This elaborate armillary sphere was the last work manufactured by famed 17th century Dutch craftsmen, Klaus Antlipper. The design itself, however, is based on a much earlier arabic plan which had supposedly been kept hidden within the personal library of the Caliphs for five hundred years and was brought to the United Provinces by an Ottoman scholar. It functions much like a normal armillary sphere, measuring the movement of celestial bodies in relation to Earth at it’s centre, the various armatures and axis representing the sun, moon and constellations. What sets this paticular sphere apart from others of it’s kind is both the strange story of it’s construction, and the fact that the planet located at it’s centre is not, in fact, Earth.
Experts have been analysing the sphere for several decades, but could only guess as to what world it is representing. The sphere itself features not one but three moons, two of which seem to orbit each other in another independant binary system, in addition to orbiting the central planet. The constellations have names that sound reminiscent of the classical zodiac (the Mourner, the Hound, the Great Bell) yet none of them are recognisable to contemporary astrologers. Many have claimed that the sphere is little more than a flight of fancy by Arabic scientists; a way to test some of their astronomical principles on an invented orbital system. But then there is it’s unusual history to consider.
Muhammad ibn Al-Khabar, who located the design after many years of research, also found that the astronomer who had first worked on the design clearly became more and more distressed as he continued his writing. He was unsurprised by the fact that, by the time it came to actually working on the physical device, the author’s language had been reduced to gibberish, and he was clearly in no state to construct the device. Thus, the work was forgotten until Al-Khabar stumbled upon it. He later travelled to Amsterdam with a trade mission and, having heard of Antlipper’s considerable skill, provided him with the funds and a translation of the work (gibberish not included) to have the design built in order to satisfy his own curiosity. Antlipper kept a diary at the time, and his writing provides a strange insight into his work. Take this one extract, dated March 21st, 1642 -
"I have had bad dreams again this night. I have seen worlds beyond imagining, with lakes of sulphur and storms pouring strange rain into the dusty earth. The horizon was tainted with bizarre colours, and the air around me was thick and slow, emptying into my lungs like water. Each morning I wake up with the image of that dead sun branded into my eyes, the moons emerging like blots on my vision. I must remember not to fall asleep at my workbench. It is… unhealthy."
Antlipper retired shortly after finishing the armillary sphere. Al-Khabar later said that he handed him the finished item along with the payment he had taken for the work, saying only "Here are your unfamiliar skies. Take them and leave me." He died three years later, and Al-Khabar kept the piece hidden away for the rest of his life.