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    Fwd: Medieval Astronomical Instruments
    From: Brian Whatcott
    Date: 2002 Jun 27, 06:03 -0500

    I am relaying David's note on Rete as germane to readers of
    History of Astronomy, and the Navigation list, I expect.
    Brian Whatcott
    >From: Kingabumax---.com
    >Date: Thu, 27 Jun 2002 06:30:06 EDT
    >To: "Rete" 
    >To colleagues in the History of Science, Medieval Islamic
    >Studies, Medieval European Studies, and the History of
    >Scientific Instruments ...
    >Subject: Medieval Islamic and European Astronomical Instruments
    > From Prof. David A. King
    >Institute for History of Science
    >Johann Wolfgang Goethe University
    >D 60054 Frankfurt am Main
    >em: king{at}em.uni-frankfurt.de
    >or: kingabumax---.com
    >Tel. +49-69-7982-2754 / -2337 / -2338
    >Fax: -3275
    >Dear Colleagues,
    >There is now an updated website giving information about
    >research on medieval Islamic and European astronomical
    >instruments that has been conducted in Frankfurt over the
    >past 10 years.
    >Some of this activity has been made possible by generous
    >support from the German Research Foundation (DFG).
    >The new website features a list of publications, works in
    >press, and works in preparation by members of the Frankfurt
    >team, past and present. In these publications we have tried
    >to use astronomical instruments as historical sources within
    >their cultural and geographical contexts. Thus, for example,
    >it was possible to show that the astrolabe supposedly dedicated
    >by Regiomontanus to his patron Cardinal Bessarion in 1462
    >but branded fake, was one of close to a dozen from the same
    >or closely-related workshops, some even by the same maker.
    >Again, it has been possible  to show that various medieval
    >European instruments such  as the quadrans vetus were known
    >already in 9th-century Baghdad.  In the case of the elusive
    >navicula de Venetiis we have been able to show that all of
    >the components were known in the same milieu, as was a
    >more complicated instrument for timekeeping by the stars
    >for any latitude. New evidence from manuscripts establishes
    >the context of three brass world-maps from 17th-century
    >Iran bearing hightly-sophisticated grids preserving direction
    >and (the sine of) the distance to Mecca at the centre firmly in
    >earlier (10th and 11th century) Islamic mathematics. Some
    >of the studies concentrate on the  inscriptions (such as
    >names of the zodiacal signs and months in regional Latin or
    >local vernaculars), the geographical information explicit or
    >implicit on instruments, and others treat the instruments
    >within the general context of astronomical timekeeping or
    >as historical works of art.
    >There is also provisional table of contents (TOC) of the catalogue
    >that has been in preparation for the past few years. This TOC can
    >serve for the  present and immediate future as an ordered list of
    >instruments, arranged chronologically by provenance. I would
    >be grateful for information on any early instruments that are
    >not listed here.
    >The information on instruments from after ca. 1500 was compiled
    >about 10 years ago and in the main has not been touched since.
    >The entries for such instruments in the TOC for later instruments
    >have simply been picked up by the automatic TOC generator:
    >for many of them there are no descriptions, and none are planned.
    >Certain later sections of the catalogue/TOC have been made
    >redundant anyway by recent publications by Gerard Turner (English
    >Renaissance), Koenraad van Cleempoel (Flemish and Spanish
    >Renaissance), and the forthcoming publication by S. R. Sarma
    >(Indian instruments with inscriptions in Arabic-Persian-Sanscrit).
    >The descriptions of instruments from before ca. 1500 are in
    >reasonable shape but are not yet publishable.  The long-term
    >goal was/is to make the descriptions available, starting with
    >early Islamic instruments (to 1200) and then the earliest
    >European instruments. This will be done in small batches, and
    >some sample descriptions will eventually be put on this site.
    >For the rest there is still plenty of work to be done.
    >Any serious researcher  working on a specific group of
    >instruments is welcome to inspect the materials available here
    >or take over the descriptions of such a corpus of instruments.
    >A major problem is the lack of adequate photographic
    >documentation. Only a minority of museums are capable of
    >preparing decent photos of instruments, and costs have
    >skyrocketed. See the site EPACT mentioned below for some
    >good photos.
    >More serious problems are: 1) the fact that funding for
    >the project is virtually exhausted, and 2) the fact that most
    >of the young scholars who  have been trained here in
    >the study of instruments have moved on.
    >The website is:
    >I hope that it will stimulate some serious interest in these
    >"forgotten treasures of the Middle Ages”.
    >Yours sincerely,
    >David A. King
    >IMPORTANT:   The website
    >EPACT: Scientific Instruments of Medieval and Renaissance Europe.
    >provides illustrations and descriptions of European instruments
    >in Oxford, Florence, London (BM) and Leiden
    Brian Whatcott
       Altus OK                      Eureka!

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