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Ptolemaeus Arabus et Latinus

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Work A.7.1

Preceptum canonis Ptolomei (tr. before c. 1000)


‘(canons, ed. Pingree) Incipit Preceptum Canonis Ptolomei. [1] Intellectus, polis episeme, requires si inveneris platos civitatis tibi date esse intra partes xv et minutas xv — [103] in apogion vero quod intuleris si non inveneris, requires superiorem et inferiorem; et addes aut deduces.’


A set of astronomical tables with canons. Only the tables for the Sun and the Moon are extant in the manuscripts. Pingree argued that the planetary tables were lost at an early stage in the transmission of the text, but it is rather likely that they never existed in the Latin version, as also suggested by the fact that only one of the 103 chapters of the canons mentions the planets.


Translated from Greek before c. 1000 A.D. (date of the earliest extant MS), this work derives from Theon of Alexandria’s Little Commentary to the Handy Tables of Ptolemy (c. 360) and other sources. Pingree dates the translation to 534/535, but this needs to be examined again (Van de Vyver, 687, writes: ‘Il est certain que Cassiodore cite l’œuvre authentique de Ptolémée dans le texte grec’). Likewise, Pingree’s reconstruction of the early history of the text must be revised in the light of Juste, ‘Neither Observation…’.


E. Honigmann, Die sieben Klimata und die πόλεις επίσημοι. Eine Untersuchung zur Geschichte der Geographie und Astrologie im Altertum und Mittelalter, Heidelberg, 1929, 102-107; A. Van de Vyver, ‘Les plus anciennes traductions latines médiévales (Xe-XIe siècles) de traités d’astronomie et d’astrologie’, Osiris 1 (1936), 658-691: 687-689; R. P. Mercier, ‘Astronomical Tables in the Twelfth Century’, in Adelard of Bath. An English Scientist and Arabist of the Early Twelfth Century, ed. C. Burnett, London, 1987, 87-118: 115; D. Pingree, ‘The Preceptum Canonis Ptolomei’, in Rencontres de cultures dans la philosophie médiévale. Traductions et traducteurs de l’Antiquité tardive au XIVe siècle (Actes du Colloque international de Cassino, 15-17 juin 1989), eds J. Hamesse, M. Fattori, Louvain-la-Neuve-Cassino, 1990, I, 355-375 (reprinted in Pathways into the Study of Ancient Sciences. Selected Essays by David Pingree, eds I. Pingree, J. Steele, Philadelphia, 2014, 113-133); D. Pingree, Preceptum Canonis Ptolomei, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1997 (Corpus des Astronomes Byzantins VIII); D. Pingree, ‘Avranches 235 dans la tradition manuscrite du Preceptum Canonis Ptolomei’ [in English], in Science antique, science médiévale. Actes du colloque international (Mont-Saint-Michel, 4-7 septembre 1998), eds L. Callebat, O. Desbordes, Hildesheim, 2000, 162-169; D. Juste, ‘Neither Observation nor Astronomical Tables: An Alternative Way of Computing the Planetary Longitudes in the Early Western Middle Ages’, in Studies in the History of the Exact Sciences in Honour of David Pingree, eds C. Burnett, J. P. Hogendijk, K. Plofker, M. Yano, Leiden-Boston, 2004, 181-222: 181-185.


Critical edition of the canons in Pingree, Preceptum…. The tables are unpublished.