26 July 2021: Nadine Löhr "An Almost Forgotten Contribution to the Arabic Tetrabiblos"

On 26 July Nadine Löhr will speak on the  International Congress of History of Sciences and Technologies (Prague) about marginal and interlinear glosses in the Arabic Tetrabiblos manuscripts

Symposium (Part 2/3) The Greek and medieval Ptolemy (CHAMA) - ID 92

Symposium organizer: Benno van Dalen (Germany), Nathan Sidoli (Japan)

Chair: Benno van Dalen (Germany), David Juste (Germany)

An Almost Forgotten Contribution to the Tetrabiblos


Nadine Löhr
Bibliotheca Arabica, Saxon Academy of Sciences, Leipzig, Germany

Abstract text

This talk looks back at the beginnings of the history of the Arabic Tetrabiblos in 9th-century Baghdad and reconstructs, based on manuscript notes, Thābit ibn Qurra’s (d. 901) comments on the text. The study of the early transmission of the treatise has been plagued by a severe lack of data. According to the current state of research, the Tetrabiblos was first translated by ʿUmar ibn al-Farrukhān al-Ṭabarī (d. 815). Another version probably based on a lost translation by Ibrāhīm ibn al-Ṣalt goes back to Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq (d. 873). Individual manuscripts of this version contain quotes attributed to Thābit ibn Qurra, mostly in the form of annotations, in the margins of all four books. Some of the scribes even mention Thābit, contrary to popular opinion, as a revisor of Ḥunayn’s version of the Tetrabiblos. Historical biographical sources such as Ibn al-Nadīm, on the other hand, do not mention any corrections by Thābit but acknowledge his glosses to the first book. Other sources, like Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, mention a complete, but apparently lost commentary (Kitāb fī tafsīr al-arbaʿa) by Thābit. Thābit’s remarks are not transmitted in any derivative works: neither al-Battānī’s nor ʿAlī ibn Riḍwān’s renowned commentary includes references to Thābit. A close examination of the extant Arabic manuscripts of the Tetrabiblos with focus on marginal notes will give a better understanding of Thābit ibn Qurra’s contribution. This examination seeks to reconstruct parts of the lost text, to understand its purpose and to illuminate the circumstances of its fading prominence.

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