Tran Duy Ly, Americaís most prolific author of horological books, has broken new ground with his latest offering, American Clocks, Vol. III. For decades, the common belief has been that it was not possible to write a price guide for hand crafted or early manufactured clocks such as the pillar & scroll. With American Clocks, Vol. III, Mr. Ly has proven that it can be done, and quite successfully. There is also a surprise at the end of the book with a massive 117 page offering of 371 Lux clocks and movements.
The book begins with a two page introduction by noted New England horologist, Tom Grimshaw. He takes us through the history of American clockmaking from the handcrafted methods of 200 years ago to the early manufactured clocks of the first half of the 19th century. Since it is these early manufactured clocks that are mostly what Vol. III includes, his introduction is most appropriate.
Following the introduction is a 30 page section, "Important Tips," which, while it has been in most of Mr. Lyís books for several years, it is always improving and tailored to his latest book. Every time I read "Important Tipsí" I come away a better and more informed collector.
Vol. III is divided into two major sections, "Clocks by Typeí" 188 pages; and "Clocks by Manufacturer," 127 pages. The first section. Clocks by Type," is divided into 12 chapters which cover: Beehive, Column & Cornice, Column & Splat, Cottage, Hollow Column, Mantle, Mirror, Ogee & Bevel, Pillar & Scroll, Steeple, Torsion Pendulum, and Wagon Spring. The Beehive chapter is 9 pages and shows 15 clocks and 14 movements. The development of the American spring movement is excellently treated within the important chapter. The Column & Cornice chapter is 14 pages with 48 illustrations. As with all the chapters, the quality of the photographs is excellent. Column & Splat is next, 39 pages of mostly wooden movement clocks. It is outstanding! Anyone who doesnít believe it is possible to write a price guide about early manufactured clocks will be silenced after reading this massive chapter with its 144 illustrations of these beautiful early clocks. Cottage clocks are covered in a short chapter that shows many of the rare movements found in these simple clocks. Likewise, Hollow Column clocks are covered in a short chapter, but excellent examples of these rare clocks are provided. Mantle clocks is a sort of a "catch all" chapter that includes types of shelf clocks that donít logically fall into any other category. If you canít find your shelf clock in any other chapter, likely it is here. The beautiful Mirror clocks are presented next and 36 illustrations are provided on 15 pages. I canít think of another book that provides so much detail and information on these rare clocks, an excellent chapter with wonderful photographs.
Everyone has an Ogee clock and they are not left out of Vol. III. Seventeen examples are illustrated over nine pages. My favorite shelf clock comes next. The 27 page chapter on Pillar & Scrolls has 97 illustrations with many detailed photos of movements and labels. Almost every model and type of Pillar & Scroll is included, even Ohio, Rhode Island and Massachusetts examples, everything except a Pennsylvania example. Steeple clocks follow with 36 illustrations over 13 pages.
Fred Shelley wrote an excellent introduction to the chapter on early Torsion Pendulum clocks and it is the best and most complete chapter in the book; 34 pages packed with 84 illustrations, many of them breathtaking photographs of beautiful clocks. Elmer Crum provides a great history of the Tiffany Electric Manufacturing Company and several of their torsion pendulum clocks are within this chapter. The last chapter on the early manufactured clocks is Wagon Spring clocks where 18 illustrations are shown over 7 pages.
Tran Duy Ly did not want to leave out the collector of more modern clocks, so he provided 127 pages on newer clocks. The late William Meggers wrote a splendid introduction to a 10 page chapter on clocks provided by the Ball Watch Company. The largest chapter in the book is the last. Lux clocks. Dan and Diana Lockett provided an interesting introduction to the 371 Lux clocks illustrated. For a Lux clock collector, this massive chapter alone is worth the price of the book. As with all of Mr. Lyís books, an excellent 8 page index has been compiled by William Gregory.
While I have commented in great detail about each chapter, there is one comment that I have saved until the end that applies to the whole book. The photos are excellent! No postage stamp illustrations with no meaningful captions. As an example of the attention to detail, Mr. Ly has cut out the background from behind every link of every chain of every photograph of every Lux clocks - that is over ten thousand links. That is the attention to detail provided in American Clocks, Vol. III. A terrific book.
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