When we trace back the origins of the hourglass, we can’t find conclusive evidence of its existence before the 14th century. Now 700 years later, we’re familiar with seeing sand inside hourglasses, but over the centuries, they’ve also been filled with powdered marble and crushed eggshells. They first found importance aboard ships as aids in measuring distances traveled—an improvement over millennia-old clepsydras, or water clocks. The water clocks could be compromised more easily, even by the condensation produced on humid days. On land, however, use of the hourglass was often more symbolic than functional. While the mechanical clock (invented around the same time) and its intricate inner mechanisms prompted comparison to the movements of the heavenly spheres, the hourglass measured a set period. This story is from Kinfolk Issue Twenty-Three Buy Now Related Stories Design Issue 51 John Pawson From the king of minimalism: “I find the essential and get the design down to a point where you can’t add or subtract from it.” Design Interiors Issue 51 Axel Vervoordt Inside the world of Axel Vervoordt. Design Issue 51 Inga Sempé “Minimalism is boring as hell, and on top of that, it’s preachy.” Design Issue 51 Halleroed Meet the giants of Swedish retail design. Design Issue 51 Andrew Trotter The architect and designer on renewing traditional architecture. Design Issue 51 Kim Lenschow The architect who wants to show you how your house works.