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Ottoman Turkish Clocks

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  • TurkC-L
    Ottoman Turkish Clocks By Kemal Ozdemir* Instruments for telling the time were first made in Anatolia around 1300 BC, one of the earliest being the sundial.
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7, 1998
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      Ottoman Turkish Clocks

      By Kemal Ozdemir*

      Instruments for telling the time were first made in Anatolia around
      1300 BC, one of the earliest being the sundial. Sundials continued to
      be used long after the invention of mechanical clocks, and were often a
      feature of mosque faCades and other public places in Ottoman times.
      Water driven clocks, sometimes combined with automatons, were built by
      the Persians and Arabs from the 7th century onwards, based on hydraulic
      astronomical clocks developed in China. Weight driven clocks were
      invented by the Arabs and found their way into Europe during the

      From then on the development of the clock focuses on Europe.Sultan
      Mehmed II (1451-1481) was the first Ottoman sultan to take an interest
      in mechanical clocks, and there are records of a clock imported from
      Venice in 1477. In the 16th century clocks began to be made in the
      Ottoman Empire, the earliest being the work of Takiyuddin, Sultan Murad
      IIIs astronomer and chief astrologer, who established an observatory in
      Istanbul and wrote the first book on mechanical clocks ever written in
      the eastern world, El Kevakibud Durriye fil Bengamatud Devriye. Here he
      describes clockmaking in extensive detail and records that he had made
      a clock which showed the times of prayer. Made in 1561, but not extant
      today, this was the first Ottoman mechanical clock.Sultan Murad III
      (1574-1595) had a passion for clocks and encouraged the development of
      clockmaking in the empire. It was during his reign that the post of
      chief clock maker (saatCibashi) was instituted at the Ottoman court.

      Famous clock makers of the time were SaatCibashi Hasan Usta, Pervane,
      Huseyin and Rustem Aga. The guild of Ottoman clock makers participated
      in the traditional guild procession at the circumcision ceremonies for
      Prince Mehmed, the son of Murad III, in 1582.

      It is interesting that clockmaking had advanced sufficiently to form a
      guild in just 20 years since Takiyuddin made his clock.In his
      ten-volume book of travels the 17th century Turkish writer Evliya
      Celebi reports that the clock makers participated in the guild
      processions held in Istanbul as part of the festivities prior to the
      Baghdad Campaign of Murad IV in 1638, and goes on to give the following
      information about them: Their patron saint is Joseph, who is said to
      have made a clock from wood and sand while imprisoned in a dungeon in
      the city of Cize. Clockmaking is an ingenious art which exceeds the
      power of most men. Seventy skills are necessary to construct a clock.
      The clock makers adorn their shops with the clocks of Germany, Spain
      and France, made by Jan Pedro, Casper, Bulbul and Yusuf Celebi.A
      register of pricing regulations dated 1640 in Topkapi Palace Library
      mentions the names of some Ottoman clock makers, and cites the prices
      to be charged for mending and making clocks. From this we learn that a
      maker named Adem made clocks showing the months and days and pocket
      watches with a single hand. We also learn that there were both Turkish
      and foreign clock makers in Galata (the district facing Istanbul proper
      on the north shore of the Golden Horn), and that the clocks they made
      were known as Galatakari clocks.The 17th century clocks and watches in
      the collection at Topkapi Palace Museum include a number of so-called
      shield clocks resembling an astrolabe which are typical of this century
      and the most original of any made by Ottoman clockmakers. Many of these
      clocks are signed. A circular wall clock of this type was the work of a
      clockmaker named ahin in 1650. It has a gilded bronze case studded with
      rubies and emeralds, and the dial is of blue enamel. The movement has a
      verge escapement and strikes the quarter hours. Another example of this
      type dates from 1650 and bears the signature of Bulugat. It is not as
      richly decorated as that by Sahin. The striking mechanism is contained
      in a protruding case at the back.Mustafa Aksarayi was the maker of a
      beautiful clock of superb craftsmanship dating from the late 17th
      century. This silver clock, which is in Topkapi Palace Museum, has an
      openwork 12-sided case with a domed lid resembling a jewellery casket.
      Small clocks for carrying about were at first slipped into the sash or
      girdle, hence the Turkish name koyun saati (breast watch). Their
      manufacture only became possible with the invention of the spring,
      which allowed portable clocks of increasingly small size to be made.

      These prhad a cover to protect the dial if dropped. Some of them had
      extra dials showing the date as well as the time.

      An early example is an egg shaped pocket watch made by Sheyh Dede and
      dated 1702. The case is made of brass and the large hour dial bears
      three small dials with pointers showing the minutes, the month and day
      for bothe Julian and Islamic calendars, and the signs of the zodiac.A
      lovely example of 18th century Turkish clocks is one made in Edirne in
      1725 by the clockmaker Ibrahim for Sultan Ahmed III (1703-1730). This
      clock has a lacquered wooden case decorated with floral designs and
      gilding. It is spring driven and has a striking mechanism. Another 18th
      century Ottoman clock by the maker Kuru Ali is in the Topkapi Museum
      collection. It was in the 18th century that clocks of plainer
      appearance began to be produced for people other than the very rich.
      Clocks made entirely of wood, including the movement, were another
      interesting development in this century, such as a wall clock dated
      1780 which is the work of a Mevlevi dervish clockmaker. The late 18th
      century also saw the introduction of the skeleton clock, a fashion
      originating in France. Clocks of this type were made throughout the
      19th century, particularly by Mevlevi clockmakers, recognisable by the
      backplate in the form of a Mevlevi headdress known as kavuk, symbol of
      the Mevlevi order, and bearing the engraved name of the maker. As the
      name implies, skeleton clocks have no case, and the gear train,
      escapement, drive system and other mechanisms are all visible.Mevlevi
      clockmakers represented in the Topkapi Palace collection include
      Esseyid Elhac Durri, Ahmed Gulsheniyul Mevlevi, Mustafa Refik, and
      Ahmed Eflaki Dede and his son Huseyin Haki. A table clock on a metal
      base made by Esseyid Elhac Durri in 1810 is notable for its large dial
      with outsized numerals. An elegant clock by Mustafa Refik in the
      collection is dated 1853 and signed Amel-i Elhac Mustafa Refik.Suleyman
      Leziz, clockmaker to Sultan Abdulaziz (1860-1876) and Sultan Abdulhamid
      II (1876-1909), is best known of the 19th century Turkish clockmakers.
      He was appointed chief horologist at the Apartment of the Holy Mantle
      at Topkapi Palace in 1889, and three of his unusual clocks can be seen
      in the palace collection.Sultan Abdulhamid II was another sultan with
      an interest in clocks, and as well as purchasing a number of
      magnificent European clocks he had clock towers built all over the
      empire to mark his 25th and 30th jubilees.Ottoman clockmakers never
      produced more than one of each clock, creating a new form every time.
      This was time-consuming and one of the reasons why so few Turkish-made
      clocks exist today.

      * Kemal Ozdemir is a writer and researcher.
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