[Tidbits] Hebrew Astrolabe

I must admit: As I started reading the title I got a bit nervous.
extrapolating a bit before finishing reading the whole thing.
Imagine my sigh of relief when I realized the word was Astrolabe.

Not gold but brass. with a loop above for a bail to show one and all
irrefutable proof that this one is indeed jewelry. This for the
doubters who pretty subtly mentioned to me in side whispers that
last week’s chess set was not jewelry. Hmmph. Can you believe it?

But back to this portable model of the heavens. With this instrument
in one’s hands one can tell time, indulge in some surveying, and
even work out one’s position in the world by sun or stars. and…
with a bit more cast your horoscope. Imagine that there
are folks out there misguidedly still clamoring for the latest cell
phone when they might be able to get an Astrolabe. What’s more
important I ask you. playing tic tac toe on your cell phone. or
knowing where you’re situated in the universe. Equal, you say? Bah!

The astrolabe was important to the Islamic world as it facilitated
the faithful to find the direction of Mecca wherever they were. In
fact. the oldest astrolabe still in existence in an Islamic one from
the tenth century. However. the one you are about to see is a Jewish
one made a bit over 650 years ago in Spain. Circa A. D. 1345-1355.
It contains Hebrew lettering and Arabic and Spanish words and
combines both Islamic and European decorative elements. All that in
one piece of jewelry. Can you imagine? What happened to good old
strife and intolerance and we’re never going to live side by side in
peaceful harmony. never mind mixing our symbols together on an

This piece–contrary to modern day obvious truths–speaks loudly
about a great intellectual unity when the three
religions–Christianity and Judaism and Islam–coexisted peacefully.
United they made medieval Spain the intellectual forerunner of
Europe. Ah. but things change. Is the advancement of civilization
not a most wondrous thing?

The astrolabe was then on the leading cusp of technological
discoveries. This was the must-have toy of its day. the yearning of
it acquisition deeply ensconced in every young boy’s heart.

Chaucer–in fact–wrote his son Lewis a letter explaining in
un-minced words the difficulty the lad would encounter were he to
try to use and understand so complex an instrument. Presumably
Lewis–much like the youth of today–left his father floundering in
the dust unable to understand his son’s quick grasp of the astrolabe
while he could only begin to comprehend its intricacies. That
scenario–at least–has not changed to this very day. Yesterday’s
astrolabe is today’s Accelerator Mass Spectrometer. Child’s play.

Though the astrolabe looks a tad like a stopwatch. it was clearly
made by a most learned world traveler. At the time of its creation
Spain was the only place in Europe where the three religions lived
harmoniously side-by-side. Some of the symbols on it are described
in three languages though often using Hebrew lettering.

There’s more. There’s much much more. But it’s all too much for this
short format.

So… in the meantime… you know the rest. The visit to the
image… also known as the viewing experience. You know where. Home
page. http://www.tyler-adam.com. Scroll down. Left side. Tidbits.
Click. And there for your sensory optic pleasure you will see an
image of Hebrew Astrolabe in all its magnificence.

And there ya have it. That’s it for this week folks. Catch you all
next week.

Benjamin Mark

It contains Hebrew lettering and Arabic and Spanish words ......
Some of the symbols on it are described in three languages though
often using Hebrew lettering.

Hi Benjamin,

Where do you see Arabic and Spanish words? As far as I can see, it’s
all Hebrew words in Hebrew letters…:-)…

Janet in Jerusalem

Good day Janet,

eagle–is the Hebrew nesher me’offel–the flying eagle. But other
stars are given Arabic forms. So: Aldabaran in Taurus has its Arabic
name: al-dabaran written with Hebrew letters. The Herbrew letters for
the names of the months are in medieval Spanish names such as
October, November, December. Hope this helps.

Best wishes,

Hi Benjamin,

I think perhaps we are not looking at the same astrolabe
(e)…:-)… Could you possibly send me a picture with the Arabic
and Spanish words circled? Many thanks,

Janet in Jerusalem

Good day Janet,

All of the I impart–as well as much I do not impart–is
available on the Internet. May I suggest you type into Google the
words: Hebrew Astrolabe and you will find all the you are
looking for.

Good luck on your quest.

Good day Benjamin,

All of the I impart--as well as much I do not
impart--is available on the Internet. May I suggest you type into
Google the words: Hebrew Astrolabe and you will find all the
you are looking for. 

I am not looking for on Hebrew astrolabes. I was only
questioning your particular claim that a particular astrolabe had
engraved on it Arabic and Spanish words in Hebrew letters. I looked
at the photo on your website and was only able to see Hebrew words
in Hebrew letters on the astrolabe. So I asked if you could circle
the Arabic and Spanish words on the astrolabe and forward me the
annotated picture, as this would indeed be very interesting, if
true. Or, as I suggested, perhaps the picture I saw on your site was
not the picture you were referring to in Orchid’s Tidbits?

The following quote is from Episode 62—Hebrew Astrolabe—of BBC’s
History of the World radio program transcript:

“The inscriptions are all in Hebrew, you can see the finely engraved
Hebrew letters quite clearly. But what’s so intriguing about the
piece is that not all the words are Hebrew. Some of them have Arabic
origins and some are medieval Spanish. So just to give you an
example, beside a star in the constellation that we call Aquila -
the eagle - we can see written in Hebrew ‘nesher me’offel’ - ‘the
flying eagle’. But other star names are given in their Arabic form.
So Aldebaran in Taurus has its Arabic name, ‘al-dabaran’, written in
Hebrew letters. And when you read out the Hebrew letters for the
names of the months, they give you the medieval Spanish names, like
October, November, December. So what you have here is the knowledge
of the classical Greek astronomers who charted the heavens, combined
with the contributions of Muslim, Jewish and Christian scholars -
and all of that in the palm of your hand!”

If I recall correctly, this is pretty much what you had written. But
the photo you put in on your site did not contain the described
details. As it turns out, they are on the back side of the
astrolabe! Orchidians can see photos of both the front and reverse


Janet in Jerusalem