Roman numeral Photos

Quatrefoil and Clocktower
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Quatrefoil and Clocktower

The Courthouse is one of the most photographed buildings in Santa Barbara. Still, the building itself sits on two sides of a city block. If you take a closer look the details could keep you busy for weeks with a camera. I can't imagine the effort that went into creating them.

The small window beneath the clocktower on the Garden side is one of those details that you might easily miss. If you look around you can find these Quatrefoil or "four leafed" windows all throughout the architecture of our city but I think this is the most ornate and beautiful example you'll find.

Courthouse Clocktower Sunset
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Courthouse Clocktower Sunset

This was taken right after yesterday's photo of the day. When I was at the beach art walk today someone asked me what time of day I took that picture. So I said I could tell them exactly what time, and I flipped to this photo. Of course I now realize that someone at the Courthouse needs to adjust at least one of these clocks.

Courthouse Clock Tower
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Courthouse Clock Tower

Ahh computers!

A necessary evil of modern life.

A little over a week ago the drive on my server failed, which started an absolutely unimaginable week of hardware problems. Not the least of which was the new drive in the server failed right after the OS was installed. When the week was over I had lost more hardware (and data) to random failures than I have ever before in my whole life.

Now for the good news. The last two Saturdays I have started a new art show at the La Cumbre Plaza and it has been fantastic. Lots of people, and many of them interested in my work. The first Saturday I did not get a chance to sit down the whole day.

And, another exciting result of the recent shows... my art will soon grace the walls of a newly remodeled local Mexican Restaurant! That brings me to toady's image. Since most of my work at the shows is floral and Hummingbirds, I am collecting some local architecture images for this project. If you would like to see the collection, just watch the previous week I will fill in the missing days. I really think someone is trying to tell me something! Computers... BAD! Photography... GOOD! It's times like this I'm glad I don't use a digital camera!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

There is a great little area at State Street and Figueroa in Santa Barbara called La Arcada. It is a little walkway lined with shops and restaurants and a number of Galleries. One of which, incidentally, has a display of my photography right now.

After the rain subsided a bit last week I spent some time at La Arcada trying to get some shots of the Christmas decorations before they take them down.

When I was getting this image ready for the site, I noticed the roman numerals on the face of the clock, particularly the four. The interesting thing is that it is made up of four roman numeral ones IIII, rather than IV. This stood out to me because I remember learning roman numerals from my Mom and Dad. They had a rug inside of our front door when I was a kid that had a clock face on it with the number four made up of four 'I's. I vividly remember my dad pointing it out to me and saying that it was not the proper way to write four in roman numerals. Unfortunately, at the time, we did not have access to something quite as cool as the Internet to learn why some clocks were made that way.

Ahh, but even the Internet doesn't have all the answers. It has some good theories though. The best explanations I could find are listed here. If you have a better theory, I'd love to hear it...

  • A popular notion is that the visual balance of the clocks were thrown off by the fact that the VIII on the left was so much larger than the IV on the right. So it was a visual decision to use the IIII. Sounds reasonable but there are good references to extremely old clocks that were not symmetrical in other ways but still used this style of markings.
  • One theory was attributed to a number of different monarchs. It goes something along the lines of a clock maker made a clock for (pick your favorite monarch). When presenting the clock the monarch stated that the numeral IV should actually be IIII. And, who wants to argue with the guy who has all the guillotines. Unfortunately, this one sounds more like a legend started by someone who did not know the real answer. Further discrediting this theory is the fact that the earlier clocks and sun dials are even less likely to have the numeral IV.
    Monarch theory and quite a few others.
  • A much more plausible reason stated hinges on the fact that in the Roman language, Jupiter (as in "king of the gods" Jupiter) was spelled IVPITER since there was no J or U. Not sure the deity of deities would take kindly to having his name abbreviated on the face of all of their clocks, the clock makers erred on the side of not offending him.
  • Another interesting thought is the fact that using IIII made it easier for metal smiths to cast the numbers because you then had a balanced number of 'I's 'V's and 'X's (twenty, four and four respectively). So you could cast four identical sets of XVIIIII and have one set of numerals for a clock face.
    Clock numeral casting theory.
  • In the end though, it seems that the contractions for fours and nines may not have been used in a consistent way at all. It may have just been common practice for the Romans to use IIII in place of IV. IV could have been a Latin practice much later. The oldest known surviving clock-face along with documents from the same age seem to use IIII regularly. As do the numbers on the surviving doors of the Roman Colosseum.
    Other good examples of IIII
    And, still more.
Again, if you have any interesting thoughts I would love to hear from you.