Abū Ma‘shar’s Eight Treatises Regarding the Great Conjunctions, the Annual Revolutions, and Their Origins


Ja‘far ibn Muḥammad al-Balkhī (787–886), known as Abū Ma‘shar (and as Albumasar in the Latin West), was one of the most-renowned astronomers of the Middle Ages. His fame in Europe rested upon numerous Latin translations of his astronomical works from the original Arabic. He was born in the Persian city of Balkh (present-day Afghanistan), on 20th of Ṣafar, 171 AH (August 10, 787). He most likely received his early education in Balkh prior to moving to Baghdad, as his works are often colored by a distinct Persian nationalism. According to Ibn al-Nadīm, the tenth-century scholar and bibliographer, Abū Ma‘shar abandoned the study of hadith to focus instead on astronomy and astrology when he was 47 years old. Ibn al-Nadīm lists more than 30 astronomical titles by Abū Ma‘shar. Shown here is Kitāb aḥkām taḥāwil sinī al-mawālīd (Book of the annual revolutions of nativities), translated by Johannes Hispalensis (John of Seville, flourished mid-12th century) under the title De magnis coniunctionibus et annorum revolutionibus ac eorum profectionibus octo continens tractatus, and first printed at Augsburg in 1489. The first five books were also translated into Latin in the 13th century from an earlier Greek translation and published in Basel in 1559. Presented here is a Venice edition of 1515, printed in the shop of Melchiorre Sessa the elder (active 1506–49), identifiable by his printer’s mark: the initials “MS” beside a crown above the image of a cat that has just caught a mouse.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Melchior Sessa for Jacob Pentius Leucensis, Venice


Title in Original Language

Albumasar De magnis conjunctionibus, annorum revolutionibus, ac eorum profectionibus, octo continens tractatus

Type of Item

Physical Description

188 pages : illustrations ; 21 centimeters

Last updated: June 17, 2014