Al-Qabīṣī’s Treatise on the Principles of Judicial Astronomy


ʻAbd al-ʻAzīz Ibn ʻUthmān was a famous astrologer, believed, based on a comment in the Fihrist, to have been a contemporary of Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq Ibn al-Nadīm (active 987). He was probably born in al-Qabīṣ, which is a place-name shared by two locations in Iraq, one near Mawṣil, and the other near Sāmarra. He may have been of Persian descent. Al-Qabīṣī’s principal surviving work is al-Madkhal ilā ṣinā‘at aḥkām al-nujūm (Introduction to the craft of [knowing] the judgment of the stars), dedicated to Sayf al-Dawla, the Ḥamdānid ruler of Aleppo from 944–45 to 966–967. This work was translated into Latin by Joannes Hispalensis in 1144; a French translation (presumably from the Latin) was made by Pèlerin de Prusse in 1362. Three short treatises by al-Qabīṣī also have survived in a single manuscript copy in Istanbul, Aya Sofya MS 4832: Risāla fī anwāʿ al-aʿdād wa ṭarāʾif min al-aʿmāl mimmā jamaʿahū min mutaqaddimī ahl al-ʿilm bi hādhihi al-ṣināʾa  (Treatise on the types of number and novel operations compiled from the earlier practitioners of this craft); the astronomical treatise Risāla fi ’l-abʿād wa ’l-ajrām (Treatise on bodies and distances); and Mā sharaḥahū min kitāb al-fuṣūl li ’l-Farghānī (an exposition of the Book of Seasons by Farghānī). The first two treatises are dedicated to al-Qabīṣī’s patron, Sayf al-Dawla. The Latin title of the present work suggests that it is a commentary on al-Madkhal ilā ṣinā‘at aḥkām al-nujūm, or perhaps on the lost work Kitāb fī ithbāt sināʿat aḥkām al-nujūm (The book on the proof of judgment of the stars). The author is John Danko of Saxony (active, 1327–55), an astronomer at the University of Paris. Appended at the end is a short chapter on the astrological effects on illness and health by Petrus Turrellus (Petrus de Turre). The work was printed in Lyon between 1519 and 1523.

Last updated: June 17, 2014