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Noyses, Sounds, and Sweet Aires
Sounds of Bells

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"The Perpetuitie of Ringing"

The Sounds of Bells

Bells marked the passage of time, day and night, in early modern England. They signaled the beginning of religious services, recorded moments of civic celebration or alarm, and tolled the death knell. They were so prevalent that they must have faded into the rest of the background noise of everyday life.


This view of London by Dutch engraver Claes Visscher was originally printed in 1616. Taken from the south  bank of the Thames, where the Globe  and other theaters are situated, it looks northward, showing many of the dozens of church steeples inside the city walls. Each had its own distinctive bell sound: Bow Church, St. Lawrence Pultney, St. Dustan in the East, and St. Paul's Cathedral, destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666.



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Claes Jansz. Visscher. London. ca. 1625 (Detail).

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