blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1


ELIZABETH KING | Clockwork Prayer


I am indebted to W. David Todd, Conservator of Timekeeping at the Smithsonian Institution, for his continuous and generous input at every stage of this story, in many ways his story. "Write no wrongs!" he cheerfully e-mailed me at one point. I began this work while a Fellow at the Bunting Institute at Harvard University in 1997, where I had the help of two capable research assistants: Harvard students Syau-Jyun Liang and Bulbul Tiwari. The following year Virginia Commonwealth University student Adam Meuse worked for me, and it was Adam who found the article "Putting Don Carlos Together Again: Treatment of a Head Injury in Sixteenth-Century Spain" by L. J. Andrew Villalon. Librarian Jean Scott in the VCU Interlibrary Loan Department tracked down an extraordinary amount of archival material. German translation and much help in understanding German sources was provided by Susanne Böer. Mary Flinn, writer and editor, articulated for me the notion of a link between two kinds of time: Catholicism's perpetuity, and technology's clockworks. Joe Seipel recited on demand whole tracts of the Catholic Mass. The historian Jane Kamensky, whom I met at the Bunting Institute, closely read the paper and helped me detect the assumptions behind my own twentieth-century definition of prayer. She wrote in a letter: "is it possible that the automaton is praying, perpetually, for its own (Diego's) canonization? . . . perhaps the monk is not celebrating Diego's canonization, but is somehow part of the campaign to make it happen?" It was Jane who directed me to Keith Thomas' book Religion and the Decline of Magic. Most recently, Fredrika H. Jacobs, Cultural Historian at VCU, offered crucial suggestions about the interrelationship of Church and theater. L. J. Andrew Villalon himself, whose work on Don Carlos and San Diego is central to this paper, agreed to read my final drafts, and gave essential criticism and comment. I am grateful to Historian Alex Keller at the University of Leicester for his view of aspects of the work of Juanelo Turriano. I must again thank Teresita Fernandez for helping me find Father Servus Gieben. The website, let me mention here, for the Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini in Rome is My suspense on sending Father Gieben this manuscript was met with impeccable scholarly generosity. His theory about the monk is as astonishing a thing as the monk itself. And my own father, physicist John S. King, helped me create a sense of structure in this (as he calls it) dendritic tale. For Evelyn Lincoln, as ever, my daily gratitude. As I completed the manuscript, I felt I finally knew enough to telephone the distinguished historian Dr. Silvio Bedini, now retired from the Smithsonian Institution, to ask him if he still believes the lute playing lady in Vienna is the only automaton that may have come from Turriano's hands. "No," he said, "I think there's a chance the monk is made by Turriano."  

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