Quintessence of Calculation


The author of this mathematical treatise, Bahā' al-Dīn Al-‘Amilī (1547–1621), is considered one of the leading intellectuals of 17th-century Safavid Persia (present-day Iran). He was born in Baalbek (present-day Lebanon) but moved to Persia in his youth where he devoted his entire life to study. He excelled in various fields, leaving a legacy of more than 80 books on a wide variety of subjects that included theology and mysticism, astronomy, mathematics, poetry, and architecture. He wrote in both Persian and Arabic. He was the teacher of Mulla Sadra, one of the leading intellectuals of the Persian philosophical renaissance and a figure in the Illuminationist movement, an original philosophical school that tried to harmonize Medieval Islamic philosophy, mysticism, and Shiite Islam. Al-‘Amilī’s contribution in the field of architecture is still visible in the city of Isfahan, where he designed Imam Square and the homonymous mosque and worked on a system of artificial channels to divert the course of the Zayandeh River. This treatise, a compendium of mathematics, and the astronomical treatise Fī Tasrīh al-Aflāk (The anatomy of the heavens), are two of Bahā' al-Dīn’s few works in Arabic. The ten chapters of the work offer a summary of arithmetical and algebraic operations. The author alternates prose passages with explanatory numerical tables. The presence of many interlinear notes and marginalia indicate that the manuscript was actually used for study and was not just a decorative object.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

بهائية في الحساب

Type of Item

Physical Description

33 leaves (11 lines), bound : paper, illustrations ; 13 x 7 centimeters


  • Paper: yellowed cream, no visible watermarks. Text is incomplete (leaves missing at end). Title page and text are in black ink, with a few rubricated words. Some diacritical marks. Text on fol. 2b-14b is framed by two red lines; text on fol. 15a-19a is framed by a single red line. No frame and no rubrication on fol. 19b-34b. Fol. 17a-b written in a different hand. First leaf repaired. Leaves with notes inserted between fol. 13 and 14 and between fol. 20 and 21. Copious marginal notes on first 19 leaves; catchwords on rectos. Binding: modern cardboard, covered with cloth, leather spine. Naskhī script.


Last updated: August 29, 2017