Astrolabe Catalogue

astrolabe, inventory number 50769 from Sicily (?), 14th century
thumbnail for astrolabe (front), inventory number 50769 from Sicily (?), 14th century
thumbnail for astrolabe (back), inventory number 50769 from Sicily (?), 14th century
thumbnail for astrolabe (rete front), inventory number 50769 from Sicily (?), 14th century
Date14th century
PlaceSicily (?)
Inventory no.50769
AcquisitionPresented by J. A. Billmeir in 1957

The rete of this astrolabe presents a particularly bold example of the quatrefoil design motif that, with its counterpart the trefoil, characterizes the style termed 'Gothic' in European astrolabes of the 14th and 15th centuries (for other examples, see inventory nos. 45133 and 47615). The feature is familiar from the architecture of the period, where it is usually found in windows. The other decorative details of this rete are both unusual and very finely finished, suggesting the astrolabe was made for a wealthy owner at no little expense.

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Throne, Ring and Shackle

The throne is of the three-lobed type made of brass attached with integrated base made of brass and has a simple, squared cross-section ring made of brass and omega type shackle made of brass . More information


The mater and limb are of two pieces, soldered and riveted construction. Scales on the limb: degree scale; equal hours scale. More information


The back contains a common set of scales. The names of the months are, however, noteworthy. In particular, note the spelling of May and the use of 'n' in September, November and December. A number of the North African astrolabes in the collection transliterate the month names into Arabic substituting an 'n' for the 'm' in these months. The back contains 5 scales of the following types: Degree; Zodiacal signs; Calendar; Unequal hours; Shadow square. More information

Rete, Nut & Bolt

The rete contains 22 stars. The rete contains zoomorphs: there are two small hands, one at each end of the tropic of capricorn band The zodiac on the rete is labelled: ARIES , TAVRVS , GEMINI , CANCER , LEO , VIRGO , LIBRA , SCORPIO , SAGITTARIVS , CAPRICORNIVS , AQUVARIVS , PISCES.

The rete contains 1 scale of the following type: Ecliptic.
The rete is attached using a nut & bolt. More information


There are 2 plates with latitudes ranging from 36°0' to 45°0' . More information

Rules & Alidades

Type Details
PointerSingle-ended. The pointer is decorated with scrollwork along its length. Four points along the arm are marked with stars as is the central disk.
More information


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