Tuesday, October 26, 2010
"Orrery" is one of those words. I came across it in the forward to The Discovery of France, by Graham Robb. Although I haven't gotten any further than the introduction, it looks like an interesting book, claiming to be an exploration of a now vanished, rural France that Robb thinks has not been adequately charted. He knows urban France and he knows the France of literature, which he has studied, but this France he apparently discovered largely by biking around it.
Anyway, in attempting to give an idea of his objectives, he speaks of trying to give "a sense of the orrery of disparate separate spheres" Now quite frankly, I have no idea what he talking about there. I can plug in various guesses--disonance, connection, echoing--but really, none of it would I stake a dollar on. Maybe we better just move on to the definition.
...All right, all right--I must have seen this word before, even if I don't remember it. An orrery is a mechanical model that illustrates the orbits of planets and moons around the sun or a sunlike center. I don't know if Robb's model is truly heliocentric, but I assume if it is that sun would be Paris--or perhaps the King. And of course his sentence makes perfect sense now. I suppose spheres should have been the key.
According to Wikipedia, Orrery comes from the Gaelic orbhraighe, or Orb's people, so a tribe, which later became the name of the territory and then the barony. I can't find out more about this Orb or Orbh, but I hope he--if it was a he--liked to ponder the night sky in his time. It would be fitting.