The General History and Description of a Machine for Composing Hexameter Latin Verses

Critical Writing
Publication Type: 
2nd edition
Record Status: 
Abstract (in English): 

This 22 page pamphlet is John Clark's description of his Latin Verse Machine, which he began building in 1830, and completed in 1843. It was exhibited at the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, London in 1845. 

The pamphlet includes a list of automatons that inspired the project, discusses the "kaleidoscopic" system that generates the verses in the Latin Verse Machine, and explains how the machine works.

The pamphlet doesn't directly cite the 1677 "Artificial Versifying, or the Schoolboys Recreation, A New Way to Make Latin Verses", but the machine is based on this text.

A few original print copies of the pamphlet are held by the Alfred Gillett Trust in Somerset, UK. As of 2023 the pamphlet is not available online.

Pull Quotes: 

There is a certain point of time, which may be called the Moment of Conception, at which instant of time the identical Latin verse, which is about to be produced, is conceived in the mind of the machine, (if the expression be allowable,) and that identical verse, which is then and there conceived, will be mechanically produced and displayed.

This visible display of the Line conceived, is effected simply by the mechanical movements of the Automaton. But the conception of the Line is not mechanical, nor can it possibly be rendered a visible or tangible thing, it being essentially an imagination only, partaking somewhat of the nature of an arithmetical infinite series. In like manner we cannot see or feel a human imagination, but we can render it audible or visible by the mechanical instruments of the tongue or pen.

The permanent URL of this page: 
Record posted by: 
Jill Walker Rettberg