Astrolabe Archive. ASTROLABE, Paul Ritter MacALISTER.
Astrolabe Archive.
Astrolabe Archive.
Astrolabe Archive.
Astrolabe Archive.
Astrolabe Archive.
Astrolabe Archive.

Astrolabe Archive.

The astrolabe, one of the oldest of scientific instruments (dating to the early medieval period), has a variety of uses -- most commonly the planispheric astrolabe, which allowed astronomers to calculate the position of the sun and prominent stars in relation to the horizon and the meridian, and the mariner's astrolabe, which allowed mariner's celestial navigation and evolved into the sextant. Offered here is an intriguing modern archive of astrolabe materials (1970s-80s vintage) from the noted Chicago industrial designer/writer/illustrator/architect Paul Ritter MacAlister (1901-90) -- a fascinating, exhaustive archive concerning a do-it-yourself astrolabe kit (glossy printed cardboard) that he and Adler Planetarium curator, trustee and chairman of the board Roderick S. Webster (1916-97) designed and marketed together, along with a couple other similar projects. Flolydia M. Etting (1915-94) was another Chicago-area designer involved in this project. It is approximately one banker's box full of materials, roughly 30 pounds: Original correspondence concerning every facet of the project -- design, marketing, advertising, you name it -- along with technical spec's, some original architectural drawings of their design, feedback and suggestions from astronomers and academics and civilian customers in the U.S. and abroad, advertisements for it and articles about it, detailed sales records for it, research and background materials they gathered, a couple of reference works (Adzema and Jones' "The Great Sundial Cutout Book" and a Christie's auction catalogue of antique scientific instruments), etc. The collection does not, by the way, include an actual copy of the astrolabe kit -- but does include just about every other thing related to this engrossing endeavor. Item #46422

Among the 23 thick manila file folders in which MacAlister maintained the hugely-varying paperwork and correspondence relating to this project, here are a few random selections that give a sense of the breadth of material: 1) "Lake Forest Academy 1970" is a hefty sheaf containing what might be MacAlister's first introduction to Webster, being his retained carbon copies of letters to Webster to obtain images used for MacAlister's article for the "Lake Forest Academy Antique Show" printed catalogue. Various corrected typescripts of that article ("Romance with the Stars") are also present, together with MacAlister's blueprint-like drawings of how this article might be laid out (including sketches) and two copies of the final, printed product. 2) "Macet Project Correspondence" is a thick sheaf related to a solid brass recreation MacAlister undertook in the 1970s of "A Recreation of a Rare French Surveying Instrument" Includes corrected typed draft letters describing this product in detail. Correspondence with "Islam Centennial Fourteen" organization regarding a high-end gold-plated version, other correspondences with other persons and institutions around the world interested in this product. This file also contains ancillary material relating to the manufacture and marketing of this product, including magazine advertisements, photographs provided by the Museum of Science and Industry president Dan MacMaster and much else. Another whole file titled "Advertising 1985" contains correspondence and printed matter regarding advertisements for this product. 3) "Astrolabe Agreements 1/18/14" contains versions of the original informal legal agreement between MacAlister, Webster, Etting and other investors showing their ownership levels and agreeing to produce the cardboard astrolabe. Here too are original pencilled drafts of the printed booklet they wanted to accompany the astrolabe (The Astrolabe: Some Notes on Its History Construction and Use") and mimeographed mock-up versions of this. 4) The "Chalmers Univ. of Technology Gothenburg, Sweden" file chronicles projects MacAlister undertook with this institution to make high-end recreations of a sundial and a quadrant as well as Macalister's highly-detailed and technical pencilled notes on these projects. 5) "Astrobabe [sic] Correspondence" covers a broad range: Letters from astrolabe purchasers (often academics), journalists and others commenting on its qualities, etc. Also present are printed leaflets concerning other MacAlister kits such as "Sundial: One of the Trilogy of 'Time' Instruments" and "Nocturnal: One of the Trilogy of 'Time' Instruments" and "The Astrasphere: A Globe of the Heavens Conceived in the Tradition of Early Astronomers." 6) The "Astrasphere" file concerns the "limited, numbered edition of 1500 Globes" that Paul MacAlister & Associates produced for the Meredith Corporation and list of purchasers (copy #1 going to Richard Nixon), corrected pencilled drafts and rough typescripts of descriptive copy, etc. 7) "'Lost Perspective' Essay" file contains MacAlister's original pencilled manuscript and corrected typescripts and mockups for a 1965 essay "Lost Perspective or The Search for the Missing Engravings" regarding this notable text on perspective and geometry. 8) Two hardbound record-keeping books provide detailed handwritten accounts (apparently by MacAlister) -- the first ("Astrolabe Sales Records" fastidiously records every sale (including tax, shipping, quantity, etc.) from 3 July 1974 through 27 February 1982, while the second ("Astrolabe Record May 1, 1975") records every bank deposit and check written between 2 May 1975 and 28 June 1982. Thick secondary folders cover such topics as "Ads, Reviews, Articles"; "Astrolabe Copyright 1974" concerning their attempt to copyright their astrolabe kit; "Astrolabe Research" with 8" X 10" black and white photographs and copies of background research materials; "Macet Astrolabe Enquiries" contains enquiries from around the world about this brass facsimile and copies of their replies; and numerous other relevant files too numerous to go into here. Other than notes and memoranda (often in pencil) to himself, MacAlister's correspondence to others is of course in the form of carbon copies, often stapled to originals of the recipient's replies. In addition to these 23 thick file folders are many thick manila envelopes containing a wide range of clippings, photocopies, original glossy photographs and other papers related to these projects. A most unusual modern attempt to recreate one of the oldest scientific instruments and mass market it to a 20th century audience. This is a dense, meaty archive with great research potential.

Price: $1,750.00

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