[Bell Historians] John Harrison

Charles Lucy lucy at GGZ8V6YXO0qRr_x2d2SBpUoN6cq90kWMyEN2XwL9wKrhar1xOsaSWfcfbmTnGaquIW9w37NlqSgCNg.yahoo.invalid
Thu Oct 15 11:35:40 BST 2009

Thank you for your very useful response.

  My responses to your post below:

I fear that you may be correct about finding any examples, yet I shall  
persist when opportunity arises.

Your comments seem to confirm my pessimistic suspicions, and explain  
why all my previous enquiries have yet to be fruitful.

John Harrison would certainly been able to tune to a fairly high  
resolution, probably to the nearest cent, as he was using a bass viol  
and monochords, which he also used to experiment and train "his" choir.

I am certain that I have correctly understood and specified the  
precise tuning (derived from pi) which Harrison advocated in  
"Concerning Such Mechanism ...........".

It was first published more than twenty years ago, so all and everyone  
in the musical tuning communities has by now had opportunities to  
examine and test it.
Although many still insist that harmonious tunings should only use  
integer frequency ratios (JI); None have found fault with my  
interpretation of the tuning specifications.
Many even now accept that musically "consonant" tunings "should beat".

The remaining area of "mystery" is Harrison's final manuscript, which  
no-one (to my knowledge) has been able to comprehend or subject to  
experimental tests. This manuscript was only recently unearthed.

Details and transcription here:


Although the tuning he proposes in his final manuscript is entirely  
consistent with his earlier writings, the bell manufacturing  
equations, methods, "radical numbers", and instructions are still  

It is unfortunate that the descendants' bell making endeavours also  
used the name Harrison, as this has caused many bell enthusiasts to  
assume that these bells were made to John Longitude's specifications,  
and they have in all good faith reported unsatisfactory sounds.

This has tended to condemn John "Longitude" Harrison's bell-making  
ideas as "wrong".

I believe that there is likely to be some useful "hidden" information  
in J. "Long" H.'s final manuscript, as despite his unconventional  
religious ideas, everything else Harrison researched and invented  
eventually has been shown to be valid, from grasshopper escapements to  
musical tuning.

On 15 Oct 2009, at 10:50, Richard Smith wrote:

> Charles Lucy wrote:
> > Maybe this second edition will have the information that I
> > have been hoping for the past twenty years would
> > eventually emerge.
> I don't know what information you are expecting to emerge.
> If you are hoping to find a bell cast by the John Harrison
> of chronometer fame, you'll almost certainly be
> disappointed.

> From a search of the pNBR and of George Dawson's
> spreadsheets, no bells by this John Harrison seem to exist.
> The tenor of three at S. Mary, Kirkburn, E Riding was cast
> in 1781 by a John Harrison, listed as John II Harrison in
> the pNBR; likewise the sixth of eight at S. Andrew, Kirk
> Ella, E Riding, although since recast, is inscribed "John
> Harrison Founder Barrow 1781". Evidently this is not the
> John Harrison of chronometer fame as he had been dead for
> five years in 1781.
> I would guess that this John is the great nephew of the
> inventor of the chronometer, born in 1754, and seemingly the
> (much) younger brother of two of the other Harrison founders
> of Barrow-upon-Humber: Henry II and James I. However, no
> doubt John Ketteringham's book will elucidate further on
> this point.
> If you think that some of the Harrisons' bells might have
> been influenced by John Harrison's ideas on tuning, I
> suggest you try to locate some of Henry II's earliest
> surviving bells that haven't subsequently been retuned. I
> would suggest the second of three at S. Mary, South Kelsey,
> Lincs (1768) would be a good candidate.
> But even supposing the Harrison family had been trying to
> use John Harrison's ideas on tuning (and even supposing you
> have correctly interpreted Harrison's ideas on tuning which
> you yourself note are written in very "obscure style"), what
> makes you believe that the Barrow-upon-Humber founders were
> capable of casting and tuning a bell precisely enough to
> capture differences in temperament of ten or so cents?

Charles Lucy
lucy at Iw06fPm1ByNxvZnzlunxQofknC6PxjMBn5pHCaTxKkhel4WSK91ENQ_3iEChTSuEvm5hsbGt-iHJ.yahoo.invalid

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