A Guide to Geometry, Surveying, the Launching of Missiles, and the Planting of Mines


This work, primarily intended for the training of military men, is a translation from a number of sources originally written in German and French. It was presented to the Bureau of Warfare and Jihād (Dār al-naṣr wa al-jihād) in Muḥarram, AH 1193 (early winter, 1779), or nearly two decades before Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798. The work’s compiler, ʻUthman ibn ʻAbd al-Mannān, a translator at the Ottoman court in Belgrade, had converted to Islam from Christianity. The title of the work hints at his sincere effort to make himself useful to his patrons as a Muslim, committed to fostering Muslim ascendancy. Earlier he had prepared translations of other books, one on medicinal herbs and another on geography and maps. The work covers five topics: arithmetic, geometry, surveying, shooting projectiles, and the planting of explosive mines. Elementary arithmetic, planar geometry, and conical sections are covered. Following a discussion of the mechanics of motion and magnetism, the book introduces, in adequate detail, the basics of making and shooting cannonballs. This is an important work that documents Muslim interest in and familiarity with Newtonian mechanics in the 18th century. Schematic drawings are included. The amounts of explosives needed to bring down walls and the proper precautions to be observed in storing gunpowder are discussed. The present manuscript was completed in 1791 (AH 1206).

Date Created

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Title in Original Language

هداية المهتدي لإيفاد سراج المحمدي

Type of Item

Physical Description

34 x 19.2 centimeters with a 26 x 9 centimeter text block of 33 lines. Red title and black text. Margins contain geometric colored shapes, gilded frames, and decorative images of plants. 128 leaves. Binding is made of linoleum and cardboard. Shows evidence of sweat.

Last updated: September 10, 2012