Cornelis Drebbel to James I, King of England, London, 1613

    A couple of years ago, Fairest and Mightiest King, I created some artificial instruments for your Majesty, which your Majesty indeed beheld. Afterwards I traveled to Prague with your Majesty’s approval and leave, truly promising to the fairest, Prince Henry of our good memory (who seriously ordered me so) that I would return in six months. But since His Majesty the Emperor was very much pleased with my inventions, of which he saw some specimen, I could not leave in such a short time, because he detained me there until his death.

    When the news of the Emperor’s death reached Prince Henry, whose memory should always be praised, he commanded me in writ that I should return to him. For this reason, I humbly beseeched the Fairest Emperor Matthias that he condescend to give me leave to return to Great Britain. But he did not wish to approve of my petition, affirming that he would make use of my works in certain affairs, and that he by no means wanted to let me leave his court until he should receive a letter of order from the Fairest Prince Henry of our great memory. When I received it and showed it to His Majesty the Emperor for his perusal, he read them and gave me leave to come back here, presenting me with excellent goods for travel.

    While these things happened, to my greatest grief and misery, I learned that Prince Henry had died. Therefore, since I have always had and still have the greatest desire to serve and entertain your Fairest Majesty with my inventions, I am offering you my offices and services with my soul’s appropriate humbleness and my humility, greatly hoping that your majesty would have quite some pleasure coming from these. I briefly mention a couple of them here.

    Firstly, I know the way to make all clocks work perfectly with the help of a perpetuum mobile, so that they direct and move themselves, and, which is of even greater worth, if you push the arms 2 or 3 hours after or before the proper time in the morning, it will go forth or back to the proper hour and minute during daytime. An example of this was seen by Emperor Rudolphus.

    Secondly, I am able to make an instrument, with which it is possible to read letters from a distance of one English mile. I do not doubt that, if Your Majesty wishes to come to my help with the cost of it (as I hope), I can ascertain that it will work so much better that it will be possible to read these letters from around 5, 6 or 7 miles; and one will not even need that the letters be – to put it bluntly - big. With the help of these instruments Your Majesty will be able to see things that are 8 or 10 miles away just as well as if they were in Your Majesty’s own room. My intruments are not similar to vulgar optical glasses, and it is not possible to make copies of them.

    Thirdly, I know how to create all kinds of musical intruments that radiate light and emit the most beautiful sounds by themselves in sunshine, of which the only undeveloped specimen your majesty saw. I am saying that since then I have made it more perfect and better; in such a way that the curtains and the doors of the said instruments open automatically; and when the sun is shining they make the sweetest musical concert, and if the sun is afresh covered with clouds, the instruments’ doors and curtains automatically close. In addition, to this musical instrument (called virginals) I have decided to join a well, from which two fountains spring forth, perpetually flowing. If the sun shines, from this a hundred different and various streams will come out as a greatly joyful sight. Even Neptun comes forth from a cliff or rock, followed by Tritons and marine Goddesses who are washing themselves in the water that flows in front of the altar of Neptun.

    In addition, it is also possible to see a glass full of water that rises and descends according to time, just as the sea. In every 24 hours, it rises and descends twice in 40 minutes twice so punctually – always automatically moving itself -that it is possible to tell the hour and minute of the day from the rise and the descent. But if the sun is clouded or going down the fountains finish working, except for those two mentioned above that spring forth forever; and Neptun with his consort goes back to the cliff or stone, as if he was vehemently crying over the sunshine’s loss and absence. In addition to this, Phoebus also comes out from the clouds, playing the cythara. He sits on his chariot with 4 flying horses that are supposed to hang in the air with the help of wings. The wheels of this chairot will be moving. If the sun is clouded, Phoebus hides himself under the clouds. And all this is done by the sun’s rays without the power of anything else. If Your Majesty has the desire to rejoice his eyes with these artificial motions when the whole sky is clouded, it is none the less possible to move them by touching the small glass with a hot hand.

    If I have been a nuisance thus far, as many from the court usually are, to recall to Your Majesty’s memory the promise that Your Majesty mercifully made to me out of singular grace; let me mention that I have truly shown  all of these already for the great and perfect delight of Your Majesty. And I also know other inventions that I do not mention here, because I have already ascertained Your Majesty of these.

    By way of conclusion, Fairest and Mightiest King, I wanted to most humbly mention that it be understood what a great and inconventient  financial loss I have been enduring because of the Fairest Prince Henry’s death; I have abandoned His Majesty the Emperor’s service and lost my income. While these are observed I am also writing so that I can be more certain if Your Majesty is inclined to or delighted by these inventions described above, also hoping for Your Majesty the King’s assessment. Thereupon I would be most industrious and sedulous with my inventions, so that I can gratify Your Majesty with pleasant delight. For these inventions I have not accepted any remuneration from Your Majesty until now. Therefore I hope that Your Majesty will not completely decline to remember your most merciful promise, but will kindly do me the honor of paying my expenses or offering me an annual pension, which would make it possible for me to feed myself and my family properly; and with which I would be stimulated to make more fruitful and greater inventions that would please Your Majesty.

    In the end, postrate on the ground I humbly beseech your Majesty to condescend to please me with a short response. In the meantime together with my family we are including Your Majesty in our prayers, so that Your Majesty be kept as the apple of the eye.

    Your Majesty’s most humble and obedient servant,

    Cornelius Drebbel



 Latin original:

Ante aliquot annos, Rex serenissime et potentissime, ut opus aliquod artificiale conficerem pro Vestra Majestate, quod V. M. vidit quoque post, Pragam profectus sum consensu et venia Vrae Mtis, sancte promittens Sereniss. Princ. Henrico beatis. mem. (serio mihi mandans) me intra sex menses rediturum. Verum cum Caes. M. impense delectaretur meis inventionibus, quarum specimen vidit, tam brevi temporis spatio ab ipso demitti nequivi, sed me ad mortem usque detinuit suam.

Interea obitus Caesareus ad aures pervenit principis Henrici nunquam satis laudandae memoriae; igitur per litteras serio mihi in mandatis dedit ad se ut redirem. Quamobrem obnixe supplicavi Sereniss. Imper. Matthiae ut mihi veniam dare dignetur Magnam Brittaniam repetendi; sed petitioni meae annuere noluit, affirmans se opera mea usurum aliis in rebus, nec ullo modo ab aula dimittere voluit donec accipiam litteras mandatorias a Serenniss. Henrico principe gloriosiss. memoriae. Eas tandem accepi et Caesareae Mti legendas exhibui, quibus perlectis, mihi veniam dedit huc redeundi, honorifico me beans viatico ad inter perficiendum.

Haec dum geruntur, incredibili meo maerore et infortunio, intellexi mortem Ser. mem. principis Henrici. Quapropter, cum maximo desiderio semper flagraverim et etiamnum flagro Sacratiss. Vestrae Majti inserviendi et eam meis inventionibus delectandi, iterum debita animi subjectione mea officia et servitia humiliter offero, optima dimicans spe M. Vam haud exiguam ex iis capturam delectationem. Quarum hic breviter mentionem faciam. 

Primo habeo modum omnia horologia perfecte movendi per motum perpetuum, ita ut seipsa dirigant et moveant, aut, quod magis est, si index duabus aut tribus circiter horis plus aequo mane aut sero protundateur vel retrahatur, ille ad veram horam et minutam diei redibit Sole lucente, cujus specimen vidit imperator Rudolphus. 

Secundo conficere possum instrumentum quo litterae per miliare Anglicum legi poterunt, nec ambigo quin, si M. Va velit mihi sumptu succurrere, (uti spero), fore ut tantum praestando sim, quo litterae legi possint plus minus 5, 6 aut 7 miliaribus; nec literarum caracteres vulgo majores sunto. Cujus quoque instrumenti V. M. ea videre poterit quae circiter per 8 aut 10 miliaria fiunt, aeque bene ac si in proprio V. Mtis cubuculo acciderent. Nec sunt haecce mea instrumenta similia vulgaribus vitreis opticis: non possunt enim multiplicari. 

Tertio et notitiam habeo omnis generis componendi instrumenta musica quae sole lucente sponte lucant et suavissimum sonum edant, cujus rude solum specimen Vestra M. vidit, quae, inquam, perfectius et absolutius perficere statueram, eo nimirum modo ut vela et portae dictorum instrumentorum sponte aperiantur et sole splendente suavissimum faciant concentum musicum; ac denuo sole obnubilato, vela et portae eorundem per se sponte claudantur. Praeterea huic musico instrumento (vulgo virginals) iungere decreveram fontem ex quo manarent duae scaturigines perpetuo fluentes, et sole lucente inde prodibunt 100 diversi et varii rivuli aspectu longe iucundissimi; Neptunus etiam prodibit ex rupe vel petra, comitatus, Tritonibus et deabus marinis, lavantes se aqua promanante coram altari Neptuni. 
Super quod et videri poterit vitrum aqua plenum, fluens et refluens debito tempore ut mare, singulis 24 horis circiter 40 minutis bis ascendens et descendens, ea perfectione ut ex ascensu et descensu aquae agnosi possint horae et minutae diei, semper seipsum sponte dirigens. Verum sole nubilato aut occidente, scaturigines finem fluendi facient, duabus supradictis exceptis quae aeternum manabunt; et Neptunus cum suo consortio se rursus in rupem vel petram conferet tanquam vehementer deflens absentiam et iacturam splendoris solis. Adhaec Phoebus ex nubibus prodibit cythara ludens, curruique insidens suo cum 4 quis volantibus, qui putabuntur in aere pendere per modum alarum; rotae quoque dicti currus movebuntur; sole obnubilato Phoebus sub nubibus se abscondet. Quae omnia per solos solis radios absque ulla ope fient. Si V. M. cuperet oculos suos refocillare hisce artificiosis motionibus coelo integro obnubilato, eas agitare nihilominus poterit calida nimirum manu parvum vitrum tangendo.

Si fuissem adeo importunus, ut multi aulicorum consueverunt V.Mti promissum in memoriam revocando, quod mihi ex singulari gratia clementer fecit, iam pridem haec ad oculum omnia perfecte monstrassem magna sane delectatione Mtis V. Sum et aliis instructus inventionibus, quarum mentionem hic omitto, quia pridem M.V. de iis certiorem feci. 

Conclusionis loco, Ser. potent. Rex, haec volui Mti. V. humillime significare ut vel hinc intelligat quanta damna, quamque magna incommoda perpessus sim morte Serssimi principis Henrici, deserens locum stipendiarii et ministri Caes. Mtis. Praeterea haec observantur scribo ut certior fieri possim num V.Mti propendeat vel delectetur supra memoratis inventionibus, sperans ulterius Regiam V. Mtem perpensuram. Quam industrius et sedulus fuerim subinde meis inventionibus, ut V. Mti cum iucunda delectatione gratificarer, pro quibus nihil adhuc accepi remunerationis a V. Mte. Quapropter confido fore ut V.M. non sit plane depositura memoriam clementissimi promissi, sed gratiose me cohonestatura sumptu vel pensione annua qua possim me et familiam meam honeste alere et hac ratione ad maiora fructuosiora stimuler inventa quae sint V. M. magis arrisura.

Tandem humi prostratus, supplico V. M.ti me brevi responso fortunare dignetur. Inter ea temporis ego cum meis Dominum iunctis precibus invocabimus ut Vestram Majest. tanquam pupillam oculorum suorum tueatur. 

Vestrae Majtis humiliss. et obedientiss. 

Cornelius Drebbel