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The Harpsichord-Playing Android; or, Clock-Making in Switzerland

The Harpsichord-Playing Android; or, Clock-Making in Switzerland

Chapter:
(p.37) Two The Harpsichord-Playing Android; or, Clock-Making in Switzerland
Source:
Androids in the Enlightenment
Author(s):
Adelheid Voskuhl
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226034331.003.0002

This chapter takes a journey to La Chaux-de-Fonds, a rural valley in western Switzerland that was densely populated with clock-makers, local dignitaries, natural philosophers, and aristocratic patrons. It integrates Pierre Jaquet-Droz's training and early career as a clock-maker with the complex history of Europe's beginning industrialization and traces the channels through which he was introduced to the European court society as a young man. It investigates how he and his son designed and built their three android automata and showed them in a few exhibitions. The second half of chapter examines brief mentions of their automata that appeared between the 1770s and 1790s in letters and diaries of local dignitaries of La Chaux-de-Fonds and in printed texts in mass media such as newspapers, travel reports, and pocket calendars. These texts serve as windows into the economic and cultural conditions of print mass media at the time and the role of automaton spectacles in them.

Keywords:   La Chaux-de-Fonds, Pierre Jaquet-Droz, clock-makers, android automata, mass media, Switzerland

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