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astrolabe

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1855,0709.1

  • Description

    Astrolabe. Made of brass inlaid with silver and copper.

  • Producer name

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1236 (AH 633)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 46 centimetres (overall height including the throne)
    • Diameter: 32.9 centimetres
    • Thickness: 5.8 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

        maker's mark
      • Inscription Language

        Arabic
      • Inscription Comment

        Gives the name of the maker, Abd al-Karim al-Misri, who was originally from Egypt.
  • Curator's comments

    Astrolabe
    Brass, inlaid with silver and copper.
    Made by Abd al-Karim al-Misri
    The Jazira (probably Mayyafarikin) dated AH633/1235-36 AD
    1855 7-9 1

    The astrolabe is an object probably invented by the Greeks in the 2nd century BC. Knowledge of it was transmitted to the Muslims through the translation of Hellenistic and Byzantine texts into Arabic. The translation of scientific texts was done in Baghdad in the early Abbasid era, and the earliest astrolabes and astrolabe treatises date to the 9th century. The astrolabe provides a two- dimensional map of the heavens and it served in particular to find the direction of Mecca which Muslims face when they pray; and was used to determine the times of the times of prayer which were astrologically defined. This extremely important example has figural designs representing the constellations on the front and back. It gives the name of the artist who made it ,‘Abd al-Karim, who is known through other signed astrolabes.This instrument is noted as an early example of a 'royal' astrolabe, similar to one signed by the same maker in the Oxford MHS. Both of these astrolabes are more elaborate than the three other astrolabes of an early date made in Damascus and signed by al-Sarraj al-Dimashqi, which are now in the NMM Greenwich (AST0548, cat. pp. 210-16), Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad and Raza Library, Rampur; see K.van Cleempoel, Astrolabes at Greenwich, Oxford 2005, fig. 7.2, p. 78 and discussion, p. 216.Gunther, R.T. (1932), 'The Astrolabes of the World', Oxford: Oxford University Press. Volume I, astrolabe no.104 (p236)

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  • Bibliography

    • Ward R 2004a bibliographic details
    • Lippincott 1999 p.105, cat.095 bibliographic details
    • Barrett 1949a pls19-20 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    2010 29 May-15 Oct, USA, Kentucky Horse Park, 'A Gift from the Desert'
    1999 1 Dec-2000 24 Sep, London, The Queen’s House, The Story of Time

    Exhibition: Brussels

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1855

  • Department

    Middle East

  • Registration number

    1855,0709.1

Astrolabe. Made of silver, copper inlaid and engraved brass. See AN8075 for the back view.

Astrolabe. Made of silver, copper inlaid and engraved brass. See AN8075 for the back view.

Image description

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Object reference number: RRM9662

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