Astrolabe Catalogue

astrolabe, inventory number 47714 from North Africa, late 19th century
thumbnail for astrolabe (front), inventory number 47714 from North Africa, late 19th century
thumbnail for astrolabe (back), inventory number 47714 from North Africa, late 19th century
thumbnail for astrolabe (rete front), inventory number 47714 from North Africa, late 19th century
Datelate 19th century
PlaceNorth Africa
Inventory no.47714
AcquisitionPresented by Lewis Evans in 1924

Instrument makers in North Africa continued to make astrolabes well into the nineteenth century. The rete to the right reflects a number of features common to western instruments. The words are written in the clear, monumental Kufic script. Above the names of the zodiacal signs, engraved along the ecliptic, the maker chose to use modern European numerals rather than Arabic numbers. The base of each star pointer is embellished with a silver stud. These studs cover over some of the letters, indicating that they were added to the rete after the words had been engraved. In the picture, this is most clearly seen on the names of the stars around the central pivot hole.

Two further design features are common to astrolabes from North Africa. The open circle at the bottom of the rete, visible in the picture, figures prominently on many of the North African astrolabes in the Museum's collection. Likewise, the four rotational knobs, of which two are visible in the picture, are regularly found on the western Islamic instruments in the collection.

The brass from which this rete was cut was evidently recycled from something of European manufacture. On the back of the rete, near the bottom, are stamped the letters 'PATENT' in a curve. See additional images.

The letters 'PATENT' stamped on the back of the rete;

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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 brass and rotating pin type shackle made of brass . More information


The mater and limb are of two pieces, soldered and riveted construction. The notch to hold the tympans in place is located at the throne. Scales on the limb: equal hours scale; degree scale. More information


The back contains 6 scales of the following types: Altitude; Zodiacal signs; Calendar; Unequal hours; Shadow square. More information

Rete, Nut & Bolt

The rete contains 19 stars. The zodiac on the rete is labelled: حمل , ثور , جوزا , سرطان , اسد , سنبله , ميزان , عقرب , قوس , جدي , دلو , حوت .The rete is inscribed with a miscellaneous marked as: PATENT. This was punched into the back of the rete. Earlier catalogue entry states that this indicates that the rete was cut from a piece of brass formerly used for something else..
The rete is attached using a nut & bolt. Round-headed bolt and nut.. More information


There are 3 plates with latitudes ranging from 21°0' to 35°0' . More information

Rules & Alidades

Type Details
AlidadeDouble-ended. Some simple scroll-work on each side of the pivot hole, else undecorated..
More information


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