Commentary on "The Compendium of Plain Astronomy"


This work is a commentary on Mulahhas fī al-Hay'a Al-Basīta (The compendium of plain astronomy), a treatise on theoretical astronomy by Maḥmūd ibn Muḥammad Jighmīnī. A renowned Persian mathematician and astronomer, Jighmīnī was born in the village of Jaghmīn, in the region of Khwarizm in present-day Uzbekistan. He died circa 1221 during the cataclysmic Mongol conquest of Khwarizm. Several popular commentaries were written on his treatise. On the cover of this manuscript a handwritten note from a previous owner states: “This is a commentary of the 'Handbook of al-Jighmīnī' on astronomy, which has been rendered by Al-sayyid Shams al-Dīn al-Samarqandī for the Sultan Ulugh Beg ibn Shāhrukh ibn Amīr Taymūr Gurkān, may the Lord bless them all.” The attribution of this commentary to Shams al-Dīn al-Samarqandī creates a chronological problem, as the only known astronomer of this name flourished more than a century and a half before Ulugh Beg's era. The misattribution of the work is confirmed by the text of the manuscript itself, which clearly is a copy of the very popular commentary by Qāḍīzāda al-Rūmī (Ṣalāh al-Din Mūsā ibn Muḥammad, 1364–1436). Qāḍīzāda was one of the principal astronomers working at the celebrated Samarqand observatory under the patronage of the astronomer and ruler Ulugh Beg. Indeed, one of Qāḍīzāda's surviving works is a commentary on Shams al-Dīn al-Samarqandī's Ashkāl al-ta’sīs (Forms of foundation), which Qāḍīzāda also dedicated to Ulugh Beg. It is not clear how the name of the author of the work for which Qāḍīzāda wrote a commentary came to be associated with Qāḍīzāda's commentary on Jighmīnī's work. The manuscript is executed in Nasta‘liq script, with numerous figures, in black and red ink, and it contains copious marginal notes in Arabic.

Last updated: June 17, 2014