Ptolemaeus Arabus et Latinus

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Work B.14

De imaginibus super facies signorum

A work on the making of talismans of the 36 decans, consisting of a brief introduction, 46 chapters corresponding to 46 talismans, and a closing paragraph. The text was translated from the Arabic, probably by John of Seville. Chapters 1-7 and 9 (without the introduction) have been discovered in two Judaeo-Arabic fragments from the Cairo Genizah now in Cambridge (Burnett/Bohak and Bohak/Burnett). The Latin version is consistently attributed to Ptolemy, except in three manuscripts, where it is ascribed to Albumasar (Erlangen, UB, 434 and London, BL, Additional 16566, which have the same incomplete version) or to Thebit Bencora (New Haven, YU-BRBML, Beinecke 1059).

Note Three manuscripts (ZZ – Unknown location, Conte de Sarzana, no shelfmark; Ghent, UB, 1021A; and St Petersburg, BAN, Q. 537) preserve a stylistic reworking of the text: ‘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 a very old manuscript. This ‘Budasarus’ or ‘Budasari’ is otherwise unknown. On this stylistic reworking, 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, Farnham-Burlington, 1996, IX, 3-4, and Boudet, ‘The Transmission’, 152 n. 30.

Text ‘(ed. Boudet) Liber Ptholomei de ymaginibus super facies signorum. [introduction] 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… [1] De Ariete. Cum volueris ligare latrones ut non intrent domum, figurabis ymaginem viri ex ere cum ascenderit prima facies Alhamel — [46] ut a vento moveatur aut a loco flatus venti et videbis mirabilia. [closing paragraph] Commendatio operis. Dixit Ptholomeus: Edidi hunc librum de ymaginibus super facies signorum. Qui ergo voluerit operare ex eis — et impetrabis ab eo quod animus tuus desiderat. Explicit liber Ptholomei de ymaginibus super facies signorum.’

Bibl. 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, 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); J.-P. Boudet, ‘The Transmission of Arabic Magic in Europe (Middle Ages – Renaissance)’, Micrologus 28 (2020), 143-165: 148; G. Bohak, C. Burnett, Thābit ibn Qurra On Talismans and Ps.-Ptolemy On Images 1-9, Together with the Liber prestigiorum Thebidis of Adelard of Bath, Firenze, 2021, 32-36.

Modern ed. Boudet, ‘Un traité’, 26-35 (from MS Paris, BnF, lat. 16204, with variants from Florence, BML, Plut. 30.29, and Florence, BNC, II.III.214). The Judaeo-Arabic fragments (chapters 1-7 and 9) are edited, together with an English translation and the corresponding Latin text including the introduction (from five MSS), by Bohak/Burnett, 182-189. A provisional edition of the Judaeo-Arabic fragments (chapters 1-5), together with the Latin (from Boudet) and an English translation of both, had already been provided by Burnett/Bohak, 194-198.