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Globe, Astronomy, Armillary Sphere, Ptolemaic, Continental, Mid 20th Century


Ptolemaic Armillary Sphere
Continental, Mid 20th Century
Pasteboard with printed paper
Ebonized wood base
14 inches high; 8 inch diameter sphere, 7 inch width base

A Continental Ptolemaic armillary sphere, probably made in Italy or Spain. It is of traditional form made of pasteboard with applied printed paper. The meridian contains an internal rotating spherical armillary ring structure comprised of polar circles, tropical circles (Capricorn and Cancer), and equator — all joined by an equinoctial and a solstitial colure and surrounded by a planar zodiac band with colored images of the signs of the zodiac in the Baroque taste. In the center of the ring structure is a rotating simple sphere representing the earth. The horizon band with calendar and zodiac is raised on a bright red painted wooden stand with four upswept curved quadrant supports, raised on four counterposed downswept curved legs, resting on an octagonal ebonized base with inset printed paper compass set under glass with compass needle.

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Demonstrational armillary spheres were commonly produced in England, France and Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries to show various basic principles of astronomy, and continued to be manufactured in the 20th century. An armillary sphere with the earth at the center is known as Ptolemaic, and an armillary sphere with the sun at the center is known as Copernican. Ptolemy (2nd Century A.D), an Alexandrian astronomer believed that the earth was at the center of the universe. Ptolemaic armillary spheres were produced in Islamist countries, reaching advanced levels as early as the 10th century. Notwithstanding that Ptolemaic armillaries have a globe in the center (rather than the sun), they were created to show modern principles of astronomy including the ecliptic plane of the earth and how that relates to the apparent path of the sun and the visibility of various constellations in the zodiac throughout the year.

Condition: Armillary sphere very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, handling, warping. Stand very good with the usual overall light wear, warping, shrinkage.


Allmayer-Beck, Peter E., ed. Modelle der Welt: Erd-und Himmelsgloben — Kulturerbe aus oesterreichischen Sammlungen. [Models Of The World: Terrestrial And Celestial Globes — Cultural Inheritance from Austrian Collections.] Vienna: Bibliophile Edition/Christian Brandstaetter Verlagsgesellschaft, 1997. p. 156.

Dahl, Edward H. and Gauvin, Jean-François. Sphaerae Mundi: Early Globes at the Stewart Museum. Canada: Septentrion and McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000. p. 150.

Dekker, Elly, et al. Globes at Greenwich: A Catalogue of the Globes and Armillary Spheres in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. London: Oxford University Press and the National Maritime Museum, 1999. p. 352.

Dekker, Elly and van der Krogt, Peter. Globes from the Western World. London: Zwemmer, 1993. pp. 70, 74.

Tooley, R.V. Maps and Map-Makers. 4th Ed. New York: Bonanza Books, 1970. p. 44.

Khan, Samia. The Armillary Sphere: A Concentrate of Knowledge in Islamic Astronomy. Manchester, UK: FSTC Ltd., December 2007. pp. 2-13.

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