Astrolabe

This astrolabe was in the collection of the King of Oude [Oudh] at the Palace of Lucknow. According to correspondence accompanying the instrument, it was 'picked up' by a British soldier in the 90th regiment during the Indian Mutiny in 1857 when the Palace was captured by Sir Colin Campbell. It was made by one of the leading astrolabe-makers in 17th century Isfahan and is distinguished by a rete of European influence: the 'tulip' design and the bird inside the ecliptic are characteristic of the Louvain school in the middle of the 16th century. Also, the magnetic compass fitted in the throne at the front is of European inspiration. It might be that a European traveller had brought a Flemish astrolabe to Isfahan which subsequently inspired Muqim.

The triangular throne, containing a magnetic compass, is elegantly decorated with floral intertwinings. On the back the 'Throne verse' of the Qur'an (II, 255) is engraved in decorative 'naskhi' script. The rim and throne are soldered to the mater and along the rim is an inscription in Persian. The mater contains a geographical gazetteer with the coordinates of 46 localities. The five plates cover a range of even latitudes from 28° to 44°. On the back of the instrument are four concentric altitude scales, a qibla quadrant, a double shadow square, and various inscriptions including one in the top-right quadrant alluding to the date. Towards the bottom are two cartouches containing the signatures of the makers: 'Made by Muhammad Muqim al-Yazdi, may (God) forgives him'; 'Decorated by Muhammad Mahdi al-Yazdi, indigent in front of God the All-Sufficient'

Object Details

ID: AST0566
Collection: Astronomical and navigational instruments
Type: Astrolabe
Display location: Display - Traders Gallery
Creator: al-Yazdi, Muhammad Mahdi; al-Yazdi, Muhammad Muqim
Date made: circa 1645
Exhibition: Traders: The East India Company and Asia
People: al-Yazdi, Muhammad Mahdi; al-Yazdi, Muhammad Muqim
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Overall: 50 x 97 x 190 mm; Diameter: 189 mm
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