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Armillary Sphere
circa 1580; Italian
Brass; 995 mm in height

This large instrument, supported by three lions, is one of the most impressive in the collection of the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford. It also has one of the most complete and interesting provenances.

The base of the instrument carries the arms of Henry Percy, ninth Earl of Northumberland (1564-1632), known as 'the Wizard Earl' on account of his interests in astronomy, astrology, alchemy and other branches of natural philosophy. He employed mathematicians such as Thomas Harriot, Walter Warner and Thomas Hughes during his 16-year imprisonment in the Tower of London on suspicion of involvement in the Gunpowder Plot.

This instrument was presented to the Bodleian Library in 1601 by Sir Josias Bodley, the brother of the Library's founder, and it has remained in Oxford since 1613.

Museum of the History of Science, Oxford
Inventory number 70229

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