Online Literature on Islamic Astrolabes and related subjects

Note: This bibliography is under construction and contains only literature that can be downloaded for free.

Introduction to astrolabes in general

James E. Morrison, The Astrolabe, Rehoboth 2006 scan (
J.D. North, article "The Astrolabe", Scientific American vol. 230 no. 1 (January 1974), pp. 96-107, available on JSTOR,
Astrolabe manual by Timothy Mitchell


Rob van Gent   Hüseyin Şen
Geogebra Animation   with Manual explaining the formulas (in English), by Manuel García Piqueras (2016), Albacete; see also his introduction (in Spanish)

Islamic astrolabes in general or Eastern Islamic astrolabes

David A. King, In Synchrony with the Heavens vol. 2, Instruments of Mass Calculation, 2005, download.
David A. King's publications can be accessed through the website, click on research.
S.R.Sarma, A descriptive catalogue of Indian Astronomical Instruments (includes more than 1000 pages on Islamic astrolabes), the newest version (2021) can be downloaded free of charge from
Webpage with excellent articles on hundreds of Islamic astronomers, in html (with hyperlinks) and pdf, in Thomas Hockey, ed., Biographical Encyclopaedia of Astronomers, New York, Springer, 2007.

Individual authors or instrument makers in the Eastern Islamic world:

Al-Biruni: Al-Biruni, Exhaustive discussion of all possible ways to construct an astrolabe (IstI`Ab al-wujUh al-mumkina fI .sanat al-as.turlAb), edition of the Arabic text by Mohammad Akbar Jawadi al-Hosseini, Meshed, 1422 A.H. (lunar), scan. An Arabic manuscript (London, India Office 5593) of this work by al-Biruni is online, see scan (pdf) ( or go to Qatar Digital Library. For editions and translations of the works of al-Biruni in general see my website
Al-Farghani: R.Lorch, Al-Farghani on the astrolabe, Arabic Text edited with translation and commentary, Wiesbaden 2005, scan ( Two Arabic manuscript (British Library Or 14720 ff. 21b-73a, Or. 5479 ff. 37b-85a) of al-Farghani's work al-Kamil on the astrolabe are online, scan of Or 14270 (pdf) ( or go to Qatar Digital Library, link, for the other manuscript see link. On al-Farghani see the article by Gregg de Young in html and pdf.
W.H. Morley, Description of a planispheric astrolabe, constructed for Shah Sultan Husain Safawi, King of Persia, and now preserved in the British Museum, London 1856, 50 S. 21 Plates, reprinted in Sezgin, AIOS vol. 1, pp. 249-325. (Still a very good and detailed description of an astrolabe with all Arabic technical terminology explained) Photos of the astrolabe itself (in the British museum)

Western Islamic astrolabes

Anonymous, archived article on the principle of the Saphea Arzachelis (Zarqali plate).
L.-A. Sédillot, Mémoire sur les instruments astronomiques des Arabes, 1841 (Mémoires présentés par divers savants à l'Académie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres) digital version (
L.- A. Sédillot, Matériaux pour servir à l'histoire comparée des sciences mathématiques chez les Grecs et les Orientaux, Paris, 1845-1849, 2 vols., paginated serially, digital version ( Part of vol. 1 is about the astrolabe.
F. Woepcke, Über ein in der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin befindliches arabisches Astrolabium, 1858,
reprinted in F. Sezgin, Islamic Mathematics and Astronomy vol. 86, pp. 1-36. Available online.

Literature on transmission to the Christian world:

Alphonsine treatises (written for King Alfons X of Castilia, ca. 1250 CE): manuscript of the Libros del Saber de Astronomia at the Library of the Universidad Complutense in Madrid is available online, p. 157 is approximately the beginning of the part on the Universal Astrolabe.
Alphonsine books: Edition by M. Rico y Sinobas, Libros del Saber de Astronomia del Rey D. Alfonso X de Castilla, vol. 3, Madrid 1864.
Download vol. 3, the two parts (by clicking on the images). The first part contains the preface by Rico y Sinobas plus p. 1-234 of the editions:
p. 1-132, Libros de la Lamina Universal, , the first book (p. 1-10 with nice pictures) is by Rabicag, the Libro Segundo (p. 11-132) is by Ali ibn Khalaf.
p. 133-234 plus 235-237 Libro de Acafeha by Azarquiel (pictures on p. 143 of the back side with the orthographic projection; between p. 147 and 149 both sides of the Zarqaliyya plate). The second part includes the last two pages of al-Zarqalluh's work plus a treatise on equatoria which does not concern us here.
Volume 3 was reprinted in F. Sezgin, Islamic Mathematics and Astronomy vol. 111, Frankfurt 2002. .
Pseudo-Mashallah (author identified as Maslama al-Majriti by Kunitsch), The astrolabe by Messehallah (Latin manuscript and text, with English translation) printed in Gunther, Early Science in Oxford, vol. 5, Oxford 1920., pp. 137-231. Download in pdf or other formats( The same volume 5 contains on pp. 1-136 the treatise on the astrolabe by Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1340-1400). Note that Gunther's translation of the text by pseudo-Mashallah contains many errors, because Gunther did not understand all the details of the construction of an astrolabe.
New edition of the pseudo-Mashallah text by Ron B. Thomson available here (University of Oklahoma)
Julio Samsó, Maslama al-Majriti and the Alphonsine book on the construction of the astrolabe, Journal for the History of Arabic Science, 4 (1980) pp. 3-8. Available online: the first page (3) is at, the next pages can be accessed from there, or also here: 4   5   6   7   8.

Related subjects:

N. Sidoli, J.L. Berggren, The Arabic version of Ptolemy's Planisphere or Flattening the Surface of the Sphere: Text, Translation, Commentary, SCIAMVS pp. 37-139, download (Text by Ptolemy of Alexandria explaining what can be interpreted as basic constructions of the astrolabe)

Emilie Savage-Smith, and Andrea P. Belloli, Islamicate Celestial Globes: Their History, Construction, and Use. Washington 1985, free download via this webpage (Smithsonian Institute)

Journal for the History of Arabic Science (Aleppo) is available in digital form at Yale: see

Museum websites with large collections of Islamic astrolabes and good pictures available online:

Oxford, History of Science Museum, Astrolabe Homepage: (use the browse function to see what they have)

Chicago, Adler Planetarium, Collections Home Page (gives access to a search function)