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Sundials: History, Art, People, Science Hardcover – 1 Mar 2006

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln; 1 edition (1 Mar. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0711224943
  • ISBN-13: 978-0711224940
  • Product Dimensions: 26 x 1.9 x 31.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 661,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


... [a] most instructive, entertaining and beautifully produced book (Spectator)

About the Author

Former Conservative MP Sir Mark Lennox-Boyd is Patron of the British Sundial Society. He has designed numerous sundials for clients in Britain and Europe, often in collaboration with his wife, the garden designer Arabella Lennox-Boyd.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Anyone who reads this book may be surprised to learn that Isaac Newton spent more of his life writing about alchemy than mathematics, or that President Jefferson designed a sundial. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Dr. J. Davis on 26 April 2006
Format: Hardcover
This books reaches two audiences: sundial experts who want to see some excellent sundials and to know more about their backgrounds, and newcomers who want a 'coffee-table' book and who will be delighted by the tremendous photography and amazed by the variety of types. The book runs through the history of dialling, right through from pre-history to the ultra-modern, though naturally it focusses on the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods when dialling was a subject that no educated person could ignore.

There are many dials in the book which are relatively unknown to many diallists, especially from the Arab countries and from Japan. There are also dials well-known to dialling enthusiasts, though pictured here with much better images than are usually seen. The text is very informative and easily readable - the author has turned up many little-known facts about the dials and presents the material in a logical and entertaining manner.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Suyderhoud on 15 Jun. 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book was made available in the Netherlands for a price of just over 10 pounds sterling, an offer I could not resist. My interest is mainly in portable sundials and astrolabes, this book tells more about the history of the sundial in general. As stated by the author in the last chapter: This is not a book about every aspect or design of sundial. It says nothing about astrolabes or quadrants, both of which can also be used to tell the time. Nor, perhaps thankfully, does it include much mathematics. It is written for those who may be interested in the central story of measuring time without the use of clocks. The author has achieved this with many beautiful pictures of stunning examples. The book has its focus somewhat more on what happened in the UK than elsewhere, to be expected from a Patron of the British Sundial Society. It is well written and understandable for a large audience, therefore recommended for all those interested in the history of the sundial.
As an afterthought, even in our age of GPS and satellite controlled clocks, there is still a need for a book explaining the history of all instruments made for determining the time or your position on earth based on the accurate measurement of the position of the sun. Because if you know your position on Earth and the exact position of the sun, you can determine the time. The other way round, if you know the exact time, you can determine your position on Earth.
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By Rtj Stevens on 18 April 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A really interesting book with a wealth of detail and many sumptuous pictures of sundials from around the world. The maths is, perhaps thankfully, kept to a minimum. Details of how we perceive time and the influence of the Church is especially interesting. The website mentioned ( I think), is especially recommended!
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By claire1625 on 4 May 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a stunning book. Gorgeous photos and fascinating history and narrative. I bought it as a present for my other half who is nuts on old clocks and sundials, and he LOVED it too!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Sundials, Ancient and Modern, Useful and Beautiful 18 April 2006
By R. Hardy - Published on
Format: Hardcover
You are used to seeing a sundial in the middle of a garden, and if you are like me, you look at the shadow, then compare the time to a wrist-borne chronometer, and note that the sundial is off by however many minutes. In _Sundials: History, Art, People, Science_ by Mark Lennox-Boyd I learned that this is at least doubly wrong. The author quotes Hilaire Belloc: "I am a sundial and I make a botch / Of what is done much better by a watch." He complements the wit of the couplet, and shows the errors. Firstly, he points out, sundials tell time perfectly well; they simply measure time differently than watches do, but neither of them is objectively "right". Secondly, sundials are not merely garden ornaments, and only one in this profusely illustrated and colorful book is from that category. The dials shown here are often scientific instruments and elaborate works of art that sometimes do not look like sundials at all. Not only are many styles of sundial illustrated here, but the science and history of making them is summarized; the reader will come away with a much better idea of how the solar system runs from the contemplation of these not-so-humble instruments.

Lennox-Boyd (or actually Sir Mark, since he has been, besides a Patron of the British Sundial Society, a Member of Parliament and a Foreign Office Minister), says that the association of the dial with the garden began in the Renaissance, not because the dials were ornaments, but because teachers of the time often used the garden as a place where lessons of science could be delivered. There are pictures here of artwork and architecture that one would not expect to be sundials at all. The Sundial Bridge across the Sacramento River in California is a suspension bridge, suspended on one side of the river from a huge, slanted support. The support just happens to be slanted at the correct angle to make it a gnomon, and its huge shadow sweeps along the ground beneath. The huge sundial at Jaipur in India has a gnomon that is big enough to walk up, fifty steep stairs. A Dutchman has designed beer glasses that you turn until the sunbeam through a circle on one side of the glass hits the date line on the other side; you can then tell if the time is after 5 p.m., the time when the inventor says the glass ought to be filled. There is a picture of a spherical sundial invented by Thomas Jefferson. The Disney World offices in Florida are "entertainment architecture", and part of the fun is that a central room is shaped like a truncated cone and has gigantic sundials visible on the outside and the inside, with quotations about time on marble plaques from such notables as Albert Einstein and Donald Duck. Sir Mark himself designs sundials, some of which are shown here. The most ambitious is one in Oliveto, Italy, within the stair tower of a house; a system of mirrors sends a sunbeam during different times of the day to different walls of the stairwell, each intricately crisscrossed with lines to read time, date, times of sunrise and sunset, and more.

Sir Mark points out that since we now have clocks accurate to more than one second in fifteen million years, sundials ought to be obsolete, but they are not. There has been a resurgence of interest in them, both in the historical forms and the modern ones which come in strange and undial-like shapes. "There is a particular symbolism in an object that does something helpful but requires no power and performs indefinitely," he writes. He is clearly fascinated with his subject, and this lovely and colorful book conveys the fascination perfectly.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HIstory, Art, People and Science 9 Jan. 2007
By Katherine Pond - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book for the layman as well as for an accomplished sundial expert. It shows the evolution of humankind's interest in the passage and the marking of time. And if you look on page 123 you will see photographs of Kate Pond's contemporary sun-aligned public sculptures.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant and engaging 6 Feb. 2008
By Mr.G - Published on
Format: Hardcover
After having purchased almost all of Amazon's collection on sundials, I eagerly awaited this book's delivery. From the first page, I regretted not having bought it before as Sir Mark Lennox Boyd has produced a masterpiece. Anyone who has an appreciation for gnomonics should get this book. Although it contains technical information, it's the historical journey which is most engaging.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A beautiful book 25 Dec. 2013
By ERW - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mark Lennox-Boyd's "Sundials" is a book about a subject that fascinates some people while others wonder why would anyone care about, since we all now have quartz watches. The book is informative and very nicely produced with plenty of pictures and graphical explanations. The reader will understand that sundials actually symbolize man's quest for the understanding of the world we live in, they are about history, human ingenuity and, sometimes, art. To make the point about art, the book begins with a picture of a sundial designed by British sculptor Henry Moore. One copy of this dial is in front of the Chicago Planetarium and next time we go there, it will be on our list of things to see. I found out there is an ingenious sundial on the floor of a church in Rome, which was used for precise astronomical observations in the 19th century, but I missed it when we visited there. Maybe there will be a next time.
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