+44 (0) 1962 844443|info@cartermarsh.com

Exhibit № 4. The Spaans Coster, Dated 1658

Exhibit № 4. The Spaans Coster, Dated 1658

A highly important and historically significant early pendulum Dutch ebony wall box timepiece with alarm by Salomon Coster, The Hague

£850,000


Height

12¾ inches (325 mm)

Case

The rectangular box case, veneered in ebony with an ebonised convex-bolection moulded and mitred frame to the front door, right-hand opening on two five-knuckle brass hinges concealed behind the mitre-veneers inside the door, with similarly mitred mask veneers outside the dial-locating step, with an integral side-positioned lock operated by the winding key. The plain sides and top all veneered in ebony. The top with a screw-fixed stand for the alarm bell and exit hole for its hammer, and two rear-mounted integrally screw-fixed iron oval hanging loops. The interior veneered in rosewood (probably Dutch East Indian), the backboard with a clockmaker’s trade label for H.H.M. Middendorf, Groningen.

Dial

The 7 by 9¼ inches (178 by 235 mm) brass dial plate, the front covered in faded red velvet and right-hand opening on pin-hinges. The brass chapter ring with Roman hours and arrow half-hour marks, the outer Arabic minutes engraved within the division ring for every minute. The typical gilt-brass shaped hands with steel tips to the minute hand and to the alarm indication tail of the hour hand. The centre with a brass alarm disc with further Roman hours and arrow half-hours, above an engraved gilt-brass lambrequin, signed Salomon Coster, Haghe and scratch-engraved below met privilege 1658, pivoted over an access aperture for re-starting the pendulum. The rear of the dial supporting the movement on four pinned dial feet, and pasted with two clockmakers’ trade labels for: A. Koch, Haren (Groningen) and W.J. Olland, Groningen.

Movement

The movement with tall rectangular plates joined by four square-section pillars, riveted to the frontplate and pinned to the backplate. The single spring barrel driving the four wheel going train with three spoke wheelwork, the pivoted verge escapement with a brass crutch, engaging the silk suspended short bob pendulum and cycloidal cheeks. The barrel ratchet wheel is mounted onto the backplate, with a steel click and brass spring. The under-dial with alarm release to the front plate, engaging the remote alarm movement positioned to the inside top right of the case, with conforming square section pillars, spring barrel and ratchet work, operating via a vertical verge to the outside, with a press-fit horizontal lever and hammer, sounding on the substantial bell mounted above the case.

Duration

30 Hour

Provenance

A ‘distinguished’ private family from Groningen, The Netherlands, until sold by Hervé Chayette, Drouot, Paris, 5th June 1985, lot 168;
Spaans Collection, Holland, and sold Christies Amsterdam, 19th December. 2007, lot 475 for €471,000;
John C Taylor Collection, inventory no.178

Literature

Journal of the American Section of the Antiquarian Horological Society, Volume Two, 1986, ‘Horological Dialogues’, (illus.) p.24-25;
Antiquarian Horology, June 2007, Dr Reinier Plomp, ‘Prototypes of Hague Clocks and Pendules Religieuse’, (illus.) p.196-208;
Keith Piggott, A Royal Haagse Klok “Severijn Oosterwijck Haghe met privilege”, 2018, internet;
Garnier & Hollis, Innovation & Collaboration, 2018, (illus.) p.162-163;
Van den Ende, Hordijk, Kersing & Memel, The Invention of the Pendulum-Clock, 2019, internet

Escapement

Early pivoted verge with silk-suspended short bob pendulum and cycloidal cheeks

Strike Type

Alarm only

Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695), Salomon Coster (c.1623-1659) and the invention of the pendulum
In a letter to the French astronomer Ismaël Boulliau (1605- 1694), Christian Huygens dates his invention of the pendulum clock to 25th December 1656. His first known description of the clock is made on 28th March 1658, in a letter to another French correspondent, Jean Chapelain (1594-1674). It has been surmised that Huygens probably took an existing horizontal table clock movement, turned it upright and adapted the escapement to take a pendulum (for similar movement handling, see p.24, exhibit no.5, by Bartram). However, Huygens was not a clockmaker and to put his invention into new productions he engaged Salomon Coster of the Hague.

Salomon Coster was born in Haarlem sometime before 1623 and married in 1643, settling in The Hague, where he is recorded as a master clockmaker in 1646. That same year he took Pieter Visbagh (c.1634-1722) as apprentice for six years.

On 16th June 1657 the Dutch States-General gave Coster the exclusive right or privilege for 21 years to make and sell clocks according to Huygens’s invention. However, Coster was not directly employed by Huygens and probably paid him a commission on the clocks when they were sold. In a letter dated 1st November 1658 to Pierre Petit (1598-1677) of Paris, Huygens states that the clockmaker (not referring to Coster by name) requires three weeks to a month to make each clock.

In September 1658 Huygens published Horologium, an explanation of his invention and an attempt to ensure recognition for his patent, by then news of the new pendulum clocks had travelled widely; as early as 25th September 1657, Coster sent a clock to Ferdinando II de Medici (1610-1670), Grand Duke of Tuscany, which was mentioned in an inventory of 1690, giving its delivery date and describing it as the first pendulum clock in Italy.

During this time Christiaan Reijnaert (c.1647- 1699) was in Coster’s workshop, having been apprenticed for ten years in 1647. By September 1657 John Fromanteel (1638-1682) arrived from London, in 1658 Nicolas Hanet joined the workshop from Paris, together with Coster’s fellow Dutchman, Severijn Oosterwijck. With a starting date of June 1657 and a delivery schedule of up to a month, this suggests that Coster may have produced a maximum of some 30 pendulum clocks by his early death in December 1659.

Nicolas Hanet also acted as an agent in Paris and subsequently made the first French pendulum clocks, Dr Plomp concluded from Huygens’s correspondence that at least eleven clocks were sent to Paris for sale, indicating the strong level of interest in the new pendulum clock in France, but despite Huygens’s wish for his invention to be recognised there, his application for a French patent was turned down.

The Coster Pendulum Clocks
There are seven recorded early pendulum box clocks signed by Salomon Coster; five timepieces and two striking clocks, as follows:

Timepiece, dated 1657 (N1): Salomon Coster, Haghe, met privilege 1657 (The Boerhaave Museum, Leiden)
Timepiece, dated 1657 (N2): Salomon Coster, Haghe, met privilege 1657 (The Planetarium Zuylenburgh/Degenaar Collection, formerly Vehmeyer Collection)
Timepiece with alarm, dated 1658 (N5): Salomon Coster, Haghe, met privilege 1658 (the present clock, formerly Spaans Collection)
Timepiece, undated circa 1658 (N4): Salomon Coster, Haghe, met privilege, (The Science Museum, London, formerly Dr R Plomp)
Striking clock, undated, circa 1659/1660 (N10): Salomon Coster, Haghe, met privilege, (Private Collection, formerly Mario Crijns)

The Coster clocks were listed by Dr Plomp in Prototypes of Hague Clocks and Pendules Religieuse, 2007, and further referenced in 2019 as N1, N2, N4, N5 & N10 by van den Ende, Hordijk, Kersing and Memel in The Invention of the pendulum clock, where: clocks N3 and N8 [below]are… disregarded… for reasons of uncertain authenticity.

Timepiece, (N3): with replaced signature cartouche dated 1657 (The Museum of the Dutch Clock, Zaandam, formerly Time Museum, USA)
Striking clock, undated circa 1659 (N8), tortoiseshell door: Salomon Coster, Haghe, met privilege (The Museum of the Dutch Clock, Zaandam)

For a full account of the similarities and variances between all seven clocks see Dr Plomp’s 2007 article, while examples N1, N2, N4, N5 & N10 are further compared to early Fromanteel clocks in The Invention of the pendulum clock, 2019.

Dr Plomp also writes that from contemporary references Coster’s clocks were priced between 48-130 guilders; for instance in January 1659, Christiaan Huygens wrote to the French astronomer Ismaël Boulliau, giving the following prices for his pendulum clocks:
Spring-driven, going 30 hours, no striking — 80 guilders
Spring-driven, going 30 hours, striking — 120 guilders
Spring-driven, going 8 days, no striking — 130 guilders

The present Coster clock (N5) is the only known example with alarm work, and Dr Plomp surmises that it would have cost about 120 guilders, near the top of the price range. The cheapest clock on offer was a weight-driven 30-hour timepiece at 48 guilders, while the average worker at the time would have earned, at most, 40 guilders per annum.

Dr Plomp also suggests that as the present clock’s feature of an alarm train on the upper inside of the case is found on later Dutch clocks but not on French clocks, it might indicate that this example was made for a Dutch customer. Dr Taylor was informed that when this clock was sold in Paris in 1985, the auctioneer referred to the vendor as from a distinguished private family from Groningen, while the makers labels on the inside of the case apparently reinforces the view that this clock has indeed spent the majority of its life in The Netherlands.

The Coster-Fromanteel Contract
John Fromanteel was sent by his father Ahasuerus (1607-1693) to work with Salomon Coster in 1657. A contract between Coster and John Fromanteel was drawn up and dated 3rd September 1657. In it, John Fromanteel is committed to making clock movements for Coster until May Day 1658 as he had made some already, at a cost of 20 guilders if Fromanteel supplied the brass and steel, and at 18½ guilders if Coster supplies the materials. Fromanteel is also guaranteed free beer, light and heat and it has been pointed out that, when compared to other contemporary Dutch contracts, this one is relatively standard. Nevertheless, much discussion has risen from the interpretation of the exact wording of the contract, in particular the true meaning of as he had made some already and another in which Coster promises to reveal the secret included.
Dr Plomp states in his 2007 article that: The movements of the five Coster timepieces are so similar that it is justified to conclude that they represent the movements referred to in the contract between Salomon Coster and John Fromanteel. Meanwhile in early 2018, Keith Piggott published his article A Royal Haagse Klok, Severijn Oosterwijck Haghe met privilege in which he suggests Oosterwijck as the possible maker of the two Coster striking clocks, N8 and N10. Later in 2018 in Innovation and Collaboration, Richard Garnier reinforced Dr Plomp’s view that John Fromanteel was most probably the maker of the initial Coster timepiece clocks.
All these views have since been questioned by van den Ende, Hordijk, Kersing and Memel, who studied and compared five of the Coster clocks, together with the surviving early Fromanteel pendulum clocks, in The Invention of the pendulum clock, 2019, where they highlight that there were a number of other clockmakers in Coster’s workshop who could have been involved in the construction of these early pendulum clocks, namely; Salomon Coster himself, Christiaan Reijnaert, Nicolas Hanet and Severijn Oosterwijck. Their article concludes: The Taylor clock (N5), although signed by Coster, may well have been made by John Fromanteel. However, because of the lack of historical evidence, and in view of the aforementioned technical differences in movements and cases, it is not justified to attribute Coster clocks N1, N2, N4, N10 and N5 with certainty to any of the clockmakers in Coster’s workshop.

What we do know for certain is that by October 1658, John Fromanteel’s father, Ahasuerus, had placed an advertisement in the London newspaper, Mercurius Politicus, with another following in November 1658 in the Commonwealth Mercury, both announcing that: There is lately a way found out for making of Clocks that go exact and keep equaller time than any now made without this Regulater and claiming himself to be the first in England to make pendulum clocks.

What is undisputed, is that from all current and contemporary evidence, the five surviving Salomon Coster timepiece box clocks were all made in the Hague, Met Privelege, and that, of those, the three dated examples (two contemporaneously dated 1657, and the present example dated 1658) are currently considered to be the first pendulum clocks ever made for market.

Contact us about this item

Product Description

Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695), Salomon Coster (c.1623-1659) and the invention of the pendulum
In a letter to the French astronomer Ismaël Boulliau (1605- 1694), Christian Huygens dates his invention of the pendulum clock to 25th December 1656. His first known description of the clock is made on 28th March 1658, in a letter to another French correspondent, Jean Chapelain (1594-1674). It has been surmised that Huygens probably took an existing horizontal table clock movement, turned it upright and adapted the escapement to take a pendulum (for similar movement handling, see p.24, exhibit no.5, by Bartram). However, Huygens was not a clockmaker and to put his invention into new productions he engaged Salomon Coster of the Hague.

Salomon Coster was born in Haarlem sometime before 1623 and married in 1643, settling in The Hague, where he is recorded as a master clockmaker in 1646. That same year he took Pieter Visbagh (c.1634-1722) as apprentice for six years.

On 16th June 1657 the Dutch States-General gave Coster the exclusive right or privilege for 21 years to make and sell clocks according to Huygens’s invention. However, Coster was not directly employed by Huygens and probably paid him a commission on the clocks when they were sold. In a letter dated 1st November 1658 to Pierre Petit (1598-1677) of Paris, Huygens states that the clockmaker (not referring to Coster by name) requires three weeks to a month to make each clock.

In September 1658 Huygens published Horologium, an explanation of his invention and an attempt to ensure recognition for his patent, by then news of the new pendulum clocks had travelled widely; as early as 25th September 1657, Coster sent a clock to Ferdinando II de Medici (1610-1670), Grand Duke of Tuscany, which was mentioned in an inventory of 1690, giving its delivery date and describing it as the first pendulum clock in Italy.

During this time Christiaan Reijnaert (c.1647- 1699) was in Coster’s workshop, having been apprenticed for ten years in 1647. By September 1657 John Fromanteel (1638-1682) arrived from London, in 1658 Nicolas Hanet joined the workshop from Paris, together with Coster’s fellow Dutchman, Severijn Oosterwijck. With a starting date of June 1657 and a delivery schedule of up to a month, this suggests that Coster may have produced a maximum of some 30 pendulum clocks by his early death in December 1659.

Nicolas Hanet also acted as an agent in Paris and subsequently made the first French pendulum clocks, Dr Plomp concluded from Huygens’s correspondence that at least eleven clocks were sent to Paris for sale, indicating the strong level of interest in the new pendulum clock in France, but despite Huygens’s wish for his invention to be recognised there, his application for a French patent was turned down.

The Coster Pendulum Clocks
There are seven recorded early pendulum box clocks signed by Salomon Coster; five timepieces and two striking clocks, as follows:

Timepiece, dated 1657 (N1): Salomon Coster, Haghe, met privilege 1657 (The Boerhaave Museum, Leiden)
Timepiece, dated 1657 (N2): Salomon Coster, Haghe, met privilege 1657 (The Planetarium Zuylenburgh/Degenaar Collection, formerly Vehmeyer Collection)
Timepiece with alarm, dated 1658 (N5): Salomon Coster, Haghe, met privilege 1658 (the present clock, formerly Spaans Collection)
Timepiece, undated circa 1658 (N4): Salomon Coster, Haghe, met privilege, (The Science Museum, London, formerly Dr R Plomp)
Striking clock, undated, circa 1659/1660 (N10): Salomon Coster, Haghe, met privilege, (Private Collection, formerly Mario Crijns)

The Coster clocks were listed by Dr Plomp in Prototypes of Hague Clocks and Pendules Religieuse, 2007, and further referenced in 2019 as N1, N2, N4, N5 & N10 by van den Ende, Hordijk, Kersing and Memel in The Invention of the pendulum clock, where: clocks N3 and N8 [below]are… disregarded… for reasons of uncertain authenticity.

Timepiece, (N3): with replaced signature cartouche dated 1657 (The Museum of the Dutch Clock, Zaandam, formerly Time Museum, USA)
Striking clock, undated circa 1659 (N8), tortoiseshell door: Salomon Coster, Haghe, met privilege (The Museum of the Dutch Clock, Zaandam)

For a full account of the similarities and variances between all seven clocks see Dr Plomp’s 2007 article, while examples N1, N2, N4, N5 & N10 are further compared to early Fromanteel clocks in The Invention of the pendulum clock, 2019.

Dr Plomp also writes that from contemporary references Coster’s clocks were priced between 48-130 guilders; for instance in January 1659, Christiaan Huygens wrote to the French astronomer Ismaël Boulliau, giving the following prices for his pendulum clocks:
Spring-driven, going 30 hours, no striking — 80 guilders
Spring-driven, going 30 hours, striking — 120 guilders
Spring-driven, going 8 days, no striking — 130 guilders

The present Coster clock (N5) is the only known example with alarm work, and Dr Plomp surmises that it would have cost about 120 guilders, near the top of the price range. The cheapest clock on offer was a weight-driven 30-hour timepiece at 48 guilders, while the average worker at the time would have earned, at most, 40 guilders per annum.

Dr Plomp also suggests that as the present clock’s feature of an alarm train on the upper inside of the case is found on later Dutch clocks but not on French clocks, it might indicate that this example was made for a Dutch customer. Dr Taylor was informed that when this clock was sold in Paris in 1985, the auctioneer referred to the vendor as from a distinguished private family from Groningen, while the makers labels on the inside of the case apparently reinforces the view that this clock has indeed spent the majority of its life in The Netherlands.

The Coster-Fromanteel Contract
John Fromanteel was sent by his father Ahasuerus (1607-1693) to work with Salomon Coster in 1657. A contract between Coster and John Fromanteel was drawn up and dated 3rd September 1657. In it, John Fromanteel is committed to making clock movements for Coster until May Day 1658 as he had made some already, at a cost of 20 guilders if Fromanteel supplied the brass and steel, and at 18½ guilders if Coster supplies the materials. Fromanteel is also guaranteed free beer, light and heat and it has been pointed out that, when compared to other contemporary Dutch contracts, this one is relatively standard. Nevertheless, much discussion has risen from the interpretation of the exact wording of the contract, in particular the true meaning of as he had made some already and another in which Coster promises to reveal the secret included.
Dr Plomp states in his 2007 article that: The movements of the five Coster timepieces are so similar that it is justified to conclude that they represent the movements referred to in the contract between Salomon Coster and John Fromanteel. Meanwhile in early 2018, Keith Piggott published his article A Royal Haagse Klok, Severijn Oosterwijck Haghe met privilege in which he suggests Oosterwijck as the possible maker of the two Coster striking clocks, N8 and N10. Later in 2018 in Innovation and Collaboration, Richard Garnier reinforced Dr Plomp’s view that John Fromanteel was most probably the maker of the initial Coster timepiece clocks.
All these views have since been questioned by van den Ende, Hordijk, Kersing and Memel, who studied and compared five of the Coster clocks, together with the surviving early Fromanteel pendulum clocks, in The Invention of the pendulum clock, 2019, where they highlight that there were a number of other clockmakers in Coster’s workshop who could have been involved in the construction of these early pendulum clocks, namely; Salomon Coster himself, Christiaan Reijnaert, Nicolas Hanet and Severijn Oosterwijck. Their article concludes: The Taylor clock (N5), although signed by Coster, may well have been made by John Fromanteel. However, because of the lack of historical evidence, and in view of the aforementioned technical differences in movements and cases, it is not justified to attribute Coster clocks N1, N2, N4, N10 and N5 with certainty to any of the clockmakers in Coster’s workshop.

What we do know for certain is that by October 1658, John Fromanteel’s father, Ahasuerus, had placed an advertisement in the London newspaper, Mercurius Politicus, with another following in November 1658 in the Commonwealth Mercury, both announcing that: There is lately a way found out for making of Clocks that go exact and keep equaller time than any now made without this Regulater and claiming himself to be the first in England to make pendulum clocks.

What is undisputed, is that from all current and contemporary evidence, the five surviving Salomon Coster timepiece box clocks were all made in the Hague, Met Privelege, and that, of those, the three dated examples (two contemporaneously dated 1657, and the present example dated 1658) are currently considered to be the first pendulum clocks ever made for market.

Additional information

Dimensions 5827373 cm