Bodleian Library MS. Marsh 144. 111/435. "Perseus (barshawush, or hamil ra

Bodleian Library MS. Marsh 144. 111/435. "Perseus (barshawush, or hamil ra's al-ghul), the bearer of the demon's head. (Constellations of the northern hemisphere). | Al-Sufi's Book of the Fixed Stars, a revision of Ptolemy's Almagest with Arabic star names and drawings of the constellations. Dated 1009-10 (A.H. 400)"

V. Rosen, Les manuscrits arabes de l

V. Rosen, Les manuscrits arabes de l'Institut des Langues Orientales, St. Petersburg, 1877, p. 118. No. 185.

Detail map of Isfahan, Isfahan Province, Iran Overview map of Isfahan, Isfahan Province, Iran

A: Isfahan, Isfahan Province, Iran

The Oldest Surviving Illustrated Arabic Manuscript: al-Rahman al-Sufi's Treatise on the Fixed Stars

1009 to 1010
<p>Bodleian Library MS. Marsh 144. 111/435. (p. 101) "<span id="metadata_description_text" class="metadata_field_text" data-bind="html: resultCurrent().dcterms_description_display">Cassiopeia (dhat al-kursi), the woman with the throne. (Constellations of the northern hemisphere). | Al-Sufi's Book of the Fixed Stars, a revision of Ptolemy's Almagest with Arabic star names and drawings of the constellations. Dated 1009-10 (A.H. 400)"</span></p>

Bodleian Library MS. Marsh 144. 111/435. (p. 101) "

Folios 325r and 326v of MS. Marsh 144, depicting the constellation Orion. (View Larger)

The two oldest illustrated Arabic manuscripts are copies of Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi's Treatise on the Fixed Stars. One of these is preserved in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Ms. Marsh 144).

"The pictures show the configurations of the stars in the forty-eight constellations recognized by Ptolemy, but the figures are dressed in Oriental rather than classical Greek garb. Al-Sufi wrote in his text that although he knew of another illustrated astronomical treatise, he copied his illustrations directly from images engraved on a celestial globe, indicating that he was not working in a manuscript tradition. According to the eleventh-century scholar al-Biruni, al-Sufi explained that he had laid a very thin piece of paper over a celestial globe and fitted it carefully over the surface of the sphere. He then traced the outlines of the constellations and the locations of individual stars on the paper. Al-Biruni later commented that this procedure 'is an [adequate] approximation when the figures are small but it is far [from adequate] if they are large.' The Oxford manuscript of al-Sufi's text was copied from the author's original by his son" (Bloom, Paper Before Print. The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World [2001]  143-44 and figure 51).

Digital facsimile from Digital Bodleian at this link.

The other copy of this work in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) "dated 396/1005-6 and 02/1011 and was copied from Sufi's holograph completed in 355/965 and dedicated to the Buwayhid 'Adud al-daula" (D. S. Rice, "The Oldest Illustrated Arabic Manuscript," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 22 (1959) 207-220, quotation from p. 207).

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