Astrolabe (back)

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made in Cordoba, Spain

Postcard of Astrolabe (back).
© National Museums Scotland

Astrolabe (back)

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 back, with the alidade and pin mounted.

The author of the first treatise on the astrolabe known from Islamic Spain was Ibu as-Saffar. Two contemporary astrolabes survive from this period, both signed by his brother, their maker, Muhammad b. as-Saffar. This is the earlier of them.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-001-036-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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