AN ASTROLABE RETE
ATTRIBUTED TO GEORG HARTMANN, CIRCA 1530
the unsigned rete cut for 27 stars, the design typical of Georg Hartmann, the ecliptic divided into houses of the Zodiac and numbered by 10° with serrations on the outer edge for each degree, the named stars:
CAVDA CETI, VENTER CETI, MARIS CETI, OCVLVS, PES SIN ORIONIS, CANIS MAIOR, PROCION, HIDRA, REGVLVS, CRATER, CORVVS, SPICA, CAVDA, HIRCVS, GORGON, VMBI ANDROMADE, CRVS PEGASI, HVME EQVI, HOLOR, LIRA, VASA, ARCTVRVS, CORONA, MA SERPENTA, CA SERPENTARII, AQVILA, DELPHIN
5¼in. (13.5cm.) diameter
Discover more about the part this object played in the evolution of the modern PC in our Christie’s Digest feature.
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Georg Hartmann (1489-1564)
Astronomical instruments were being produced in Central Europe during the second half of the fifteenth Century as a result of the mathematical studies of of such scholars as John of Gmunden (c. 1380-1442), Georg Peurbach (1423-1461), and Johannes Muller (1436-1476), known as Regiomontanus, who settled in Nuremberg in 1471. That city, enjoying excellent communications with Italy, North Germany and the Low Countries, and with an established metal-working trade, was ideally suited to become a production centre for mathematical instruments. The leading workshop producing such instruments in the early sixteenth Century was directed by Georg Hartmann.
Hartmann was born at Eggolsheim in Germany in 1489, and studied mathematics and theology in Cologne. In 1518 he visited Italy, where he became friendly with Copernicus' brother, and began designing sundials. In that same year, he was appointed vicar of St. Sebaldus church in Nuremberg, and he remained there for the rest of his life. He was a distinguished example of the scholar-craftsman, taking a full part in the intellectual life of the city, where he was a contemporary and friend of Albrecht Durer.
The number of his instruments that has survived, as well as indications concerning their manufacture, make it clear that Hartman was a pioneer of quantity production. He made a wide range of instruments, including astrolabes, sundials, quadrants, nocturnals, globes and armillary spheres, and supplied not only the aristocratic market, but also at prices accessible to poorer scholars. His correspondence with Archduke Albert of Prussia has survived, revealing that he made instruments for him, and also for King Ferdinand of Bohemia, and other patrons. One of these letters reports Hartman's studies on magnetic declination, which was finally resolved by Robert Norman, and published in 1580.
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