Astrolabe Catalogue

astrolabe, inventory number 47869 from England (?), ca. 1370
thumbnail for astrolabe (front), inventory number 47869 from England (?), ca. 1370
thumbnail for astrolabe (back), inventory number 47869 from England (?), ca. 1370
thumbnail for astrolabe (rete front), inventory number 47869 from England (?), ca. 1370
Dateca. 1370
PlaceEngland (?)
Inventory no.47869
AcquisitionPresented by the Misses M. E. and L. C. Hyett and by The Friends of the Old Ashmolean in 1955

The head of the dragon, shown here, is one of the most common zoomorphic features found on European retes. The ends of the outer band on the rete, the Tropic of Capricorn, were often fashioned into star pointers that resembled the head and the tail of a dragon or serpent. The tail points at the star Deneb Algiedi; the head points at Antares (here named Alacrab).

Although zoomorphic features were more common on Arabic instruments than on European astrolabes, the use of the head and tail of the dragon seems to have been mainly a European practice. Along with this instrument, the other 'Chaucerian' astrolabe (inventory no. 49359) and the related group of 14th-century English astrolabes all fashion the Tropic of Capricorn into a serpent. There is little evidence of this practice on Arabic astrolabes.

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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 other type shackle made of brass . More information


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


The back contains 5 scales of the following types: Degree; Zodiacal signs; Calendar; Saints' Days; Shadow square. More information

Rete, Pin & Wedge

The rete contains 21 stars. The rete contains zoomorphs: the tropic of capricorn ends in the head and tail of a dragon The zodiac on the rete is labelled: Aries , Taur9 , Gemi' , Canc' , Leo , Virgo , Libra , Scorpio , Sagittari9 , Capricorn9 , Aquari9 , Pisces .
The rete is attached using a pin & wedge. More information


There are 3 plates with latitudes ranging from 40°0' to 59°0' . More information

Rules & Alidades

Type Details
PointerDouble-ended, counter-changed.
AlidadeDouble-ended, counter-changed.
More information


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