• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7715

    Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds

    31 March 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 11



    Price Realised  


    An anthology of Greek and Arabic treatises on astronomy and geometry, Arabic manuscript on paper, 194ff. plus 1 fly-leaf, each folio with 27ll. of small black naskh, titles in bold naskh with red lines of contemporary commentary, one treatise dated, colophon with date of Muharram 692, and notes stating the owners of the original copies from which the present was copied, copious marginal notes, two pages replaced, repairs, in brown soft morocco
    Folio 8¾ x 6 3/8in. (22.4 x 16cm.)

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Written in Shiraz within 20 years of Nasr al-Din Tusi's death, this manuscript - copied from an original that had been edited, compiled and owned by the great scientist, includes a number of rare and early translations into Arabic of both Greek and Persian works. It comprises the following:

    1. Theodosius (ca. 160-100 BC): Tahrir Kitab al-Ukar li Thawdhusyus (The Book of Spherics of Theodosius) translated by Qusta bin Luqa al-Ba'lbakki
    2. Theodosius (ca. 160-100 BC): Tahrir Kitab al-Masakin li Thawdhusyus (The Book of Settlements of Theodosius), translated by Qusta bin Luqa al-Ba'lbakki
    3. Menelaus (c. 70140AD): Tahrir Kitab al-Kuriyyat li Manalawus (The Book of Spherics of Menelaus)
    4. Euclid (fl. 300 BC): Tahrir Manazir Al-Achlidus (The Optics of Euclid)
    5. Euclid (fl. 300 BC): Tahrir Kitab Zahirat al-Falak li Achlidus (The Book of Celestial Phenomena of Euclid)
    6. Theodosius (ca. 160-100 BC): Al-Ayyam wal-Layali li Thawdhusyus (The Book of Days and Nights of Theodosius)
    7. Archimedes (ca. 287-212 BC): Tahrir Kitab al-Makhudhat li Arshimidis (The Book of Lemmas of Archimedes translated by Thabit bin Qurrah)
    8. Thabit bin Qurrah al-Harani al-Sabi: Tahrir Kitab al-Mufradat li Thabit bin Qurrah (The Book of Assumptions of Thabit bin Qurrah)
    9. Aristarchus of Samos (310-230 BC): Tahrir Kitab fi Jirmay al-Nayyirayn wa'l-Bu'd baynahuma li Aristarkhus (The Book of the Sizes of the Sun and the Moon and the Distance between Them)
    10. Autolycus (ca. 360-290 BC): Tahrir Kitab al-Tulu' wal Ghurub li Utuluqus (The Book of Risings and Settings of Autolycus)
    11. Hypsicles (ca. 190-120 BC): Tahrir Kitab fi'l-Matali li Ibsiqlaus (The Book of Ascensions of Hypsicles, corrected by al-Kindi from the translation of Qusta bin Luqa)
    12. Banu Musa - Abu Jafar Muhammad bin Musa bin Shakir (ca. 803-873), Ahmad bin Musa bin Shakir (ca. 803-873) and Al-Hasan bin Musa bin Shakir (ca. 810-873): Tahrir Kitab Ma'rifa Misaha al-Ashkal al-Basita wal-Kurriyya li Banu Musa (The Book of Knowledge on Measuring Plane and Spherical Figures)
    13. Ahmad bin 'Umar al-Karabisi al-Hindi (10th century): Kitab Misahat al-Halaq (The Book of Measuring Rings, only very few copies of this text are known today)
    14. Kashf al-Qina 'an Asrar al-Qatta' (The Removal of the Veil from Mysteries of [Figure of] Secants, anonymous translation from Persian into Arabic)
    15. Archimedes (ca. 287-212 BC): Tahrir Kitab al-Kurra wa'l-Ustuwana li Arshimidis (The Book on Sphere and Cylinder of Archaemedes, edited by Thabit bin Qurrah allegedly because the original translator was not acquainted with all the scientific terms)
    16. Archimedes (ca. 287-212 BC): Maqalat Arshimidis fi Taksir al-Da'ira (The Book on the Analysis or Measurement of the Circle)

    For further discussion on these works and listings of further copies of the works please see Boris A. Rosenfeld and Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Mathematicians, Astronomers, and Other Scholars of Islamic Civilization and their works (7th-19th century), Istanbul, 2003, no. 606, p. 89 and pp. 211-219).


    A note at the end of the final treatise, in an almost contemporary hand, states that the manuscript was copied from a copy in the hand of Mawlana al-Fadl al-Kamal Badr al-Mula wa al-Din Shams al-Islam wa al-Muslimin al-Rumi who in turn copied it from one by Qutb al-Mula wa al-Din Mahmud bin Massoud al-Shirazi who copied it from a copy that was in the possession of Tusi.

    Mawlana al-Fadl al-Kamal Badr al-Mula wa al-Din Shams al-Islam wa al-Muslimin al-Rumi may well refer to Shams al-Din Bukhari (fl. mid to late 13th century) who is cited in various Greek versions of Arabic and Persian astronomical handbooks, particularly those of the last decade of the 13th century in Maragha and Tabriz. There is nothing known of him in Persian or Arabic sources. What one can say with certainty is that Qutb al-Din Mahmud al-Shirazi (d. 1311 AD) was one of the most prominent theoretical astronomers of the 13th century. He lived in Shiraz until the age of 24 when he left to study at the Maragha Observatory with Nasir al-Din Tusi. His influence was widespread and his words were copied and studied for centuries. He was often referred to as 'Alem (supremely learned) and almost all later theoretical astronomers cite him.

    Muhammad bin Muhammad bin al-Hasan Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (d. 1272), who is described as the original muharrir (editor) and musannif (compiler) of the text from which the aforementioned scholars were copying, was born in Tus in AH 597/1201 AD. He was the most eminent scholar of the medieval world in trigonometry and wrote on a wide range of topics within the areas of mathematics and astronomy as well as on logic and theology. He is well-known as the founder of the observatory at Maragha in AH 1259 for the Ilkhanid ruler Hülegü. The final folio of the manuscript is dated Muharram AH 692/1292 AD, making it an extremely early copy of the work written within twenty years of Tusi's death.


    A similar compendium to the present, although dated late 17th century and later, is in the John Rylands Library (A. Mingana, D.D., Catalogue of the Arabic Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, 1934, p.538, no. 348). It, as the present copy, includes miscellaneous works edited by the great Persian mathematician Nasir al-Din Muhammad bin Muhammad al-Tusi. The present manuscript differs from the aforementioned in that as well as including these Greek works it also includes works by Arab scientists including one by Thabit bin Qurrah who is noted as having translated some of the Greek works.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.