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ASTRONOMY
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ASTRONOMY

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ASTRONOMY
Astronomical texts, in Hebrew, manuscript on vellum and paper. [Provence?, 14th century]. 214 x 145mm. 72 leaves, remounted onto guards in five gatherings, 24-25 lines written in Sephardic in brown ink in several semi-cursive hands, justification: 155 x 95mm, catchwords in lower inner margins, marginal annotations, tables and six full-page or half-page drawings of astronomical diagrams and instruments (many leaves with lower corners or margins restored to size, with small loss to one diagram, some dampstaining). Modern half blue morocco gilt. Provenance: Samuel David Luzzatto -- Solomon Halberstam (shelf no. 127, inscription on front free endpaper noting original additional contents, comprising medical and astronomical texts) -- Montefiore Endowment collection, Hirschfeld Ms 425 -- Montefiore Endowment sale, Sotheby's New York, 28 October 2004, lot 310.

CONTENT:
Beur Ma'asseh Keli ha-Astrolab, treatise on constructing an astrolabe, ff.1-7; note on the astrolabe, f.7v; Levi ben Gershom (Gersonides), stations of the Zodiac for the year 1325, including an unpublished star table, and a gazetteer of the cities in Europe, Asia and Africa with their longitudes and latitudes, attributed to Abraham ibn Ezra, ff.8-10; Treatise on the seven planets ff.12-13v; Sefer Peirush ha Astrolab, Ahmad ibn Saffar's commentary on the astrolabe, translated from the Arabic by Jacob ben Makhir ibn Tibbon, ff.15-31v; Rova Yisrael, by Jacob ben Machir ibn Tibbon, with two additional leaves from another copy inserted between ff.39 and 40 containing chapters 10-14, ff.32-45; On the stations of the moon f.45v; Judah ben Eleazar, treatise on the astrolabe in thirty-four chapters, ff.46-69.

A RARE, IMPORTANT COMPILATION OF EARLY ASTRONOMICAL TEXTS. The first treatise is likely to be an abridgement of Ptolemy's work on the astrolabe, Ma'asseh Keli Habatah, in an anonymous translation from the Arabic (another copy, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence, Cod. Plut. 88.28). Judah ben Eleazar's treastise on the astrolabe is an APPARENTLY UNIQUE copy -- the only other known manuscript is a short citation included in the codex cited above in Florence. Jacob ben Machir ibn Tibbon, born in Provence circa 1236, was a prominent physician and astronomer, known as Don Profiat Tibbon. His works, translated into Latin, were quoted by Copernicus, Reinhold and Clavius; whilst he himself was known for his translations into Hebrew of Arabic scientific, philosophical and astronomical texts. He died in Montpellier in 1304, where he had been Regent of the Faculty of Medicine.

Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885), patron of scholars and the most prominent Anglo-Jew of the 19th century, built up a unique collection of valuable manuscripts, founding the Judith Montefiore Theological College in 1869 in memory of his late wife, 'to promote the study and advancement of the holy Law and general Hebrew literature'. The collection was enlarged by Dr Moses Gaster (1856-1939), who purchased important manuscripts which once belonged to Leopold Zunz, one of the founders of the 'Science of Judaism', and to the bibliophile Solomon Hayyim Halberstam. Hartwig Hirschfeld, Descriptive Catalogue of the Hebrew Manuscripts of the Montefiore Library, London: 1904, no.425. See B.R. Goldstein, The Astronomical Tables of Levi ben Gerson (New Haven, 1974, p.84, no.40) and Centaurus 28 (1985, pp. 200-202); B. Levy, Planets Potions and Parchments: Scientifica Hebraica from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Eighteenth Century (Montreal, 1990, p.31, no.28); for Beur Maasseh Keli ha-Astrolab, see M. Steinschneider, Die hebräischen übersetzungen des Mittelalters (Berlin, 1893, pp.607-8).

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