Astrolabe Catalogue

astrolabe, inventory number 37940 from Persia, early 18th century
thumbnail for astrolabe (front), inventory number 37940 from Persia, early 18th century
thumbnail for astrolabe (back), inventory number 37940 from Persia, early 18th century
thumbnail for astrolabe (rete front), inventory number 37940 from Persia, early 18th century
Dateearly 18th century
Maker’Abd al-’Alī
Inventory no.37940
AcquisitionPresented by J. A. Billmeir in 1957

The highly decorative Persian astrolabes of the 17th and early 18th centuries achieved a great vogue and during the next two centuries were frequently imitated in a somewhat degenerate manner, usually still well crafted and handsome, but often inaccurate in their astronomical content and functionality and meaningless in some of their inscriptions. A forgery as distinct from an imitation is such an instrument that makes false claim to a particular date or maker's name. This example uses the name of 'Abd al-'Alī, an astrolabist maker associated with the Iṣfahān group of instrument makers of the first decades of the 18th century. The most obvious clue is the almost totally symmetrical rete, which is an impossibility since it is meant to be a map of real star positions. For a genuine astrolabe by 'Abd al-'Ali see inventory no. 40330.

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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 ornate ring made of brass and omega type shackle made of brass . More information


The mater and limb are of one-piece construction. The limb lacks any tab or notch used hold the tympans in place.. Scales on the limb: degree scale. More information


The scales on the back are all incorrect. The back contains 11 scales of the following types: Altitude; Sine/Cosine; Declination; Cotangent; Terms; Zodiacal signs; Faces; Lunar Mansions; Shadow square; Triplicities. The back is inscribed: with a maker's signature marked as العلي عبد صنعه (‘Abd al-‘Ali made this). More information

Rete, Pin & Horse

The rete contains 0 stars. The rete contains zoomorphs: a bird in the center of the ecliptic, supposedly indicating the star vega The zodiac on the rete is labelled: الحمل , الثور , الجوزا , السرطان , الاسد , السنبله , الميزان , العقرب , القوس , الجدي , الدلو , الحوت .
The rete is attached using a pin & horse. The horse is missing.. More information


There are 3 plates with latitudes ranging from 32°0' to 38°0' . More information

Rules & Alidades

Type Details
AlidadeDouble-ended. This rule is extensively engraved with abdjad numerals, intended to resemble scales. They do not, however, correspond to any recognizable scale..
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