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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantstic *Modern* Astrolabe Book
First, if you're interested at all in astrolabes, this is the single best, most informative, most comprehensive book I've found. It's clear, concise and well illustrated. I'm very tempted to use the chapter on stereographic projections in my GIS classes.

It doesn't have many illustrations of historic instruments, but that's not it's focus. You can find those in...
Published on February 11, 2008 by DRK

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5 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lost in space
The astrolabe has to rank as one of the most important scientific instruments of the ages. Sadly, it is still waiting for a book that does it justice, as The Astrolabe tells you more about the author and his views than about the astrolabe itself.

The text is dead and uninvolving, the history of this incredible device presented in a drone that could be marketed...
Published on December 22, 2010 by thesci-figuy


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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantstic *Modern* Astrolabe Book, February 11, 2008
By 
DRK (Colorado) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Astrolabe (Paperback)
First, if you're interested at all in astrolabes, this is the single best, most informative, most comprehensive book I've found. It's clear, concise and well illustrated. I'm very tempted to use the chapter on stereographic projections in my GIS classes.

It doesn't have many illustrations of historic instruments, but that's not it's focus. You can find those in the Time Museum or Western Astrolabes book and get more nuts and bolts info about the production process from Scientific Instruments of Elizabethan England. But for creating and using an astrolabe, you can't find a better reference- UNLESS you really want to use period processes. He doesn't even try to show how it was done, dismissing it with "Readers interested in the mathematical approach used in the Middle Ages are referred to Thomson for a thorough treatment"- that would be the translation of de Plana Spera. As I keep telling my daughter, life gets boring if you don't have anything to long for. I'll start saving the (argh!) $150 for that next.

The contents (with the exception of using trig instead of geometry to create the layout) are exceptional. The physical book is less so. I plan on using this heavily and I don't think it's going to hold up. The paperback cover is glued to the front and back pages to try to give it some stability, but the glue is already losing its hold. The pages themselves are glued in rather than bound. I know there wasn't a real choice in that, but it's a thick book and it's not going to hold up well- think of the Calvin and Hobbes collectors' editions. The paper is already yellowing and I just got it last week. I *know* these choices had to be made to keep the cost of the book down to something that wouldn't make people scream, but I'm going to take it to Kinkos and have it drilled so I can capture it inside a 3 ring binder. I'm not going to risk losing any of the pages. It has enough white space to make that feasible and still have room left over for notes.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, March 14, 2008
This review is from: The Astrolabe (Paperback)
This book summarizes 300 years of knowledge found in previous books, in a clear style and with accurate drawings. I use to read Henri Michel's treatise on astrolabes, and D'Hollander book. Both were interesting but more difficult to read and use, even though they are in French, my language.
Morrison's book allowed me to understand how astrolabes work and are drawn. I applied this knowledge to my shareware program Shadows that draws and animates astrolabes on screen. Thank you James Morrison for making this possible, thanks to your excellent book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary, in Depth Look at One of the Earliest Scientific Wonders, January 2, 2010
This review is from: The Astrolabe (Paperback)
I saw my first astrolabe in a museum and was absolutely blown away. The sheer wonder of something that mapped the heavens in one dimension, essentially the first portable (analog) computer, overwhelmed me. It was used to tell time, cast horoscopes, predict astronomical events, and survey. In short, it was an instrument from ages when science, metaphysics and art were much more closely aligned. I spent time googling the subject, ran across Mr. Morrison's book and went the extra mile and bought the sturdier hardcover, and don't regret it. The book describes the machine's origins from the astronomer/astrologers of Classical Greece to the construction and sophisticated innovations by their Moslem intellectual heirs to the artistic constructions of late Renaissance Europe. No sage, scholar, or magician of merit would be found without an astrolabe of his own - even if it was just a paper version. The book goes into the nitty gritty of astrolabe math, construction, operations, and all known astrolabe variations. It also goes into a little detail on astrolabe computer programs and programming. There are some minor print errors, but if you email Mr. Morrison he'll gladly send you a .pdf of corrected pages. Overalll this is a spectacular book for anyone fascinated by history, science, and astronomy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sundialer's view, July 10, 2008
By 
PLT (Newbury, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Astrolabe (Paperback)
As a sundial enthusiast, I enjoy puzzling over the geometry of the heavens and have always admired astrolabes, though never really explored them. Armed with this book, I have been able to do so with huge enjoyment.
It covers the history, though not in great depth, and the engraving of all the scales on every variety of astrolabe and all related devices - quadrants in particular but also some sundials and astronomical clocks.

This book is all about the geometry - how the scales were divided and so on, not how they were made, where or by whom. There are few photographs of astrolabes.
I have found some errors in the mathematics, and have found the author very grateful for my pointing them out.

The book covers an immense number of topics in great detail but can be difficult to navigate. The organisation seems to assume rather a high level of knowledge, or patience. Many items are eventually explained, but perhaps not when first raised. Cross references, the Glossary and Index are poor for a 400 page book. The Bibliography lacks ISBN numbers. Many older books and exquisite photographs of museum collections are now available on-line, so URLs would be useful, though they can date rather quickly.

Bringing the subject right up-to-date, Morrison includes code fragments (in Basic and C) for all the calculations needed to get a computer to draw an astrolabe, but they are so long that a CD or Web link would have been welcome.

If, as I do, you already own books on the history of instruments you may wonder if you need this book. I'd say yes, if you have any interest in the geometry and certainly, if you want to make an astrolabe. But no, if you're interested in decorative styles, want a coffee-table book or a guide to prices.

As other reviewers have noted, the binding and paper quality are poor. The value in this book is in what's written on the pages, which, in my experience, do make it the definitive book on the astrolabe.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE astrolabe book to have, March 7, 2008
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This review is from: The Astrolabe (Paperback)
I've been waiting for this book to be published for years, so I was very excited to get it, though $60 for a paperback is pretty steep. It's well worth it though: almost 400 pages of detailed information, including over 200 diagrams. I've been following Mr. Morrison's website, [...] for many years, and corresponded with him briefly several years ago when I had some questions about how to lay out an astrolabe geometrically. He was very gracious and helpful.

This book is THE astrolabe book. It's a modern treatment that includes computer code as well as ancient methods for laying out astrolabes. It includes all kinds of variations, including a "linear astrolabe" that consists of a marked stick and three strings, which the Arabs used about 800 years ago. It's amazing what the human mind can do with very little in the way of actual material stuff. He also includes the "universal astrolabe" that works at all latitudes, and several versions of the "quadrant astrolabe" that is essentially an astrolabe folded in quarters and printed on a card. There's a fair amount of history, and lots of math (nothing beyond high-school trig). He takes both a geometric and analytic approach, with diagrams as well as formulas. His explanation of why and how the linear astrolabe works was amazing.

I have both of John Lamprey's books (both highly recommended. I think he's still selling them: lamprey at frii dot com) and have also read Chaucer's book. I'm very glad to have added this one to my shelf.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is "the" book on Astrolabes, October 18, 2010
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This review is from: The Astrolabe (Paperback)
Anything you want to know about Astrolabes - how they work, how to make one, whatever, you'll find in this book. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My astrolabe is fantastic!, February 13, 2010
By 
Wojciech Lublinn (Stockholm, Sweden) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: The Astrolabe (Paperback)
It is not necessery to write much. This book is just marvellous. There are everything you could expect. History, construction,calculations, efemerides - fantastic.
Wojciech Lublinn
Teacher in Navigational Astronomy
Stockholm
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Astrolabe, November 14, 2009
By 
William G. Maier "Einheit" (Salt Lake City, Utah USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Astrolabe (Paperback)
A masterly work, not in any way a "coffee table" book. The mathamatics contained within are a plus. I sent this book on to a chap who builds astrolabes in Alabama, and he had nothing but praise for this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Astrolabe from a historians point of view, January 19, 2008
This review is from: The Astrolabe (Paperback)
This book is well written and contains an incredible amount of information - I doubt if there is anything left which can be said or written about Astrolabes. It certainly exceeded my expectations, which already where high.
Personally (being a mathematician) I especially like the many calculation examples and I think I will eventually build my own Astrolabe based on the calculations in this book. Although I am still reading, this book wetted my appetite for ancient measurement and calculating instruments.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Definitive Reference, January 21, 2008
This review is from: The Astrolabe (Paperback)
This book is the best reference on the subject of astrolabes I have been able to find. It is detailed, in-depth and has something for every reader. For the student looking to find an overview of the history and uses of this marvelous tool, it covers the basics. For the interested researcher it delves deeply into the design, history and functionality of both European and Islamic astrolabes. For math nerd there is delightful detail on the elegant geometry behind the design of the various parts. This is the best book I've seen come out this year.
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The Astrolabe
The Astrolabe by James E. Morrison (Paperback - November 15, 2007)
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