You may not have heard of an astrolabe, but it remains the most used multipurpose astronomical instrument in history. Earliest examples date from around 200BC, but they rose to prominence in the Middle East and Europe in the Middle Ages. Essentially, it’s an elaborate inclinometer-cum-slide rule, used to measure the altitude above the horizon of a celestial body. It can be used to identify stars or planets, to determine local latitude, to survey, and even determine your horoscope. The arrival, in the 17th-18th centuries, of accurate sextants and reliable portable chronometers rendered the astrolabe obsolete for navigation at sea, but it remains a fascinating and little-understood instrument. Our replica, in polished brass, sits in a wooden plinth and stands 7" tall.
Brass - an alloy of copper and zinc - is easy to work with, can be polished to a gleaming shine, and it has a high degree of corrosion resistance, making it the traditional choice of metal for use in harsh marine environments.
Astrolabe - the little-known GPS of Ancient Times
Height 17.5 cm