Astrolabe Catalogue

astrolabe, inventory number 39887 from Germany, 16th century
thumbnail for astrolabe (front), inventory number 39887 from Germany, 16th century
thumbnail for astrolabe (back), inventory number 39887 from Germany, 16th century
thumbnail for astrolabe (rete front), inventory number 39887 from Germany, 16th century
Date16th century
Inventory no.39887
AcquisitionPresented by Lewis Evans in 1924

Astrolabes are beautiful objects that reflect skilled craftsmanship and a degree of technical expertise. It is easy to forget that the people who made them often had to practice to improve their skills. The back of the plate in this astrolabe allows a glimpse into the maker's efforts to improve his workmanship. Here he practised engraving the zodiacal signs for virgo, libra, sagittarius, aquarius, and capricorn as well as a couple of numbers. Virgo caused him the most difficulty and changed markedly between attempts and the final form engraved on the front of the rete.

The workmanship around the central hole is rather crude. This is, perhaps, a function of the thin metal that was used to make this plate. Unlike thicker metal, which could be milled and filed, this thin sheet of brass leant itself to being cut with some sharp tool. The result is a coarse central hole that is not quite circular.

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Throne, Ring and Shackle

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


The mater and limb are of three pieces construction. Constructed in at least three pieces: 1) limb with 2) inner ring, both pinned (soldered?) to the 3)back plate. Scales on the limb: degree scale. More information


The back is largely blank, leaving space for the plate that bears the Geminus-style sundial. The back contains 1 scales of the following types: Degree. More information

Rete, Pin & Wedge

The rete contains 25 stars. The zodiac on the rete is labelled: ♈ , ♉ , ♊ , ♋ , ♌ , ♍ , ♎ , ♏ , ♐ , ♑ , ♒ , ♓

The rete contains 3 scales of the following types: Declination; Ecliptic.
The rete is attached using a pin & wedge. Simple pin with indented head. More information


There are 2 plates for latitude 52°0' . More information

Rules & Alidades

Type Details
AlidadeDouble-ended, counter-changed.
More information


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