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10. Medieval Jews and Medieval Astrolabes: Where, Why, How, and What For?

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Chapter Summary

This chapter talks about the astrolabe in medieval Jewish culture. The planispheric astrolabe, the type considered in this research and the most frequently described in medieval manuscripts, is based on the stereographic projection of the circles of specific horizons on a certain number of flat plates usually made of brass and on the stereographic projection of the solar path and certain fixed stars on the so-called 'rete' (a specific type of plate with openwork). There are four treatises on the astrolabe written by the Jewish polymath Abraham Ibn Ezra, who was an astronomer, astrologer, grammarian, poet, mathematician, and biblical interpreter. The first version is possibly the least concerned with astrology of the three Hebrew versions on the astrolabe. Above all, Jews made the astrolabe theirs through the Hebrew language: translating the instrument and describing it with Hebrew words in the treatises that are extant.

Keywords: astrolabe; astrology; Hebrew treatises; medieval Jews



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