Ptolemaeus Arabus et Latinus

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Work C.4.1

Theon of Alexandria
شرح⟩ قوانين النجوم العتيدة⟩
〈Sharḥ〉 Qawānīn al-nujūm al-ʿatīda (unknown tr.)

An early Arabic translation of Theon’s Little Commentary on the Handy Tables, of which only the first two pages survive as undertext in the palimpsest Vatican, BAV, Vat. sir. 623 (Syriac overtext copied in the Seleucid year 1197, i.e., ad 886). Based on the physical characteristics of the parchment as well as a detailed study of the surviving Arabic text and the accompanying incomplete copy of the Handy Tables in Greek, Giuffrida et al. have suggested that the two works originally belonged together and stem from the earliest engagement of Islamic scholars with Ptolemy’s works, i.e., from Baghdad in the second half of the eighth century. They noted several peculiar characteristics of the translation that point to such an early date. For example, at four places of the Arabic text Greek words are transliterated rather than translated, with the original Greek added above the lines, apparently in the same hand as the Greek tables (p. 9b). Thus they concluded that both the Greek extract of the Handy Tables and the Arabic version of the Little Commentary were written by the translator himself.

Text: [partial edition in Giuffrida et al., p. 9a (with some corrections indicated by asterisks)]

(121v+116r) أمّا الطريقة المستقيمة لحساب قوانين النجوم العتيدة يا بنيّ أبيفان فقد* أوضحنا* ذلك في خمس مصاحف في تثبيت آخر. فأمّا في هذا المصحف لأنّ كثيرين (؟) منمن (؟) يصير إلينا لجهة علم هذا التعليم مع أنّهم لا يقدرون على إتباع الأمر لإضعاف الأعداد وتجزيّتها أيضًا ليس لهم علم أصلًا بدلائل المساحة ...

Bibl.: Anne Tihon, Le “Petit Commentaire” de Théon d’Alexandrie aux Tables Faciles de Ptolémée (histoire du texte, édition critique, traduction), Città del Vaticano: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1978; Anne Tihon, ‘Les “Tables Faciles” de Ptolémée dans les manuscrits en onciale (IXe-Xe siècle)’, Revue d’Histoire des Textes 23 (1992), pp. 47–87, esp. pp. 68–70; Delio Vania Proverbio, ‘Theonis Alexandrini fragmentum pervetus arabice, sul più antico manoscritto del Commentarium parvum di Teone Alessandrino’, Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Classe di Scienze Morali, Storiche e Filologiche), Rendiconti Serie 8, 13 (2002), pp. 373–386; Giuliano Giuffrida, András Németh and Delio Vania Proverbio, ‘An Arabic-Greek Codex of Ptolemy’s Handy Tables from the Eighth Century. Reassessment of the Arabic Winds List and the Horizon Diagram in Vat. sir. 623’, The Vatican Library Review 2 (2023), pp. 1–41.

Ed.: Partial editions of the first part of the introduction in Proverbio, pp. 378–379 (in parallel with the Greek); Mercier, p. 198 (only the first line, with the Greek and an English translation); and Giuffrida et al., p. 9 (with an English translation).