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astrolabe, inventory number 45747 from Persia, 1647/8 (A.H. 1057)astrolabe, inventory number 45747 from Persia, 1647/8 (A.H. 1057) 








Safavid astrolabes:

Planispheric astrolabe, dated 1057/1647-8 
signed by Muḥammad Muqīm al-Yazdī
Oxford, Museum for the History of Science
Inventory no. 45747
astrolabe, inventory number 45747 from Persia, 1647/8 (A.H. 1057)
This lavish astrolabe was made for the Safavid ruler Shah Abbas II. He is described on the front as 'The supreme prince, the sultan, the most just, the most great, lord of the centres of command, remover of the causes of tyranny and rebellion, king of the kings of the age', while the back expresses the wish that 'May God Almighty perpetuate his Kingdom and his Empire and cause his justice and his benefits to spread over the worlds while the spheres revolve and the planets continue their courses.' These inscriptions appear on the throne at the top of the astrolabe. The sultan also had his name worked into the elaborate tracery of the rete.


The throne is of the indo-persian, engraved type . The throne is attached with a integrated base. Inscriptions decorate both sides of the throne
Front of astrolabe without rete or plates. Click to enlarge


The ring is of the simple, round cross-section type (i.e. simple plain ring made from a round rod or piece of metal). 


Shackle of the omega type (i.e. Ω-shaped shackle). . 


The mater and limb are of one-piece construction. The tab that holds the plates from rotating is located at the bottom of the instrument. Scales on the limb:
TypeRange & UnitsNumberedGeometryLocation
Degree 0 - 360 Degrees Every 5 degrees Circular, concentric outer


The womb contains a gazetteer with coordinates for 45 cities:
(on instrument)
(when known)
مشهد مقدس Meshhad Muqaddas 92°30 37°00 45°06  
نيشابور Nishapur 92°30 36°21 46°25  
سبزوار Sabzawar 91°30 36°05 44°12  
بسطام Basṭam 89°30 36°10 39°13  
دامغان Damghan 88°00 36°20 38°05  
سمنان Semnan 88°00 36°00 36°17  
استراباد Asterabad 89°35 36°50 38°48  
طالقان Taliqan 85°45 36°10 29°33  
رى Rayy 87°20 35°00 36°26  
قم Qom 85°40 34°45 31°45  
كاشان Kashan 86°00 34°00 34°31  
اربيل Arbil 77°20 35°30 00°45  
مراغه Maragheh 82°00 37°20 16°17  
تبريز Tabriz 82°00 38°00 15°40  
اردبيل Ardabil 82°30 38°00 17°13  
كنجه Ganjah 83°00 41°20 15°49  
بردع Barda‘ah 83°00 40°30 16°27  
تفليس Tiflis 83°00 43°00 14°41  
شيروان Shirwan 84°30 40°50 20°09  
سرمن راى Surra Man Ra’a 79°00 34°00 07°56  
كوفه Kufa 79°30 31°30 12°31  
بغداد Baghdad 80°00 33°25 12°45  
واسط Wasit 81°30 32°20 20°54  
بصره Basr 84°00 30°00 37°59  
شوشتر Shushtar 84°30 31°30 35°24  
شيراز Shiraz 88°00 29°36 33°38  
يزد Yazd 89°00 32°00 48°28  
همدان Hamadan 83°00 35°10 22°16  
ساوه Sawah 85°00 35°00 29°16  
قزوين Qazvin 85°00 36°00 27°34  
اصفهان Iṣfahan 86°40 32°25 40°18  
كرمان Kerman 93°00 29°50 62°51  
سمرقند Samarqand 99°16 39°37 54°54  
بخارا Bukhara 97°30 39°50 49°38  
خوارزم Kwarizm 94°30 42°07 40°47  
بدخشان Badakhshan 104°24 37°10 54°09  
بلخ Balkh 101°00 36°41 57°36  
مرو Marw 97°00 37°40 12°30  
شراخس Sarakhs 94°30 37°00 51°14  
هراة Herat 94°20 34°30 54°08  
زوزن Zuzan 93°30 35°20 51°23  
قاين Qayen 93°20 33°40 54°01  
جنابد Janabad 92°00 34°00 52°35  
تون Tun 92°30 34°30 50°20  
طبس كيلكيه Tabas Gilaki 92°00 33°00 52°55  
Planispheric astrolabe, Safavid period (1501–1722), dated 1065 /1654–55
Signed by Muhammad Zaman al–Munajjim al–Asturlabi
Iran, Mashhad



Brass and steel; cast and hammered, pierced and engraved; H. 8 1/2 in. (21.6 cm), W. 6 3/4 in. (17.1 cm), D. 2 1/4 in. (15.7 cm)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1963 (63.166a–j)




An elegant Safavid astrolabe with an unusual throne cut with a symmetrical design bordering on floral

signed Muhammad Mahdi al-Khadim al-Yazdi, Persia, circa 1660



Three invocations are tightly engraved on the three flat surfaces:
"O he who has (ya man lahu) the .... (?)", "O he who has the power, and praise be to (him)," and "O he who has the dominion, and praise be (to him)."

The outer scale of the limbus is divided into labelled 5° intervals but not further subdivided. The rim is engraved with the famous Throne Verse from the Qur'an.

The rete is a later replacement.

There are four plates, with astrolabic markings for latitudes 22°, 30°, 32°, 34°, 35°, 36°, and a set of horizons.  Those for 32° and 22° would serve Isfahan and Mecca.  The altitude circles are for each 3° and the azimuth circles are for each 9° (unusual, but attested elsewhere).  On some plates, markings are given for the hours after sunset and before sunrise in addition to the standard seasonal hours. 

The mater is engraved with a gazetteer arranged in a spiral with 30 sets of entries for 29 localities, the top sector being labelled "directions (abbreviations corresponding to the four quadrants of the horizon), localities, longitudes, latitudes and qiblas (inhirafat).  The data is standard for Isfahan astrolabes. 

The back is typical of the Safavid productions.  The outer scale is divided and labelled for each 5° and subdivided for each 1°.  In the upper left there is a trigonometric quadrant with horizontal parallels for each 1° and superposed on this are the markings for a universal horary quadrant.  In the upper right is a solar quadrant with curves displaying graphically the altitudes of the sun at midday for a series of latitudes and the altitudes of the sun when it is in azimuth of the qibla at a series of cities, including Kufa, Baghdad, Isfahan and Tus.  Below the horizontal diameter are scales and tables displaying standard astrological information.  Below a double shadow square to bases 7 and 12 there is a cartouche bearing an inscription: "Made by Muhammad Mahdi al-Khadim al-Yazdi."