Marking Time Objects, People, and Their Lives, 1500-1800 Edward Town, Angela McShane

Publication date:
10 Nov 2020
YC British Art
512 pages: 264 x 200mm
460 color + b-w illus.
Sales territories:

An engaging, encyclopedic account of the material world of early modern Britain as told through a unique collection of dated objects

The period from 1500 to 1800 in England was one of extraordinary social transformations, many having to do with the way time itself was understood, measured, and recorded. Through a focused exploration of an extensive private collection of fine and decorative artworks, this beautifully designed volume explores that theme and the variety of ways that individual notions of time and mortality shifted. The feature uniting these more than 450 varied objects is that each one bears a specific date, which marks a significant moment—for reasons personal or professional, religious or secular, private or public. From paintings to porringers, teapots to tape measures, the objects—and the stories they tell—offer a vivid sense of the lived experience of time, while providing a sweeping survey of the material world of early modern Britain.

More about this title


Edward Town is head of collections information and access and assistant curator of early modern art at the Yale Center for British Art. Angela McShane is head of research development, theWellcome Collection, London.

"A change of focus reveals the design, the beauty, the meaning, and often the life stories, of this collection of bric-a-brac."—Historic House

“The attention to detail, both in the archival research and the aesthetic presentation, make it a beautiful object and an impressive resource, one that at the present time, especially, stands as a fitting testament to the ongoing human determination to create, to mark time, and to endure.”—Christina J. Faraday, Apollo Magazine

"The editors and authors are to be commended for the wonderful book they have written, and for the dedication, sensitivity, and nuance with which they have approached the humble yet delightful objects in their care.”—Francesca Kaes, Journal 18

“. . . an ambitious exploration of a subject that has rarely—perhaps never—been addressed by design historians.”—Ellenor Alcorn, Magazine Antiques