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John-Joseph Merlin’s Silver Swan automaton.

by on October 4, 2012
In terms of automata, I found this beautiful automated swan on youtube, the ‘water’ that you can see isn’t water at all, but glass rods moving and rotating to create the illusion of water. I thought that the movements of the swan itself are really graceful – in fact, from a distance it would be difficult to tell if wasn’t a really swan!

Mark Twain, in his book The Innocents Abroad, describes how lifelike the swan appears:
‘I watched the Silver Swan, which had a living grace about his movement and a living intelligence in his eyes-watched him swimming about as comfortably and unconcernedly as it he had been born in a morass instead of a jeweller’s shop – watched him seize a silver fish from under the water and hold up his head and go through the customary and elaborate motions of swallowing it…’

The swan is powered by three clockwork mechanisms and has to be wound up before its performance. It dates from 1773 and is currently a prominent exhibit in the Bowes Museum. The mechanism was created by John-Joseph Merlin, who was a well-know inventor of the time and its first recorded use is in the Mechanical Museum of James Cox in 1774.
Hope you all enjoy,


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