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  • Place of origin:

    Iran (made)

  • Date:

    1667 (dated)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Isfahani, Muhammad Khalil (maker)
    Yazdi, Muhammad Mahdi (engraver)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraved and chased brass

  • Credit Line:

    Clarke-Thornhill Gift

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery, case 9W

This astrolabe was made in Isfahan in 1667. It could have been used in scientific enquiry. It might have served religious purposes, such as telling the times of the five daily prayers or establishing the direction of Mecca. Astrolabes were also used in astrology, for example to cast horoscopes.

For centuries, the astronomers of the Islamic Middle East led the world in their knowledge of the heavens. Astronomical instruments such as globes and astrolabes were produced in large numbers to a very high standard.

Like the celestial globe, the astrolabe was inherited from Greek and Roman astronomy. It shows the relative positions of the sun and stars on a flat surface. The solid plates are engraved for different latitudes. To use the astrolabe, astronomers placed one plate in the casing (mater) under the openwork disc (rete). The rete is a star map with pointers showing the position of the stars. They moved it to the correct position once an observation has been made with the sighting device (alidade).

Physical description

Brass, pierced and engraved. Signed as made by Khalil (Muhammad) son of Husayn 'Ali, and decorated by Muhammad Mahdi son of Amin of Yazd.

Place of Origin

Iran (made)


1667 (dated)


Isfahani, Muhammad Khalil (maker)
Yazdi, Muhammad Mahdi (engraver)

Materials and Techniques

Engraved and chased brass


Height: 18.6 cm including suspension ring

Descriptive line

Astrolabe, Iran (Isfahan), dated 1667.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Tim Stanley ed., with Mariam Rosser-Owen and Stephen Vernoit, Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, V&A Publications, 2004; p. 13, plate 11

Labels and date

Brass, pierced and engraved.
Signed as made by Khalil (Muhammad) son of Husayn' Ali, and decorated by Muhammad Mahdi son of Muhammad Amin of Yazd.
PERSIAN; third quarter 17th century.
Clarke-Thornhill gift. [Used until 10/2002]
Iran, Isfahan
Dated 1667
Brass, cast and sheet, pierced and engraved. Made by Muhammad Khalil Isfahani and engraved by Muhammad Mahdi Yazdi
Museum no. M.38-1916 [Jameel Gallery]


Brass (alloy)


Engraving (incising); Chased


Images Online; Science


Middle East Section

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