Astrolabe (electrotype), thought to have been owned by Philip II of Spain

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made at Louvain, Belgium

Postcard of Astrolabe (electrotype), thought to have been owned by Philip II of Spain.
© National Museums Scotland

Astrolabe (electrotype), thought to have been owned by Philip II of Spain

An astrolabe is an instrument used by early astronomers to measure the altitude of stars and planets and also as a navigational aid. This electrotype is of an astrolabe made in Belgium by W. Arsenius and thought to have been owned by Spain's Philip II.

The Latin inscription engraved on the outermost ring on the front of the astrolabe reads 'Gualterus Arsenius Gemmae Frisii Nepos, Lovanij fecit an 1566'. This translates as 'Walter Arsenius, nephew of Gemmae Frisius, made at Louvain in 1566'.

The original astrolabe is in the Archaeological Museum of Madrid. It came to London for an exhibition in 1876, when three electrotype copies were made at £32.00 each. The other two are in the British Museum and the Science Museum in London.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-102-682-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1931.270
Date: 1876
Original: 1566; (Electrotype: 1876)
What: Astrolabe / electrotype
Subject: 3. ASTRONOMY, Astrolabes (Departmental Classification)
Who: Philip II of Spain (Former owner of astrolabe)
Where: England, London
Description: Electrotype of a bronze astrolabe, the original of which belonged to Philip II of Spain: this copy was made in London, 1876
  • For the electrotyping, see Talbot, Stuart, 'Astrolabes and Electrotypes: an Enquiry' in Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society No 46 (1995), pp 18-22 
  • For the original, see Gunther, R. T., Astrolabes of the World. London: 1932, pp 388-9 
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