore be the First, (after R. Eliahou Chomer,) that shall communicate it to the world: and it was after this manner. A Stone, or else a Plate of Copper, of what Bignesse a man pleased, was wrought into the Forme of a Crescent; the hollow part whereof encompased a Ball, or Globe, of the same substance, having the houres of the Day described upon it. This Globe, or Ball, was compassed with a Circle, which was raised above it about two Inches, and had 28. holes bored in it; which served to shew the Houres, as well by the Moon, as by the Sunne; in this manner. The Instrument was placed upon a Pedestall, or else upon a Window only; (as Chomer saith, That of this Kings was:) but in such a manner, as that one of the Hornes of the Crescent, which was to be fitted to the Elevation of the Place, must respect the East; and consequently, the Circle, that crossed it, would look toward the South. When the Sunne then shone, it cast a shadow towards the Opposite Horne; so that, the shadow falling upon the Round Ball, the height whereof exceeded not that of the two Hornes of the Crescent, it shewed exactly the houres, till about Ten of the Clocke, (according to our manner of reckoning the houres;) at which time the Sunne, being too high, could not cast the shadow any longer upon the side of the Horne: so that, for the following Houres, this Defect was supplyed by the Circle; which shewed the houres, till about Two in the Afternoon. After which time, as the Sunne declined, the other Horne of the Crescent began to shew the houres, till Night. And thus, of the Twelve houres of the Day, the Circle alwayes shewed foure of them; that is to say, from Ten, to Two in the Afternoon: and this Part of the Day is still called, by the Easterne men, Mid-day, or Noone; dividing the Day naturally into three parts; Morning, Noone and Evening; as having long since lost the use of Dials, as Scaliger hath observed. As for the houres of the Night, they were found out upon this Instrument, by the Moon; by casting its shadow upon a little Pinne of wood, wherewith one of the Holes of the Circle, round about which the Howres were described, was to be stopped every day: So that this Pinne which appeared on the top of it, served instead of a Stile, or Cock of the Diall; which the Greeks call γνώμων. If I had not found some Difficulty in this Obscure Description, I would have here set down the Figure of it, and the manner how this Diall is to be made. But I had rather be silent, in things I doe not fully understand, then to speake by ghesse: some better leasure may perhaps give me Opportunity, to discover This Secret, and to communicate it to the world. At present I shall only add, that Jonathan's Paraphrase calls This Instrument, whether it be a True one, or not; צרת אבן שגיא, Tsourat Æven Schagaja; Figura Lapidis Horarum.
This page is dedicated to the memory of Boo the Cat.