The Life and work of James Cox
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Ian White is a retired research scientist, who worked on computer and communications systems, but developed an interest in horology over twenty years ago. This includes its science, its history, and the social role of time.
He has earlier published a history of the Watch and Clockmakers in the City of Bath. Click clock-makers-at -batth for more information.
He has also advised Sotheby’s in 2010 on the history of a clock they recently sold (for $520,000).
He has worked in The Hague for four years, (1993–1997).
The life and work of James Cox
From the mid-1760s, the Goldsmith and Entrepreneur James Cox (ca. 1723–1800) produced lavishly ornamented articles for trade with the Far East, first with India and then with China, where the reception of his "toys" or "sing songs," as the Chinese are believed to have called them, was at first a success. Some, like the automaton in the form of a chariot pushed by a Chinese attendant, were gifts to the Chinese emperor Qianlong (r. 1736–95), who had a special fondness for clocks, of both Chinese and Western origin. Many of these are still in the collection of the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City in Beijing.
A ban on Cox`s shipment to China of luxury goods, however, brought about the establishment in 1772 of the short-lived Spring Gardens Museum in London and the publication of two editions of A Descriptive Catalogue of the Several Superb and Magnificent Pieces of Mechanism and Jewellery, Exhibited in Mr. Cox`s Museum (London, 1772).
The most spectacular survival of Cox`s enterprise, remains the ten-foot high Peacock Clock (picture on the left), with its clockwork-driven automata, in the Hermitage, which was brought to Saint Petersburg in 1781, probably by Frederick Jury, one of Cox`s suppliers of clockwork.
Cox hoped to establish direct trade with Russia and even attempted to sell jewellery to the Russian empress, Catherine the Great (1729–1796), but met with less than success there.
The loss of reliable trade with China, the failure in Russia, together with the fact that Cox never achieved royal patronage and suffered from the ill effects of the American Revolution on British foreign trade, precipitated Cox`s bankruptcy in 1778, his second. The remaining stock from Canton, China, was sold in London at Christie`s on February 16, 1792, but in the meantime Cox and his sons, one in Canton and the other in London, resumed business and again began sending watches to China, this time mostly made by the Swiss firm of Jaquet-Droz et Leschot.