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Signed by Eufrosino della Volpaia
Dated 1525; Florence
Brass; 180 mm in diameter

The rim of the mater bears an equal 24-hour scale on the outside numbered twice from 1 to 12 starting at the throne, divided to 20 minutes, subdivided to 4 minutes. The inside has a 360? altitude scale, numbered by 5? starting at the west point, divided to single degrees. The rim is soldered to the backplate. The inside of the rim has a recess at 12 o'clock underneath the throne to accommodate the tongues of the plates. The outside of the rim is marked with the names of the winds as follows (clockwise starting at the throne): 'LIBONOTUS', 'APHRICUS', 'ZEPHYRUS', 'CORUS', 'CIRCIUS', 'SEPTENTRIO', 'BOREAS', 'VVULTURNUS', 'SUBSOLANUS', 'EVRUS', 'EVRONOTUS', 'AVSTER'.

The inside of the mater is void of markings.

The throne consists of two foliate scrolls and a suspension apparatus decorated with a flower. On the front of the scrolls is the signature of the maker 'EUPHROSYN<US> VULPARIA FLORENTIN<US> FACIEBAT' , on the back the date 'ANNO D<OMI>NI M.D.XXV' is given.

The solstitial bar of the rete inside the ecliptic contains a quatrefoil. The star pointers are flame-shaped, the circle for the tropic of Capricorn is in the shape of the head and tail of a dragon. The names of 24 stars are given as follows: 'CAUDA CETI', 'VENTER CETI', 'DEXTR{RUM} LAT<US> PERSEI', 'PLEIADES [without pointer]', 'OCULUS [Taurus]', 'HIRCUS', 'SIN{ISTER} PES ORIONIS', 'DEXTER HUMERUS ORIONIS', 'CANIS MAIOR', 'CANIS MINOR', 'LUCIDA HYDRAE', 'COR [Leo]', 'DORSUM LEONIS', 'COMA BERENICIS', 'SPICA [Virgo]', 'EXT{REMA} CAUD{A} URS{AE} MA{IORIS}', 'VOCIFERATOR', 'CORONA SEPTEN{TRIONALIS}', 'COR [Scorpio]', 'CAPUT SERPENT{IS}', 'VULT{UR} VOLANS', 'VULTUR CADENS', 'CRUS [Aquarius]', 'HUMERUS EQUI'. On the reverse the star pointers are marked with the corresponding magnitudes.

The ecliptic is marked with the usual Latin names of the zodiacal signs. Each sign is divided into 30? numbered by 10? with subdivision into 2? indicated on the outside edge of the ecliptic.

The two plates are marked on both sides with the circles for the equator and the tropics, azimuths for every 15? (numbered by 15?), almucantars for every 3? (numbered by 3?), the lines for the unequal hours (numbered on plate 2 in Roman numerals I to XII), and the markings for the astrological houses in the manner of Regiomontanus (numbered 1 to 12 on plate 2. The four sides are marked and laid out for the following latitudes ('G{radus}') in Roman numerals: 1a) 42?;1b) 43?; 2a) 48?; 2b) 45?. The rete does not line up with the rim suggesting that at least one plate is missing. The washer is a later addition.

The back of the instrument bears several circular scales as follows (from the outside):

1) A concentric altitude scale 0? to 90?, marked 4 times 0? to 90? starting on the east-west line, numbered by 5?, subdivided to single degrees.

2) A concentric scale with the names of the zodiacal signs marked with the usual Latin names, each sign divided into 30?, marked by 5?, subdivided into single degrees.

3) An eccentric calendar scale marked with the usual Latin names of the months, divided into the corresponding number of days, every fifth day marked with subdivisions into single days, the equinoxes corresponding with March 11 and September 13. The bottom half of the vacant space inside these circles is taken up by a double shadow scale marked 'UMBRA RECTA' and 'UMBRA VERSA' to the base of 12 with divisions into 3 digits (numbered by 3) and subdivided into single digits. The top half contains two horary quadrants for unequal hours, marked 1 to 6.

The alidade is counterchanged, the radial rule is a replacement.

The stamp used for the '3' is very unusual, looking as if two threes were stamped into each other, one the right way round, the other upside down.

The instrument was purchased from Guiseppe Panni in 1895 and is described and illustrated in R. T. Gunther, The Astrolabes of the World (2 vols, Oxford, 1932), vol. 2, p. 328, no. 175; F. A. B. Ward, A Catalogue of European Scientific Instruments in the Department of Medieval and Later Antiquities of the British Museum (London, 1981), p. 114, no. 331 (with plate LIII).

Silke Ackermann

British Museum, London
Registration no. MLA 1895,9-15.1

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