TVE, the Spanish national TV company, wanted to interview me about my History Today telescope article. For visual props, they requested a 17th century telescope and a copy of Girolamo Sirtori’s book – fair enough. A quick search of COPAC revealed eight copies across the UK: but what jumped out at me from the list was that there was a copy at the Museum of the History of Science (“the MHS”) in Oxford, which I knew had a fair few telescopes – and so I suggested the interview be carried out there. Plus, I’d wanted to go there for years and years. 🙂
All of which is how I ended up having a nice day out in Oxford. Though the MHS has all kinds of historical scientific gubbins (particularly the basement, which vividly brought to mind Thomas Dolby and Magnus Pyke singing “all my tubes and wires and careful notes / and antiquated notions“), you can’t help but notice its collection is dominated by astrolabes, astrolabes, and more astrolabes. Did I mention they have a beautiful spherical astrolabe too? You get the basic idea: it’s Astrolabe City.
After the interview, I went downstairs to the MHS library to look at their copy of Sirtori’s book for myself (I’d only ever seen scans of it). I also played “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” with Gemma Wright, the Head Librarian: I showed her my copy of Jim Morrison’s very cool book “The Astrolabe”, while she showed me the MHS’ copy of John Lamprey’s 2007 English edition of Stoeffler’s Elucidatio (also very neat, a snip at $50 + S&H). Errrm… I’m not quite sure why I’m making myself look like “ubergeek of the week” here, so perhaps I ought to stop…
As an aside: though the steak & ale pie in The White Horse (the pub opposite the MHS) was OK, their Dark Star “Sunburst” was epic – just like being in a beer festival (only without a covers band playing “Mustang Sally” too loud, thank goodness). Just in case you ever happen to be thirsty in Oxford! 😉