“The Instrument of the Beginners in the Science of the Beginning of the Months and of the Years” and “The Gem of the Disciples in the Explanation of the Instrument of the Beginners”


While in the West, particularly in modern times, poetry and science tend to differ sharply in their approach to describing the world, this is not the case in the Arabic-speaking world, where the use of the literary form of the poetical treatise has produced remarkable works in a variety disciplines, including mathematics, astronomy, alchemy, and astrology. The present manuscript shows that the tradition of the Arabic poetical treatise was not confined to the Middle Ages but was still alive in the 19th century. Aḥmad ibn Qāsim Al-Miṣrī (1814-1856) is the author of both the poetical stanzas found in the first three folios of the manuscript and of the prose commentary on the poem that follows. The subject of the treatise straddles astrology and astronomy, as it proceeds from the description of the heavenly bodies to a treatment of the zodiacal signs and their influences. This elegant manuscript is enriched by rubricated headings that lead the reader through the paragraphs of the poem and through the chapters of the prose commentary, which deal with the Arabic and Coptic reckoning of months, the zodiacal signs and their paths in the heavens, the seven planets known at the time, and the hours of sunrise and sunset.

Date Created

Subject Date


Title in Original Language

وسيلة المبتدئين لعلم غرة الشهور والسنين و تحفة المريدين بشرح وسيلة المبتدئين

Type of Item

Physical Description

30 leaves (21 lines), bound : paper ; 24 x 17 centimeters


Last updated: September 17, 2014