Review: Oestmann - History. Design and Application of Astrolabes on astro. clocks

Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

National Library Chair
NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Life Member
NAWCC Member
Aug 25, 2000
Sussex New Jersey USA
The first practical guide to constructing Astrolabical dials (But in German)

Geschichte, Konstruktion und Anwendung des Astrolabiums bei Zifferblaetterm astronomischer Uhren
(History. Design and Application of Astrolabes on dials of astronomical clocks) – by Gunther Oestmann. Published 2014 by Institut L’Homme et le Temps, La Chaux-de-Fonds (Switzerland) . Published in German. ISBN 978-2-940088-32-4 or 978-3-89896-572-9. Hardcover, 72 pages, 28 cm, 73 illustrations, bibliography. Available through for ca US$30.

Complex astronomical clocks throughout history have often featured an astronlabial dial as a convenient way to show various astronomical data That is true for many of the most famous monumental and tower clocks throughout history (including Prague, Bern, Muenster, Lund (Sweden), Lyon, etc), as well as the renaissance masterpieces from Augsburg and Nuernberg. But builders of new, one of kind, complex clocks lacked any current publications (in any language) providing practical advice on how to design and construct such a dial.

The book by Guenther Oestmann fills this void – at least for those who can read German. It is the result of a graduate seminar (at the Technical University in Berlin in the spring of 2013) which the author taught, in which 18 students designed their own astrolabiums.
As far as this reviewer knows it is the only text written for astronomical neophytes that (after a short synopsis of the history of the astrolabe [Chapter 2] and the previous literature [Chapter 3]) walks the reader in its core chapters [Chapters 4 and 5] through the theory and geometry of designing and using [Chapter VI] an astrolabe. Chapter 7 deals with astrolabe dials on clocks, including 18 illustrations of 18 actual examples.

The Instiutut l’homme et le Temps, the research and publishing arm of the Musee Internationale d’Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds (again cooperating with the German Athena-Verlag for international distribution) , deserves praise for filling a niche that commercial publishers can not afford catering to.

Fortunat F. Mueller-Maerki, Sussex NJ 07461 (USA) 2 July 2013

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