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Ptolemaeus Arabus et Latinus

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Work B.5

De imaginibus super facies signorum


‘(ed. Boudet) Liber Ptholomei de ymaginibus super facies signorum. Opus ymaginum Ptholomei et est omnibus modis proprior et veracior in probatione quoniam eius effectus constitutus est super faciem signorum 12. Dixit Alburabeth Benfeliz quod omnes orientales operabantur per has ymagines… De Ariete. Cum volueris ligare latrones ut non intrent domum, figurabis ymaginem viri ex ere — et impetrabis ab eo quod animus tuus desiderat. Explicit liber Ptholomei de ymaginibus super facies signorum.’


46 chapters on the making and uses of talismans associated to the 36 decans.


Translated from Arabic probably by John of Seville. The opening paragraphs (without the introductory paragraph) have been recently discovered in two Judaeo-Arabic fragments from the Cairo Genizah now in Cambridge University Library (see Burnett/Bohak, ‘A Judaeo-Arabic Version’). The text is attributed to Albumasar in Erlangen, UB, 434 and London, BL, Addit. 16566, two MSS closely related to one another. The text is listed in Trithemius, Antipalus maleficiorum (1508), I.3, no. 97: ‘Item est Liber imaginum mirabilium Abenhali, qui sic incipit: Dixit Abenhali: Quia omnes orientales operabuntur per has imagines etc. Adscribitur autem idem liber a plerisque Ptolomaeo’ (ed. J.-P. Boudet, Entre science et nigromance. Astrologie, divination et magie dans l’Occident médiéval (XIIe-XVe siècle), Paris, 2006, 555).


Three MSS preserve a stylistic reworking of the text (Conte de Sarzana, private library; Ghent, UB, 1021A; St Petersburg, BAN, Q. 537): ‘Incipit libellus Ptolemaei, inter magos expertissimi, de compositione imaginum ad operationem mirabilium effectum. Ars imaginum est multiplex de qua multi multa scripserunt et varios modos tradiderunt faciendi et operandi in eis. Orientales autem et Indi, qui in magicis prae omnibus aliis sunt expertissimi … Imago ad ariendum furem sive latronem a domo tua — quod saepius probavi. Adest finis libelli imaginum quem ego non Ptolomaei sed potius Budasari viri in magicis doctis crediderim ad Ptolemaeum quempiam ita enim in vetustissimo exemplari legere me memini.’ The author (or the scribe of the common exemplar) casts doubt about the attribution to Ptolemy and says that it would rather be a text addressed by ‘Budasarus, a learned man in magical things’ to a certain Ptolemy, as he claims to have read in an very old MS. This ‘Budasarus’ or ‘Budasari’ is otherwise unknown. The text is listed in Trithemius’s Antipalus maleficiorum (1508), I.3, no. 58: ‘Et est liber Ptholomaei de imaginibus, per quas vana praestigia et vaticinia pollicetur, incipit: Ars imaginum est multiplex’ (ed. J.-P. Boudet, Entre science et nigromance. Astrologie, divination et magie dans l’Occident médiéval (XIIe-XVe siècle), Paris, 2006, 550). See also C. Burnett, ‘The Conte de Sarzana Magical Manuscript’, in C. Burnett, Magic and Divination in the Middle Ages. Texts and Techniques in the Islamic and Christian Worlds, Aldershot, 1996, IX, 3-4; J.-P. Boudet, ‘The Transmission of Arabic Magic in Europe (Middle Ages – Renaisance)’, Micrologus 27 (2020), 143-165: 152 n. 30.


W. Gundel, Dekane und Dekansternbilder. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Sternbilder der Kulturvölker, Glückstadt-Hamburg, 1936, 394-401; F. J. Carmody, Arabic Astronomical and Astrological Sciences in Latin Translation. A Critical Bibliography, Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1956, 20 (nos. 28-29); L. Thorndike, ‘Traditional Medieval Tracts Concerning Engraved Astrological Images’, in Mélanges Auguste Pelzer, Louvain, 1947, 217-273: 256-259; F. Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, VII: Astrologie-Meteorologie und Verwandtes, Leiden, 1979, VII, 47 (no. 12); D. Pingree, ‘The Diffusion of Arabic Magical Texts in Western Europe’, in La diffusione delle scienze islamiche nel Medio Evo Europeo (Roma, 2-4 ottobre 1984), Roma, 1987, 57-102: 75-76; D. Pingree, ‘Learned Magic in the Time of Frederick II’, Micrologus 2 (1994), 39-56: 44 (reprinted in Pathways into the Study of Ancient Sciences. Selected Essays by David Pingree, eds I. Pingree, J. Steele, Philadelphia, 2014, 477-494); N. Weill-Parot, Les « images astrologiques » au Moyen Age et à la Renaissance. Spéculations intellectuelles et pratiques magiques (XIIe-XVe siècles), Paris, 2002, 77-79; J.-P. Boudet, ‘Un traité de magie astrale arabo-latin: Le Liber de imaginibus du Pseudo-Ptolémée’, in Natura, scienze e societa medievali. Studi in onore di Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, eds C. Leonardi, F. Santi, Firenze, 2008, 17-35; C. Burnett, G. Bohak, ‘A Judaeo-Arabic Version of Ṯābit ibn Qurra’s De Imaginibus and Pseudo-Ptolemy’s Opus Imaginum’, in Islamic Philosophy, Science, Culture and Religion. Studies in Honor of Dimitri Gutas, eds. F. Opwis, D. Reisman, Leiden-Boston, 2012, 179-200; D. Juste, ‘The Impact of Arabic Sources on European Astrology: Some Facts and Numbers’, Micrologus 24 (2016), 173-194: 193 (no. 49).


 Boudet, ‘Un traité de magie astrale’, 26-35 (from Paris, BnF, lat. 16204, with variants of Florence, BML, Plut. 30.29, and Florence, BNC, II.III.214).