Renaissance Astrolabes and their Makers: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Renaissance Astrolabes and their Makers

1st Edition

By Gerard L'E. Turner


310 pages

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Hardback: 9780860789031
pub: 2003-07-15

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This book is about the archaeology of science, or what can be learnt from the systematic examination of the artefacts made by precision craftsmen for the study of the natural world. An international authority on historical scientific instruments, Gerard Turner has collected here his essays on European astrolabes and related topics. By 1600 the astrolabe had nearly ceased to be made and used in the West, and before that date there was little of the source material for the study of instruments that exists for more modern times. It is necessary to 'read' the instruments themselves, and astrolabes in particular are rich in all sorts of information, mathematical, astronomical, metallurgical, in addition to what they can reveal about craftsmanship, the existence of workshops, and economic and social conditions. There is a strong forensic element in instrument research, and Gerard Turner's achievements include the identification of three astrolabes made by Gerard Mercator, all of whose instruments were thought to have been destroyed. Other essays deal with the discovery of an important late 16th-century Florentine workshop, and of a group of mid-15th-century German astrolabes linked to Regiomontanus.


'The dozen essays in this remarkably unified ensemble have been gathered together from seven different books or journals… Turner […] has produced a tour de force of perceptive erudition. 'Material culture' now rises to a truly professional and sophisticated level.' Annals of Science

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Later medieval and renaissance instruments; The craftsmanship of the 'Carolingian' astrolabe, IC 3042; A critique of the use of the first point of Aries in dating astrolabes; The astrolabe presented by Regiomontanus to Cardinal Bessarion in 1462; An astrolabe belonging to Galileo?; The Florentine workshop of Giovan Battista Giusti, 1556-c.1575; An astrolabe attributed to Gerard Mercator, c.1570; The three astrolabes of Gerard Mercator; A Tudor astrolabe by Thomas Gemini and its relationship to an astrological disc by Gerard Mercator of 1551; An astrolabe for Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma, by Erasmus Habermel; An unusual Elizabethan silver globe by Charles Whitwell; Zinner's ghosts and a curious date:1576; Index.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at [email protected]

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General