Astrolabe Catalogue

astrolabe, inventory number 46681 from Iṣfahān, 1719/20 (A.H.
thumbnail for astrolabe (front), inventory number 46681 from Iṣfahān, 1719/20 (A.H.
thumbnail for astrolabe (back), inventory number 46681 from Iṣfahān, 1719/20 (A.H.
thumbnail for astrolabe (rete front), inventory number 46681 from Iṣfahān, 1719/20 (A.H.
Date1719/20 (A.H. 1132)
Maker‘Abd al-A’imma
Inventory no.46681
AcquisitionPresented by J. A. Billmeir in 1957

One of the most famous names in the history of astrolabe making is ‘Abd al-A’imma, who was working in Persia in the first two decades of the 18th century. More astrolabes are known bearing his name than that of any other maker, east or west; yet nothing is known of his life. He made many astrolabes entirely under his own name, but also engraved or decorated (namaqahu) instruments in collaboration with other makers, notably Khalil Muhammad (for example, inventory no. 33739). They seem to have been a workshop or network of related makers in Iṣfahān.

The present astrolabe is pointedly signed as both ‘made and decorated’ by ‘Abd al-A’imma, and dated 1132 A.H. It was made for 'Alīqulī, a prince of the royal Safavid family. Many of his customers were Persian princes or other wealthy dignitaries. His career represents both a flourishing of the craft in a period of stability and affluence under the Safavid dynasty, and a high degree of standardization in astrolabe design and in workshop methods.

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Throne, Ring and Shackle

The throne is of the indo-persian, engraved 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 one-piece construction. The tab used to hold tympans in place is located 180° from the throne. Scales on the limb: degree scale. More information


The back contains 16 scales of the following types: Altitude; Declination; Azimuth of Qibla; Altitude of noon sun; Sine/Cosine; Cotangent; Terms; Zodiacal signs; Faces; Lunar Mansions; Shadow square; Triplicities. The back is inscribed: with a maker's signature marked as عبد الائمه صنعه و نمقه ١١٣٢ (‘Abd al-A’imma made and decorated this. 1132). More information

Rete, Pin & Horse

The rete contains 0 stars. The zodiac on the rete is labelled: حمل , ثور , جوزا , سرطان , اسد , سنبله , ميزان , عقرب , قوس , جدي , دلو , حوت .
The rete is attached using a pin & horse. The pin itself is plain. The horse, by contrast, is rather nicely made and detailed, including eyes, nostrils, mouth, as well as mane and ears.. More information


There are 3 plates with latitudes ranging from 29°0' to 40°0' . More information

Rules & Alidades

Type Details
AlidadeDouble-ended. This alidade is plain, not having been decorated with either scales or decorative engravings..
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