Ptolemaeus Arabus et Latinus

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Work A.1.3

Almagesti (tr. ʿAbd al-Masīḥ of Winchester)

This translation, also known as the ‘Dresden Almagest’, was made from the Arabic (in Thābit Ibn Qurra’s version) by ʿAbd al-Masīḥ of Winchester (‘Wittomensis/Wintomiensis/Wittoniensis/Wuttoniensis Ebdelmessie’). The unique manuscript, copied towards the middle of the thirteenth century, probably in Paris, includes the first four books only and omits all tables. The translator, ʿAbd al-Masīḥ of Winchester, is not otherwise known, but his technical terminology and peculiar alphanumerical notation based on a Latin abjad are uniquely shared by another scholar, Stephen of Pisa and Antioch, who is the author of the Liber Mamonis, an astronomical work in four books written sometime after 1127. As Grupe showed (Stephen of Pisa and Antioch, 11-12), ʿAbd al-Masīḥ developed his alphanumerical notation out of Stephen’s, so that his translation of the Almagest must be posterior to the Liber Mamonis. What has not been noted so far is a possible link between the Liber Mamonis and Winchester provided by the Latin translation of a lost Hebrew text written at Winchester, in all likelihood by Abraham Ibn Ezra c. 1158-1160. In this text, the author casts horoscopes for Winchester and says that he calculated the planetary positions not only according to his own tables of Winchester, but also according to ‘Albategni’ [al-Battānī], one ‘Almamoni’, ‘Alzophi’ [al-Ṣūfī] and one ‘Almazkar’ (see S. Sela, C. Steel, P. Nothaft, D. Juste, C. Burnett, ‘A Newly Discovered Treatise by Abraham Ibn Ezra and Two Treatises Attributed to al-Kindī in a Latin Translation by Henry Bate’, Mediterranea. International Journal on the Transfer of Knowledge 5 (2020), 193-305: 251). The reference to ‘Almamoni’ has not been elucidated, but it could well denote the Liber Mamonis, which would then have reached Winchester by c. 1158-1160. This hypothesis receives support from the fact that Abraham Ibn Ezra was active in Pisa (Stephen’s native city) c. 1143, when he drew up the tables of Pisa, the very tables that served as a model for the tables of Winchester.

Text ‘(ed. Grupe) De prologo. De ordine eorum que sunt in hoc libro… (chapter index). [book i] Preclare fecerunt qui corrigentes scienciam philosophie, o Syre, diviserunt theoricam partem philosophie a practica. Nam si pars practice antequam — et alii quadrantes circuli signorum sunt ut ille quadrans. Explicit primus sermo libri mathematice Ptolomei qui nominatur Megali xintaxis astronomie translacione dictamine philophonia Wittomensis Ebdelmesie. [book ii] De loco habitationis terre aput nos… (chapter index). Postquam ostendimus in sermone hunc precedente qualitates universales tocius terre et celi — et quod habebimus sunt hore quas querimus. Explicit secundus sermo libri mathematice Ptolomei qui prenominatur Megali xintaxis sive astronomie translacione Wintomiensis Ebdelmessie. [book iii] Primum in mensura anni… (chapter index). Postquam ostendimus in duobus sermonibus huic precedentibus universalia preponenda de qualitatibus celi et terre — in C partibus et H sexagenariis Piscium. Explicit tercius sermo libri mathematice Ptolomei qui prenominatur Megali xintaxis astronomie philophonia translacione dictaminis Wittoniensis Ebdelmessie. [book iv] Qua consideracione sciendus sit motus Lune… (chapter index). Postquam ostendimus in sermone huic preposito omnia que conveniunt motui Solis — et invenimus illas eclipses quas conmemoravimus concordes fundamenti. Phylophonia Wuttoniensis Ebdelmessie explicit quartus sermo libri mathematice Ptholomei qui prenominatur Megali xintaxis sive astronomie translacione dictaminis.’

Bibl. A. A. Björnbo, ‘Die mittelalterlichen lateinischen Übersetzungen aus dem Griechischen auf dem Gebiete der mathematischen Wissenschaften’, in Festschrift Moritz Cantor anläßlich seines achtzigsten Geburtstages gewidnet von Freuden und Verehrern, Leipzig, 1909, 93-102: 100 (no. 20); J. L. Heiberg, ‘Noch einmal die mittelalterliche Ptolemaios-Übersetzung’, Hermes 46 (1911), 207-216: 215-216; C. H. Haskins, Studies in the History of Mediaeval Science, Cambridge, 1927 (2nd ed.), 108-110; P. Kunitzsch, ‘Die Überlieferung des Almagest, griechisch-arabisch-lateinisch’, in Lingua restituta Orientalis. Festgabe für Julius Assfalg, ed. M. Görg, Wiesbaden, 1990, 203-210: 208; C. Burnett, ‘‘Abd al-Masīḥ of Winchester’, in Between Demonstration and Imagination: Essays on the History of Science and Philosophy Presented to John D. North, eds L. Nauta, A. Vanderjagt, Leiden, 1999, 159-169; C. Burnett, ‘Antioch as a Link between Arabic and Latin Culture in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries’, in Occident et Proche–Orient: Contacts scientifiques au temps des croisades, eds A. Tihon, I. Draelants, B. van den Abeele, Louvain-la-Neuve, 2000, 1-78: 12-13 (reprinted in C. Burnett Arabic into Latin in the Middle Ages. The Translators and their Intellectual and Social Context, Farnham-Burlington, 2009, IV); C. Burnett, ‘The Transmission of Arabic Astronomy via Antioch and Pisa in the Second Quarter of the Twelfth Century’, in The Enterprise of Science in Islam: New Perspectives, eds J. P. Hogendijk, A. I. Sabra, Cambridge (Mass.), 2003, 23-51: 23-36; R. Lorch, Thābit ibn Qurra. On the Sector-Figure and Related Texts, Augsburg, 2008, 355-357 and 362-373; E. Nicolai, La tradizione greco-latina e arabo-latina del I libro dell’Almagesto. Saggio di analisi e traduzione, PhD dissertation, Università di Padova, 2010, 37-67; D. Grupe, ‘The ‘Thābit-Version’ of Ptolemy’s Almagest in MS Dresden Db.87’, Suhayl 11 (2012), 147-153; D. Grupe, The Latin Reception of Arabic Astronomy and Cosmology in Mid-Twelfth-Century Antioch: The Liber Mamonis and the Dresden Almagest, PhD dissertation, The Warburg Institute, 2013; H. Zepeda, The Medieval Latin Transmission of the Menelaus Theorem, PhD dissertation, University of Oklahoma at Norman, 2013, 28 n. 60; D. Grupe, Stephen of Pisa and Antioch: Liber Mamonis. An Introduction to Ptolemaic Cosmology and Astronomy from the Early Crusader States, Cham, 2019, 10-12; D. Grupe, ‘Manuscript Jaipur 20 and the Arabic Translation of Ptolemy’s Almagest by Thābit ibn Qurra’, in The First International Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin Symposium on History of Science in Islam Proceeding Book, eds F. Başar, M. Kaçar, M. C. Kaya, A. Z. Furat, Istanbul, 2020, 139-148.

Modern ed. Grupe, The Latin Reception, 275-394 (with English translation). Book I had already been edited by Nicolai, 181-200.