CHAPTER VIII: SUNDIALS AND WATER CLOCKS
1. THE semicircular form, hollowed out of a square block, and cut under to correspond to the polar altitude, is said to have been invented by Berosus the Chaldean; the Scaphe or Hemisphere, by Aristarchus of Samos, as well as the disc on a plane surface; the Arachne, by the astronomer Eudoxus or, as some say, by Apollonius; the Plinthium or Lacunar, like the one placed in the Circus Flaminius, by Scopinas of Syracuse; the πρὸς τὰ ἱστοπούμενα Parmenio; the πρὸς πᾶν κλῖμα, by Theodosius and Andreas; the Pelecinum, by Patrocles; the Cone, by Dionysodorus; the Quiver, by Apollonius. The men whose names are written above, as well as many others, have invented and left us other kinds: as, for instance, the Conarachne, the Conical Plinthium, and the Antiborean. Many have also left us written directions for making dials of these kinds for travellers, which can be hung up. Whoever wishes to find their baseplates, can easily do so from the books of these writers, provided only he understands the figure of the analemma.
2. Methods of making water clocks have been investigated by the same writers, and first of all by Ctesibius the Alexandrian, who also discovered the natural pressure of the air and pneumatic principles. It is worth while for students to know how these discoveries came about. Ctesibius, born at Alexandria, was the son of a barber. Preeminent for natural ability and great industry, he is said to have amused himself with ingenious devices. For example, wishing to hang a mirror in his father's shop in such a way that, on being lowered and raised again, its weight should be raised by means of a concealed cord, he employed the following mechanical contrivance.
3. Under the roof-beam he fixed a wooden channel in which he arranged a block of pulleys. He carried the cord along the channel to the corner, where he set up some small piping. Into this a leaden ball, attached to the cord, was made to descend. As the weight fell into the narrow limits of the pipe, it naturally compressed the enclosed air, and, as its fall was rapid, it forced the mass of compressed air through the outlet into the open air, thus producing a distinct sound by the concussion.
4. Hence, Ctesibius, observing that sounds and tones were produced by the contact between the free air and that which was forced from the pipe, made use of this principle in the construction of the first water organs. He also devised methods of raising water, automatic contrivances, and amusing things of many kinds, including among them the construction of water clocks. He began by making an orifice in a piece of gold, or by perforating a gem, because these substances are not worn by the action of water, and do not collect dirt so as to get stopped up.
5. A regular flow of water through the orifice raises an inverted bowl, called by mechanicians the “cork” or “drum.” To this are attached a rack and a revolving drum, both fitted with teeth at regular intervals. These teeth, acting upon one another, induce a measured revolution and movement. Other racks and other drums, similarly toothed and subject to the same motion, give rise by their revolution to various kinds of motions, by which figures are moved, cones revolve, pebbles or eggs fall, trumpets sound, and other incidental effects take place.
6. The hours are marked in these clocks on a column or a pilaster, and a figure emerging from the bottom points to them with a rod throughout the whole day. Their decrease or increase in length with the different days and months, must be adjusted by inserting or withdrawing wedges. The shutoffs for regulating the water are constructed as follows. Two cones are made, one solid and the other hollow, turned on a lathe so that one will go into the other and fit it perfectly. A rod is used to loosen or to bring them together, thus causing the water to flow rapidly or slowly into the vessels. According to these rules, and by this mechanism, water clocks may be constructed for use in winter.
7. But if it proves that the shortening or lengthening of the day is not in agreement with the insertion and removal of the wedges, because the wedges may very often cause errors, the following arrangement will have to be made. Let the hours be marked off transversely on the column from the analemma, and let the lines of the months also be marked upon the column. Then let the column be made to revolve, in such a way that, as it turns continuously towards the figure and the rod with which the emerging figure points to the hours, it may make the hours short or long according to the respective months.
8. There is also another kind of winter dial, called the Anaphoric and constructed in the following way. The hours, indicated by bronze rods in accordance with the figure of the analemma, radiate from a centre on the face. Circles are described upon it, marking the limits of the months. Behind these rods there is a drum, on which is drawn and painted the firmament with the circle of the signs. In drawing the figures of the twelve celestial signs, one is represented larger and the next smaller, proceeding from the centre. Into the back of the drum, in the middle, a revolving axis is inserted, and round that axis is wound a flexible bronze chain, at one end of which hangs the “cork” which is raised by the water, and at the other a counterpoise of sand, equal in weight to the “cork.”
9. Hence, the sand sinks as the “cork” is raised by the water, and in sinking turns the axis, and the axis the drum. The revolution of this drum causes sometimes a larger and sometimes a smaller portion of the circle of the signs to indicate, during the revolutions, the proper length of the hours corresponding to their seasons. For in every one of the signs there are as many holes as the corresponding month has days, and a boss, which seems to be holding the representation of the sun on a dial, designates the spaces for the hours. This, as it is carried from hole to hole, completes the circuit of a full month.
10. Hence, just as the sun during his passage through the constellations makes the days and hours longer or shorter, so the boss on a dial, moving from point to point in a direction contrary to that of the revolution of the drum in the middle, is carried day by day sometimes over wider and sometimes over narrower spaces, giving a representation of the hours and days within the limits of each month. To manage the water so that it may flow regularly, we must proceed as follows.
11. Inside, behind the face of the dial, place a reservoir, and let the water run down into it through a pipe, and let it have a hole at the bottom. Fastened to it is a bronze drum with an opening through which the water flows into it from the reservoir. Enclosed in this drum there is a smaller one, the two being perfectly jointed together by tenon and socket, in such a way that the smaller drum revolves closely but easily in the larger, like a stopcock.
12. On the lip of the larger drum there are three hundred and sixty-five points, marked off at equal intervals. The rim of the smaller one has a tongue fixed on its circumference, with the tip directed towards those points; and also in this rim is a small opening, through which water runs into the drum and keeps the works going. The figures of the celestial signs being on the lip of the larger drum, and this drum being motionless, let the sign Cancer be drawn at the top, with Capricornus perpendicular to it at the bottom, Libra at the spectator's right, Aries at his left, and let the other signs be given places between them as they are seen in the heavens.
13. Hence, when the sun is in Capricornus, the tongue on the rim touches every day one of the points in Capricornus on the lip of the larger drum, and is perpendicular to the strong pressure of the running water. So the water is quickly driven through the opening in the rim to the inside of the vessel, which, receiving it and soon becoming full, shortens and diminishes the length of the days and hours. But when, owing to the daily revolution of the smaller drum, its tongue reaches the points in Aquarius, the opening will no longer be perpendicular, and the water must give up its vigorous flow and run in a slower stream. Thus, the less the velocity with which the vessel receives the water, the more the length of the days is increased.
14. Then the opening in the rim passes from point to point in Aquarius and Pisces, as though going upstairs, and when it reaches the end of the first eighth of Aries, the fall of the water is of medium strength, indicating the equinoctial hours. From Aries the opening passes, with the revolution of the drum, through Taurus and Gemini to the highest point at the end of the first eighth of Cancer, and when it reaches that point, the power diminishes, and hence, with the slower flow, its delay lengthens the days in the sign Cancer, producing the hours of the summer solstice. From Cancer it begins to decline, and during its return it passes through Leo and Virgo to the points at the end of the first eighth of Libra, gradually shortening and diminishing the length of the hours, until it comes to the points in Libra, where it makes the hours equinoctial once more.
15. Finally, the opening comes down more rapidly through Scorpio and Sagittarius, and on its return from its revolution to the end of the first eighth of Capricornus, the velocity of the stream renews once more the short hours of the winter solstice. The rules and forms of construction employed in designing dials have now been described as well as I could. It remains to give an account of machines and their principles. In order to make my treatise on architecture complete, I will begin to write on this subject in the following book.