Lot 92
  • 92

A large brass astrolabe, signed by Diya' al-Dîn Muhammad al-Lahurî, India, dated 1069 AH/1658-59 AD

180,000 - 200,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Brass
composed of a mater ('umm) cast in one piece with the high, symmetrically fretted kursî, the tracery of which is engraved with stylised leaf decoration, carrying a shackle and loop, containing five detacheable plates and fitted with a bottom lug for locking the plates in place, openwork rete held in place with alidade and stylised 'horse'


In good overall condition, has had a light clean, replacement 'horse' for keeping pin in place, a few losses to the metal-openworked rete, some minor patches of oxidisation and rubbing to surface, each plate with a lot of discoloration and oxidisation, few minor knicks and bends, as viewed.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This is a previously-unrecorded production of the prolific family of astrolabists which flourished in Lahore from circa 1565 to circa 1675. It is signed by Diya' al-Dîn Muhammad, who was a representative of the fourth generation of the family. He is known by some two dozen astrolabes and sixteen celestial globes made between 1650 and 1660.

The throne is elegantly worked à jour. The shackle and ring are original. The rete is decorated with an intricate foliate design that achieves an elegant symmetry. It is distinguished by six closed shapes within the upper ecliptic. A part of the rete below the ecliptic has been lost, and the circumferential frame is distorted on the lower left. The star-names are written in a very small script and not all are discernible; we do not reproduce them here. The mater is engraved with a gazetteer giving longitudes and latitudes for 108 localities in Greater Iran and India.

The five plates are competently executed in careful detail. The standard-type plates for latitudes 22°, 25°, 27°, 28°, 32°, and 36°, have altitude circles for each 2° and azimuth circles for each 6°. There is also a plate bearing both markings for 0° and 90° on its two halves, another for latitude 66 ½ ° for converting ecliptic and equatorial coordinates, as well as a plate of half horizons organised in four batches.

The back bears the standard trigonometric and astrological markings of all astrolabes of the Lahore school. There is a sexagesimal trigonometric quadrant in the upper left and a solar quadrant in the upper right. The latter has two curves for the meridians of latitudes 27° and 32°, perhaps serving Jaipur and Lahore. Inside the double shadow squares is astrological information and a table of the function named fadl al-dawr. This is the excess of revolution (revolutio anni in medieval Latin) or the time measured in degrees of daily rotation (360° = 24h) by which the solar year exceeds 365 days. This function, of use in astrology, is tabulated in several medieval Islamic astronomical handbooks. The inscription below the shadow squares translates:

'Made by Diyâ' al-Dîn Muhammad Ibn Qâ'im Muhammad Ibn Mullâ cÎsâ Ibn Ilâh-dâd (also, Allâh-dâd) al-Asturlâbî al-Humayûnî al-Lâhûrî in the year 1059 of the Hijra.'

The pin and the alidade, which has suffered considerable corrosion, are original but the 'horse' for holding the ensemble together is missing.

Literature: Sarma, 'Lahore Astrolabists'; Sarma, The Archaic and the Exotic.

We are grateful for the assistance of Professor David King in cataloguing this lot.