Astrolabe (front)

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made in Cordoba, Spain

Postcard of Astrolabe (front).
© National Museums Scotland

Astrolabe (front)

Astrolabes can be used for time-finding, navigation, surveying, astronomy and astrology. Made in 1026 in Cordoba in Spain by an Islamic craftsman, this brass example is the earliest surviving signed and dated astrolabe made in Europe.

The photograph shows the front of the 'mater', which holds the latitude plates and the rete (none shown here) within the hollowed-out central portion. The mater contains another latitude projection engraved on it. The alidade and pin are detached.

In Islam, astrolabes could be used to calculate the time for prayer. Islamic manufacture of astrolabes continued to the 20th century, although they were obsolete in Europe by the 18th century.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-001-034-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1959.62
Date: 1026
417 AH = 1026/1027 AD
Material: Inscription: Work of Muhammad b. as-Saffar in Cordova in the year 17 and 400 (Kufic characters)
Dimensions: 155.00 mm
What: Astrolabe
Subject: 3. ASTRONOMY, Astrolabes (Departmental Classification)
Who: Muhammad b-as-Saffar, Cordova (Maker)
Where: Spain, Cordoba
Description: Brass astrolabe, the earliest surviving signed and dated astrolabe made in Europe, by Muhammad b. as-Saffar, Cordoba, Spain, 417 AH, 1026/7 AD
  • Macdonald, A. & Morrison-Low, A.D., A Heavenly Library: Treasures from the Royal Observatory's Crawford Collection. Edinburgh: Royal Observatory & NMS, 1994, p 24 
  • Turner, A. J., The Time Museum catalogue of the collection, Vol 1: Time Measuring Instruments, Part 1 Astrolabes & Astrolabe Related Instruments. Rockford: 1985, p 115 
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