Secrets of Automata

Michael Start
This extraordinary book reveals the secrets of automata mechanisms, which were developed over generations by makers who closely guarded their designs in the competitive business of automata making. Written by a specialist restorer, it gives a unique appreciation of the internal mechanisms that allow an automaton to move as if alive. Organised into popular subjects that are explored in entertaining detail, this book is a rich resource for makers, artists, restorers and collectors alike, as well as those who simply find themselves asking the question ‘How does it do that?’
Secrets of Automata is the culmination of its author’s career-long fascination with automata mechanisms. Michael Start specialises in restoring clockwork figures and singing birds produced in Paris during the 19th century. It is no accident that this time and place became known as the ‘golden age’ of automata; the craftsmen of Paris competed with each other to capture a share of a growing global market for mechanical wonders.
The various methods of portraying mechanical life using complex mechanisms and clever design were rarely recorded or publicised - but they are there, sealed within the automata themselves. As a restorer, Michael is unique in being able to provide a written exposé of the historical techniques of the lifelike movement. In Secrets of Automata, it is his great pleasure to share them with you.
Secrets of Automata by Michael Start

About the author

Michael Start is a trained horologist who specialises in automata and mechanical singing bird restoration. Michael also runs The House of Automata in Forres, Scotland, a workshop, showroom and exhibition featuring a large number of rare automata. Once dubbed a ‘clockwork guru’ by the newspapers, he gives talks on and demonstrations of automata, provides consultancy and hire services to film and media, including Scorsese’s Hugo and Hammer Films’ The Woman in Black. He has also advised on and supplied automata to many major museums and collections around the world. Alongside his wife Maria, they feature their automata restoration skills on Quest TV in the series Salvage Hunters - The Restorers. The House of Automata has a significant social media presence promoting good restoration practice with knowledge and enjoyment of all things automata-related.

Press Reviews

Nowhere else is so much clearly described mechanical information specific to automata to be found. If you are a practising automatist, a beginner new to the field, or just someone with an interest in automata and other mechanical things, this book is a must-have.

- Marc Horovitz, Automata Magazine

The appearance of this book is extremely attractive with a seductive layout, large print and hundreds of colour photographs, the captions to many of which give further explanation of how the subject 'works'. It is so gorgeous that you will want this for your coffee table - but don't leave it there. Read it and enjoy, and be prepared to be amazed.

- Alison Biden, The Music Box