Astrolabe Catalogue

astrolabe, inventory number 43454 from London, ca. 1575
thumbnail for astrolabe (front), inventory number 43454 from London, ca. 1575
thumbnail for astrolabe (back), inventory number 43454 from London, ca. 1575
thumbnail for astrolabe (rete front), inventory number 43454 from London, ca. 1575
Dateca. 1575
MakerHumphry Cole
MaterialGilt brass
Inventory no.43454
AcquisitionPresented by A. E. Gunther in 1986

Although this astrolabe is unsigned, comparison with other instruments yields information about the maker, at least of parts of it. The rete is almost identical to a similarly sized astrolabe by Humphry Cole, now in the British Museum. Cole is important as the first Englishman to trade as a mathematical instrument maker.

Here, the rete and two plates can be confidently attributed to him. However, although they fit neatly into the mater, it is not so sure that the mater is by Cole: there are some stylistic differences in the engraving which make Cole's authorship of the remainder less secure. There are various small discrepancies in the numeral forms, though the most striking surprise is the rather naively styled sun face on the reverse.

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Throne, Ring and Shackle

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


The mater and limb are of one-piece construction. Scales on the limb: equal hours scale; degree scale.

The limb is inscribed: with a owner's mark marked as 1659. Acad. Oxon. Ex dono Nic Greaves. S.T.D. (1659. University of Oxford. From the gift of Nicholas Greaves, doctor of theology). This inscription is probably a later addition to the instrument.. More information


An anthropomorphic sun decorates the middle of the unequal hour diagram on the back of the instrument.. The back contains 6 scales of the following types: Altitude; Zodiacal signs; Calendar; Shadow square; Unequal hours; Equal hours. More information

Rete, Pin & Wedge

The rete contains 13 stars. The zodiac on the rete is labelled: ARIES , TAVR , GEM , CAN , LEO , VIRGO , LIBRA , SCORPIVS , SAGITARIVS , CAPRICORN9 , AQVARIVS , PISCES .
The rete is attached using a pin & wedge. More information


There are 2 plates with latitudes ranging from 51°0' to 55°0' . More information

Rules & Alidades

Type Details
RuleDouble-ended, counter-changed.
AlidadeDouble-ended, counter-changed. One of the sights is bent towards the center of the instrument..
More information


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