Books & Arts | Published:

A precise past

    Astrolabes at Greenwich

    Edited by:
    Oxford University Press, £99.50, $179.50 0198530692 | ISBN: 0-198-53069-2
    Credit: NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM, LONDON

    In its day it served both as a thing of beauty and as a precise, portable calculator and observational tool. The astrolabe was used in astronomy, navigation and surveying, and by Muslims to determine the direction of Mecca and the times of prayer. An important scientific instrument from antiquity to the Renaissance, it was so perfectly designed that it remained in its essentials unchanged for 1,500 years.

    Astrolabes at Greenwich, edited by Koenraad van Cleempoel (Oxford University Press, £99.50, $179.50), explores the collection of more than 50 astrolabes at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, London. The engraved Safavid example shown here, from around 1660, exquisitely fuses art and science

    B.K.

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