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Sloane astrolabe
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This beatiful and complex object is an astrolabe. It could be used for navigating a ship by calculating latitude, but it could also be used for time-keeping (both day and night) and for surveying and casting horoscopes. Astrolabes came to Europe from the Islamic world in the Middle Ages.

This particular astrolabe could also be used to calculate the dates of the movable Christian feasts. Three of the saints’ days that could be calculated have particular connections with England: Dunstan (celebrated on 19 May), Augustine of Canterbury (26 May), and Edmund (20 November). These saints, and the fact that London is the only place mentioned on the latitude plates, suggests that this astrolabe was made in England. It is one of three astrolabes that belonged to Sir Hans Sloane, whose collections formed the foundation of the British Museum.

Sloane astrolabe


From England, c. AD 1300
D. 46 cm
Bequeathed by Sir Hans Sloane




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