The Eise Eisigna Planetarium of 1774

In 1774  a wool comber from Franeker in the Netherlands built a model of the solar system in his living room which is still the oldest functional and the largest mechanical orrery worldwide. Something we had to see!!

Orrery from 1774 automatically displays the correct date until today


The little town of Franeker lies in Friesland in the North of the Netherlands. Here Eise Eisigna had a wool comber business in his house in the centre of town.

House of Eise Eisigna

Luckily we knew already the Dutch Corona rules and had bought the tickets in advance.

In the museum a video explains the history of the orrery
Eise Eisigna 1744  – 1828

The museum shows early constructions to explain the solar system

In the attic of his house, above his living room lies the mechanical part, driven by a pendulum clock, which has 9 weights. To create the gears for the model, 10,000 handmade nails were used.

The orrery is painted with royal blue glimmer and outlined in shiny gold paint with he sun at the centre of the ceiling. The Earth is represented by a golden orb dangling on a wire. The signs of the zodiac are also depicted. The clockwork-like mechanical planetarium moves until today as it does in reality at a very reduced scale.

The planets automatically move around the model in real time. A slight “re-setting” must be done by hand every four years to compensate for the February 29th of a leap year. In addition to the basic orrery, there are displays of the phase of the moon and other astronomical phenomena. Also the current time and date are displayed which only requires that the plank that has the year numbers written on it has to be replaced every 22 years. Luckily Eisigna left a manual which explains all the details of his construction.

Already during his lifetime Eisigna received around 300 visitors a year including the king as the Plantarium quickly became famous. It is amazing that it still exists in this good condition and is still working precisely.

Franeker

Flower of the Day

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *