Ptolemaeus Arabus et Latinus

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Work B.5.1

⟨كتاب الصور⟩
⟨Kitāb al-Ṣuwar⟩

A collection of instructions for crafting various talismans, fragmentarily preserved in two 12th- or 13th-century Judaeo-Arabic manuscripts mentioning neither Ptolemy’s name nor the work’s title. Nevertheless, the content of the fragment matches talismans nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 6, and 9 in De imaginibus super facies signorum (Latin B.14), a collection of 46 talismans whose lost Arabic source text circulated under Ptolemy’s name by the early 12th century. In addition to the Judaeo-Arabic fragment, the Arabic original survives in some 30 excerpts found in a 16th-century manuscript compiled in Tunis (Milan, BA, M21 sup., ff. 72r–80r). Furthermore, a partial translation and further excerpts have been identified in a 17th-century Hebrew manuscript from Italy (New York, Jewish Theological Seminar, 8117, ff. 117v–118v and 110r–115v respectively; on all these sources and their attribution to Ptolemy, see Bohak & Burnett, pp. 32–34). The Latin and Hebrew evidence points to the original Arabic title being Kitāb al-Ṣuwar or the like, as already surmised by Sezgin.

According to the Judaeo-Arabic fragment, the only astrological condition to be observed when crafting the talismans is that the decan associated with a certain talisman be in the ascendant. However, a chapter found at the end of the Latin translations specifies that the ascendant should be aspected by benefics and free from malefics, while the planets should be with benefics (ed. Boudet, p. 35, cf. Bohak & Burnett, p. 35). Typically, the description of a talisman mentions ‘the purpose of the talisman; the shape (ṣūra, ymago) of the talismans, modelled on its subject or on the image of the decan that is imagined to be rising at the time; the decan under whose rising it should be made; the ‘binding’ of the talismans in the form of a proclamation (‘I bind – ʿaqadtu/rabaṭ[ṭ]u, ligo/ligavi – such and such to prevent such and such...’); and the place where the talisman should be deposited’ (Bohak & Burnett, pp. 35–36).

Text: [ed. Bohak & Burnett]

[Talisman no. 1] (p. 183) باب إذا أردت أن تعقد السارق لئلّا يدخل دار رجل من الرجال تصوّر صورة الرجل من نحاس إذا طلع الوجه الأوّل من الحمل ثمّ تقول عقدت كلّ سارق عن هذه الدار بهذه الصورة وتدفنها في وسط الدار فإنّه لا يدخلها سارق أبدًا ...

[Talisman no. 9] (p. 189) برج الثور إذا أردت تعقد المدينة لا يدخلها عدو أبدًا فصوّر صورة رجل في يده سيف بطالع الوجه الأوّل [من] الثور نحاس وتقول على الصورة عقد[ت] هذه المدينة لا يحاربها عدو و[لا] عسكر ثمّ تدفن الصورة في وسط ج[ ] بقياس فإنّه لا يدخل المدينة [عدو] أبدًا ولا عسكر.

Bibl.: GAS VIIFuat Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums. Vol. VII: Astrologie – Meteorologie und Verwandtes bis ca. 430 H., Leiden: Brill, 1979, p. 47 (no. 12); Jean-Patrice Boudet, ‘Un traité de magie astrale arabo-latin: Le Liber de imaginibus du Pseudo-Ptolémée’, in Claudio Leonardi and Francesco Santi (eds), Natura, scienze e società medievali. Studi in onore di Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, Firenze: SISMEL / Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2008, pp. 17–35; Charles Burnett and Gideon Bohak, ‘A Judaeo-Arabic Version of Ṯābit ibn Qurra’s De Imaginibus and Pseudo-Ptolemy’s Opus Imaginum’, in Felicitas Opwis and David Reisman (eds), Islamic Philosophy, Science, Culture and Religion. Studies in Honor of Dimitri Gutas, Leiden / Boston: Brill, 2012, pp. 179–200; Gideon Bohak and Charles Burnett, Thabit ibn Qurra «On Talismans» and Ps.-Ptolemy «On Images 1-9». Together with the «Liber prestigiorum Thebidis» of Adelard of Bath, Firenze: SISMEL - Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2021.

Ed.: Transcription of the Judaeo-Arabic text in Bohak & Burnett, pp. 110–112 (T.-S. Ar. 29.51) and p. 116 (T.-S. Ar. 43.274); edition of the text, together with the corresponding Latin text and an English translation, on pp. 182–189; edition of the corresponding Milan excerpts, with an English translation, on pp. 244–249. An edition and translation of the remaining Milan excerpts is in preparation by Emanuele Rovati.