This extraordinary book reveals the secrets of automata mechanisms, which were developed over generations by makers who closely guarded their designs in the competitive business of automata making. Written by a specialist restorer, it gives a unique appreciation of the internal mechanisms that allow an automaton to move as if alive. Organised into popular subjects that are explored in entertaining detail, this book is a rich resource for makers, artists, restorers and collectors alike, as well as those who simply find themselves asking the question ‘How does it do that?’
Secrets of Automata is the culmination of its author’s career-long fascination with automata mechanisms. Michael Start specialises in restoring clockwork figures and singing birds produced in Paris during the 19th century. It is no accident that this time and place became known as the ‘golden age’ of automata; the craftsmen of Paris competed with each other to capture a share of a growing global market for mechanical wonders.
The various methods of portraying mechanical life using complex mechanisms and clever design were rarely recorded or publicised – but they are there, sealed within the automata themselves. As a restorer, Michael is unique in being able to provide a written exposé of the historical techniques of the lifelike movement. In Secrets of Automata, it is his great pleasure to share them with you.