Astrolabe Catalogue

Dateearly 10th century
PlaceSyria (?)
Inventory no.48470
AcquisitionPresented by J. A. Billmeir in 1957

This rete dates from quite early and, unfortunately, survives without the remainder of the instrument. Stylistically, two features reveal its age: first, the script used to label the stars and the zodiacal signs is an early Kufic script common in the early Islamic world; second, the dagger-shaped pointers are common features of early astrolabes, both the instruments themselves and the early textual illustrations of astrolabes.

Not uncommonly, a later user or owner would modify an instrument to answer to a new context. In the case of this rete, a subsequent owner (presumably of the entire astrolabe) who was more familiar with Armenian than with Arabic has translated or had translated all the Arabic words into Armenian. This linguistic artefact suggests the ease with which instruments moved, culturally and geographically, in the medieval world.

The detail at left highlights the dagger-shaped star pointer for the star scheat (منكب الفرس - 'Minkab al-Faras') below which is the Armenian equivalent. Likewise, the Kufic script for the last two zodiacal signs (here, with the unusual السسمكه - 'al-Samikh' - for Pisces). This rete is almost identical to another early rete in the collection (inventory no. 47632).

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The rete contains 17 stars. The zodiac on the rete is labelled: الحمل , الثور , الجوزا , السرطان , الاسد , السنبله , الميزان , العقرب , القوس , الجدي , الدلو , السمكه . More information


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