An Arabic Translation of the Astronomical Tables of Ulugh Beg


This manuscript contains a 15th–16th century translation from Persian into Arabic by Yaḥyā ibn Alī al-Rifā‘ī of the introduction of the celebrated zīj (astronomical tables or records of daily occurrences) by Ulugh Beg (1394–1449). In the introduction to his work, al-Rifā‘ī states that he undertook the project at the behest of Egyptian astronomer Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Abū al-Fatḥ al-Ṣūf ī al-Miṣrī (died circa 1494), who was involved in studying and revising Ulugh Beg's zīj for Cairo's geographical coordinates. The present manuscript copy of al-Rifā‘ī’s translation consists of 29 pages with 31 lines to a page. The title page bears the stamps of previous owners, including Uthmān al-Fanawī, a judge in Egypt, and Muḥammad ‘Alī Pāshā, the wālī (ruler) of Egypt during the period of 1811–48. The colophon indicates that the transcription was completed at the end of Muḥarram, 1134 AH (mid-November 1721) and gives the scribe's name as Yūsuf ibn Yūsuf al-Maḥallī al-Shāfi‘ī, known as al-Kalārjī. Appended to this work is another manuscript in the same binding, but by a different hand, which begins at page 43. The slightly garbled colophon for the second manuscript indicates that it is also an Arabic translation from the Persian of a portion of Ulugh Beg's zīj, but the translator in this case is Ḥasan ibn Muḥammad al-Faṣīḥī al-Niẓāmī, known as Qāḍī Ḥasan (Judge Ḥasan). The date for the translation appears to be the end of 1015 AH (1607), and this copy dates from 1126 AH (1714). The earlier statement suggests that the surviving portion of this manuscript relied on a translation other than Qāḍī Ḥasan's.

Last updated: April 3, 2018