Chap. XVIII.

Of the Picture of Jerom.

THE Picture of Jerom usually described at his study, with a Clock hanging by,[1] is not to be omitted; for though the meaning be allowable, and probable it is that industrious Father did not let slip his time without account; yet must not perhaps that Clock be set down to have been his measure thereof. For Clocks or Automatous organs, whereby we now distinguish of time, have found no mention in any ancient Writers, but are of late invention, as Pancirollus observeth. And Polydore Virgil discoursing of new inventions whereof the authors are not known, makes instance in Clocks and Guns. Now Jerom is no late Writer, but one of the ancient Fathers, and lived in the fourth Century, in the reign of Theodosius the first.

It is not to be denied that before the dayes of Jerom there were Horologies, and several accounts of time; for they measured the hours not only by drops of water in glasses called Clepsydræ, but also by sand in glasses called Clepsammia. There were also from great antiquity, Scioterical or Sun Dials, by the shadow of a stile or gnomon denoting the hours of the day: an invention ascribed unto Anaximenes by Pliny.[2] Hereof a memorable one there was in Campus Martius, from an obelisk erected, and golden figures placed horizontally about it, which was brought out of Egypt by Augustus, and described by Jacobus Laurus. And another of great antiquity we meet with in the story of Ezechias; for so it is delivered in King. 2.20. That the Lord brought the shadow backward ten degrees by which it had gone down in the Diall of Ahaz;3 that is, say some, ten degrees, not lines, for the hours were denoted by certain divisions or steps in the Dial, which others distinguished by lines according to that of Persius.[4]

Stertimus indomitum quod despumare Falernum
   Sufficiat, quintâ dum linea tangitur umbra.

That is, the line next the Meridian, or within an houre of noon.

Of later years there succeeded new inventions, and horologies composed by Trochilick5 or the artifice of wheels, whereof some are kept in motion by weight, others perform without it. Now as one age instructs another, and time that brings all things to ruin, perfects also every thing; so are these indeed of more general and ready use then any that went before them. By the Water-glasses the account was not regular: for from attenuation and condensation, whereby that Element is altered, the hours were shorter in hot weather then in cold, and in Summer then in Winter. As for Scioterical Dials, whether of the Sun or Moon, they are only of use in the actual radiation of those Luminaries, and are of little advantage unto those inhabitants, which for many months enjoy not the Lustre of the Sun.

It is I confess no easie wonder how the horometry of Antiquity discovered not this Artifice, how Architas that contrived the moving Dove, or rather the Helicosophie of Archimedes, fell not upon this way. Surely as in many things, so in this particular, the present age hath far surpassed Antiquity; whose ingenuity hath been so bold not only to proceed below the account of minutes; but to attempt perpetual motions, and engines whose revolutions (could their substance answer their design) might out-last the exemplary mobility, and out measure time it self. For such a one is that mentioned by John Dee, whose words are these in his learned Preface unto Euclide: By Wheels strange works and incredible are done: A wondrous example was seen in my time in a certain Instrument, which by the Inventer and Artificer was sold for twenty talents of gold; and then by chance had received some injury, and one Janellus of Cremona did mend the same, and presented it unto the Emperour Charls the fift. Jeronimus Cardanus, can be my witness, that therein was one Wheel that moved at such a rate, that in seven thousand years his own period should be finished; a thing almost incredible, but how far I keep within my bounds, many men yet alive can tell.[6]


My notes (and other people's) are in square brackets [ ]; addenda from manuscripts are in curly braces { }; Browne's own marginalia are unmarked. This, along with the neighboring chapters, Ross dismissses as "wrastling with shadows", Arcana Microcosmi II.12).

1 [Wren: The ancient pictures of St. Hierom were naked, on his knees, in a cave, with an hour-glasse and a scul by him, intimating his indefatigable continuance in prayers and studye while he lived in the cave at Bethleem. But the later painters at Rome, bycause hee had been senator and of a noble familye, picture him in the habit of the cardinals, leaning on his arm at a desk in study with a clock hanging by him, and his finger on a scull: and this they take to bee a more proper symbol of the cardinal eminencye.

St. Jerome is frequently represented with other time-keeping devices, most notably hour-glasses, candles, and (possibly) water-clocks. He is often represented with a cardinal's hat (at the least, and sometimes with robes as well). Of course, his most notable accoutrement is a lion (and, often, a pussycat as well). See the note mentioned above at St. Jerome.]

2 [Pliny, NH ii (187); englished by Holland, Book II, Chap. LXXVI. ]

3 A peculiar description and particular construction hereof out of R. Chomer, is set down, Curios. de Gaffarel, chap. 9. [2 Kings 20:11. See Gaffarel on the Dial of Ahaz. In 1672, there is a lapse in the text, so that it reads "That the Lord brought the shadow backward ten degrees, not lines; for the hours..."]

4 [Satires III.3-4]

5 Doctrin of circular motions.

6 [In the "Mathematicall Preface" to his translation of Euclid (1571), speaking of the marvels of the modern Troichilike art.]

This page is dedicated to the memory of Boo the Cat.

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional