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Review: Writing the History of Arabic Astronomy: Problems and Differing Perspectives
Reviewed Works: Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī's Memoir on Astronomy (al-Tadhkira fī ʿilm al-hayʾa) by F. J. Ragep; Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī: al-Tadhkirafiʿilm al-haʾa maʿa dirāsāt li-ishāmāt al-Ṭūsi al-falakīya by ʿAbbās Sulaimān
Review by: George Saliba
Journal of the American Oriental Society
Vol. 116, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1996), pp. 709-718
Published by: American Oriental Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/605441
Page Count: 10
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This review article of two editions of a medieval Arabic astronomical text raises a series of methodological questions relating to the writing of the general history of Arabic astronomy. These include, among others, the purpose of modern textual editions, their translations and the commentaries accompanying them, and the audience intended, as one addresses varying cultural requirements. Discussion of one of these works in particular also provides the opportunity to raise questions relative to the nature of manuscript evidence and the manner in which such evidence is deployed in modern studies, and the role of medieval commentaries in elucidating edited texts as well as the credence one should accord to the statements of medieval commentators on subjects beyond the immediate text with which they were concerned. Moreover, this essay focuses on the need to investigate the provenance of Arabic and Persian manuscripts now held in major European libraries (especially those in Italy and France), as it highlights the utility of such research in settling recently raised questions regarding the transmission of Arabic science to Europe during the Renaissance. Finally, evidence of such transmission raises the further question of its relevance for the ongoing debate regarding the influence of medieval Islamic astronomy on the works of Copernicus.
Journal of the American Oriental Society © 1996 American Oriental Society