Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 March 2011
If any one should open these pages, expecting to find in them an astronomically scientific account of sundials, from their first simple origin to the complicated and even confused perfection at which they arrived, just before they were superseded by clocks, in the beginning of the eighteenth century, he will be disappointed.
Some years ago, when we were contemplating this publication, we rejoiced at receiving the following advice from a wise and accomplished friend, James Nasmyth, Esq.–“ If I might presume to say so, I think you will do well to keep quite clear of any astronomical treatment of the subject. If I apprehend aright, your object is the poetry and moral of dials, under their varied treatment in several ages. This is the romantic part of it, the other is the dry one; and has been done many times already.” If we had ever doubted the wisdom of this counsel, our hesitation would have been swept away by the sight, which through the kindness of his daughter we have been permitted to enjoy, of the models and works on Dialling of the late Rev. W. Hewson, M.A., vicar of Goatland, Yorkshire – the labour of eight years, and still requiring as long an apprenticeship to understand them. They remain a monument of his indefatigable zeal, and remind us that the undergraduates of Cambridge used to say that only Sir Isaac Newton could explain the dial which he himself had erected on Queen's College.