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Sundials in Poland

This list was kindly compiled by Krzysztof Kotynia ( Many thanks!

The royal palace of Wilanow. South part of Warsaw.

The palace was a private property of the king Jan III (John) Sobieski or perhaps a free tenure of the king who in that case was only an ordinary freeholder). The sundial is on the south wall facing the `french' type garden. The front of the palace is directed to the west so the south wall is the side-wall and could be seen from the garden only. One has to buy an entrance ticket to the garden.

The vertical dial was designed by John Hevelius, the astronomer and Adam Adamandy Kochanski, the royal librarian, in the years of 1681-1682 and is made in stucco in the barocco style. The figure of Chronos is a central point of this triple-dial surrounded by six small putto.

2. There is one more vertical sundial in the palace of Wilanow. It was traced on window glass in 1788 by Jean Francois Richer of Paris for the king Stanislas Augustus Poniatowski. Originaly it was mounted in the royal castle of Warsaw. Nowadays it is Wilanow.

3. The royal park of `Lazienki'

( baths in English) at Aleje Ujazdowskie (eng. Ujazdowskie Avenues), also south part of Warsaw. There are three sundials in the park. The first one is situated in front of the palace `Na Wodzie' (eng. `On the Water'), the central point of the park. The horizontal dial is made of white Carrara marble in 1788 for the king Stanislas Augustus Poniatowski.

4. The second one in the park is on the south side of `Bialy Dom' (eng. `White House'). The horizontal dial, not so well preserved, is supported by the figure of satyr from the Le Brun's workshop.

5. The third sundial in the park is among the trees over Stara Pomaranczarnia (eng. `Old Orangery'). The stairs on the west side of the building lead directly up to the dial. The horixontal dial was engraved on the irregular surface of a very big stone by Wojciech Jastrzebowski in 1828, professor of the Agronomical Institute.

6. The park called `Ogrod Saski'

( `Saxon Garden' in English) near the Victoria Intercontinental Hotel at Krolewska street (eng. Royal St.). The horizontal marble sundial (18-th cent.) is very close to the big fountain in the centre of the park.

7. Stare Miasto (the Old City)

, the corner of Swietojanska Street (St. John Street) and Rynek Starego Miasta (Old City Market) in the axis of Zapiecek Street. The sundial is on the wall of the tenement house, which was completely destroyed during the last war. So the dial and the house are newly built though they look as from Middle Ages. The dial was designed by Tadeusz Przypkowski who also prepared some dials for the Royal Observatory in Greenwich though when I was at Greenwich in 1995 I found only a single gnomon with a sign of sun surrounded alternately by straight and flamboyant rays on the tip of the gnomon, very characteristic mark of Przypkowski's works.

8. The small park at Swietokrzyska Street

in the axis of `Teatr Lalka' (eng. `Puppet Theatre') the north-east part of the biggest building in Warsaw, called `Palac Kultury' (eng. `Palace of the Culture'). The sundial consists of the 4 brass dials mounted to the granite cube placed on the granite pedestal. A sunbeam, not a shadow shows mean time for which the dials are calibrated by Tadeusz Przypkowski.

9. On the pavement at Aleje Jerozolimskie

(eng. Jerusalem Avenues) on the south side of Palac Kultury there is a big analemmatic dial designed by Tadeusz Przypkowski. The size of a dial is greater than 10 meters and has a form of a windrose.

Also well worth visiting (at the suggestion of Michal Gientka) is the

Muzeum Przypkowskich Wjedrzejowie


This is a translation of part of the guidebook to this museum: It is in the same period of time that the oldest Radwan armorial seal, still remaining among the family’s relics, was made. It is kept alongside with a letter, dated 1535, from King Sigismund the Old to Mikolaj Przypkowski. Mikolaj’s son, Jan, was a zealous confessor of the ideology of the Polish Brethren, the most progressive off-shoot of the Reformation. In 1572, he was one of the first European noblemen to relieve his villeins from corvée, as it was not proper to take advantage of one’s brother’s work.

At the turn of the 16th and in the first half of the 17th c. the Przypkowskis were among prominent representatives of the Polish Brethren. They studied at the universities of Leiden, Altdorf, Leipzig, Paris and London. The most distinguished was Samuel (1592-1670), a poet, writer and thinker, the author of many philosophical and religious treaties, a politician tied with the court of the Radziwills of Birza (Krzysztof, Janusz and Boguslaw). An ardent defender of freedom of religion, he wanted to gain the Radziwills, his powerful co-religionist protectors, for the cause he struggled for. Together with Zbigniew Morsztyn he is considered to be among the most eminent poets representing the Polish Brethren.

The rich collection of books which belonged to the Przypkowskis at that time was destroyed during the pogrom of the Polish Brethren in 1655; only one volume accidentally remained - “The Mirror” by Kikolaj Rej, now in the Czartoryski Library in Cracow.

In the 18th c., an eminent member of the stock was Jan Jozef Przypkowski (1707-1758), the professor of astronomy and mathematics at the Cracow university, the author of several astronomical treaties and astrological calendars published 1729-1747. He was the manager of the university’s printing house and a representative of the university to the Sejm (diet) in Warsaw; most probably he was the designer of the sundial placed on the wall of Our Lady’s Church in Cracow in 1740.

A part of Jan Jozef Przypkowski’s library as well as some small relics have been kept in Jedrzejow since his brother’s grandsons, Jan and Jozef, moved to this town in 1820 from the environs of Czestochowa. The then declining family dealt with petty trade and manufacturing.

The originator of the astronomical and gnomonic collection, which laid the foundation of the Museum was Feliks Przypkowski (1872-1951). From his early youth he was interested in astronomy and construction of sundials. After he had left the Kielce grammar school, he undertook studies in medicine at the Warsaw University, eventually completed with post-graduate specialization in Prague. For nearly fifty years he practised medicine in Jedrzejow, still holding to his interest in astronomy. In 1895 he started his collection of sundials, which he continually enriched, with his growing library of books on that subject being the scientific support of his interest. Studying old works on gnomonic science, he followed descriptions in building over fifty models of sundials. He got in touch with foreign antiquarians from whom he bought books and old scientific instruments. His most important suppliers were Rosenthal in Munich and Oberdorfer in Augsburg.

Feliks Przypkowski built his private astronomical observatory on the top of his house in Jedrzejow. In 1913 he joined the Astronomic Society of France. Having much interest in meteorology, for many years he ran a weather station and sent communiqués on his observations to scientific institutes. Apart from the above he cultivated his fondness of numismatics, mineralogy, bibliophily, ex-libris, specimens and peculiarities of nature as well as all possible relics of the past of the town and its environs. From his early years he recorded everyday scenes, views of Jedrzejow and its vicinity and impressions from his travels on photographic plates. Most of the prints have remained in excellent state, being valuable historical material.

Invited by various societies and institutes, Feliks Przypkowski willingly gave lectures and presented discourses. For the sake of the community he presided over many institutions and public initiatives aiming at charity or stimulation of culture and education in the town.

In 1909, stirring local gentry and educated people to collaboration, he established the Jedrzejow branch of the Polish Land-Lovers Society. At the same time he presented his collection to the public. It was exhibited in the Society’s premises in the historic building of a pharmacy next to the Przypkowski house. Apart from the gnomonic and astronomical collection, there were the Society’s precious books with peculiarities of nature and archaeological excavations on exhibition. In 1912 the collection returned to the private house, but it remained accessible to those interested and was continually completed with new valuable acquisitions.

From 1925 Feliks Przypkowski was assisted in his collector’s labour by son Tadeusz (1905-1977), then student at the Jagellonian University in Cracow, future historian of art and science. From 1932 to 1939 Tadeusz Przypkowski worked as the assistant in charge of cultural policy to the city mayor - first in Cracow, then in Warsaw, where he was a close collaborator of Mayor Stefan Starzynski. The character of the job as well as frequent foreign trips enabled him to establish many cultural and artistic connections, get in touch with owners of private collections and libraries and gain new specimens to the Przypkowskis’ antiquarium.

Tadeusz Przypkowski had wide artistic interests: he was a consummate bibliophil, a connoisseur in graphic arts and the author of appreciated polychromous linocut ex-libris which he printed himself in his own press. He was a co-organizer of international congresses held in Jedrzejow: the ex-libris in 1964, the congress of historians of science in 1965 and the congress of bibliophils in 1973.

He was a keen photographer, awarded at several international exhibitions of artistic photography - in Los Angeles (1925), Montevideo (1931), Milan (1932), and an editor of bibliophilic publications, like the voluminous “The Beauty of Warsaw” (1935-38), many sets of ex-libris and exquisite occasional prints.

Tadeusz Przypkowski was one of few experts in sundials in recent times. He mastered the demanding science of calculating and designing wall sundials. He designed almost all contemporarily made sundials in Poland, eg on Our Lady’s Church in Cracow, on the town hall in Sandomierz, on the castle in Baranow and the palace in Dzikow, in front of the Warsaw’s Palace of Culture as well as abroad, eg in Saxonnex (Upper Savoy), in Nice (for Maurice Maeterlinck), in Hamburg or seven sundials for the astronomical observatory in Greenwich.

Even before 1939 the library and the set of gnomonic specimens were reckoned among the world’s most eminent collections of the kind. Hidden from the nazi, the collection survived the World War II without loss. In 1946 it was largely enriched by Tadeusz Przypkowski, who brought a number of new acquisitions from France and Britain (where he presented the photographic exhibition “Warsaw Accuses”), and opened to many groups of visitors, guided by Feliks Przypkowski’s wife Zofia (1882-1969). After his father’s death (1951) Tadeusz Przypkowski continued systematic development of the collection in all fields, adding his own interest - old cooking art.

On the 3rd of February 1962 the family bestowed their collection to the state and thus the Przypkowski State Museum was constituted, whose particular sections reflected various interests of the Przypkowskis.

The main section is the collection of sundials (where almost all types of sundials are represented covering the period from the 15th c. up until now) and astronomical and gnomonic instruments as well as various time measuring devices like hourglasses, fire timers or interesting varieties of mechanical clocks. The boast of the collection is a 16th c. sundial made by Erasmus Habermel and a 17th c. majolica water-glass (Catagirone in Sicily); among the mechanical clocks the most interesting are a ladies’ pectoral watch of the 17th c. and a pendulum clock from King John Casimir’s collection (Paris 1654).

The Przypkowskis’ bibliophilic interests are reflected in the library of about 600 old books from 16th-18th cc., in that number the Baslean edition of the famous “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium” by Copernicus (1566) and books with the autographs of Hevelius, Descartes and Huyghens. An interesting item is an incunabulum dated 1493, the famous medieval cyclopaedia “Liber chronicarum…” by Hartmann Schedl. The main body of the library are books and manuscripts on gnomonic and associated sciences. This can be numbered among the fullest collections of books on this narrow scientific discipline. Other books refer to particular sections of the museum, like gastronomy, history of science or Reformation. There are also books from the most eminent printing houses of Europe (Elsevier, Plantin, Henriopetrina, Koberger) and volumes of special bibliophilic value, eg a book from King Sigismund August’s (1520-1572) library. Among new books (after 1800), apart from works on gnomonic science, a major section are gastronomica, mostly cook books from all the world, some of them with famous gastronomes’ autographs.

Attached to the library is the section of negatives, containing about 20,000 items, mostly old plates by Feliks and Tadeusz Przypkowski.

In respect of figures, one of the largest sections of the museum is the collection of graphic arts, initiated in 1912 with a purchase at Rosenthal in Munich. Now the collection amounts to about 20,000 ex-libris and other specimens.

The Artistic and Historical Section accumulates craftsmanship as well as documents and other objects of historical meaning, prevailingly referring to the past of the town and its environs. This section also contains a set of old photographs, mostly by Feliks Przypkowski, and a collection of occasional, patriotic and landscape postcards. Great historical documents of Polish Legions from the World War I. Another valuable set is that of iudaica (in most cases - objects connected with religious ceremonies), completed with Jewish books in the library.

The gastronomic section, apart from recipes and books from the Parisian library of the famous gastronome Edward Pomian Pozerski, has a collection of old vessels, saucepans, kettles, samovars and all kinds of kitchen utensils.

After nationalization the museum purchased the adjacent early 18th c. building of pharmacy, now housing a suite of rooms equipped with 18th c. furniture from the Przypkowskis’ collection, and the only set in Poland of polychromous rococo wall cordovans. The solicitously restored early 20th c. interior of the Przypkowski house again contains a part of the gnomonic collection - models of sundials by Feliks Przypkowski, clockwork times and hourglasses, whereas the body thereof - originally sundials - are shown in a display room upstairs. After the restoration has been finished, only temporary exhibitions will be held in the modern pavilion built 1964-69 on the 18th c. basement.

The museum’s garden has been designed by a specialist in this field, Prof. Gerard Ciolek. The main part of the layout is “water steps” or a set of terraced pools with water flowing in little streams. Next to them is a reconstructed summerhouse from the beginning of the 19th c. resting on a vaulted basement. Large sundials of stone are scattered in the garden. The surrounding wall is divided into arched spans decorated with sgraffiti representing signs of the zodiac, symbols of the planets and of the five elements. The same technique has been applied to the great sundial, calculated and designed by Tadeusz Przypkowski, placed on the wall of the pavilion.

The museum provides wide popularization of its collections and the knowledge they represent. Lectures and slide shows are given in the museum, in schools and clubs, on history of art, ex-libris and bibliophily. Children take part in drawing competitions “My adventure in the museum” and have classes in the library, where they are shown old books.

The museum runs an editorial activity which, contributed by the associated printing house, bore fruit of numerous prints highly valued among bibliophils.

The present director of the museum is Tadeusz’s son, Piotr Maciej Przypkowski, who, following the family tradition, graduated in history of art.

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