Persian astrological and mathematical manuscript

Ghaznavi, Zaher al-Din Abul Muhammad ibn Masud al-. Kifayat al-ta'lim fi sina'at al-tanjim.

Persia or Central Asia, [1708/09 CE =] 1120 H.

Folio (176 x 285 mm). 100 ff. Persian manuscript on paper. Black nasta'liq script with important words and phrases picked out in red. With 5 charts and 19 hand-drawn diagrams. 20th century cloth-backed boards.


A manuscript of Persian astrology illustrated by more than twenty carefully drawn astronomical diagrams and charts. Only five works survive from al-Ghaznavi, a renowned Persian astronomer as well as a skilled physician and philosopher who was active in the 12th century and also wrote on topics such as algebra, general mathematics, and astronomy. Along with al-Biruni's "Book of Instruction in the First Principles of the Art of Astrology", this is considered one of the two most important Persian astrological works, and copies are rare.

Of particular interest in this manuscript are the numerous diagrams sketched in red and interspersed throughout the text. Most are circular and geometric, depicting the zones of the earth and the celestial sphere, or used as an aid to understanding the complex astronomical mathematics demanded by Muslim astrology. One must calculate, for example, the position of the planet Mercury down to the minute (the measurement for small distances across the sky that a planet might travel) before one knows whether the planet is in a beneficial or unfortunate position (Mercury in the Southern sky appeared to be a good sign). Likely, an astrologer using this manuscript would need to sketch out his own versions of these diagrams, and would find the scribe's ready-made examples quite handy.

Al-Ghaznavi wrote largely in Persian; only the "Kifayat al-ta'lim" was popular enough to be translated into Arabic during the medieval period, and several Arabic translations survive in copies held in Berlin and Cambridge. This original Persian version of the "Kifayat al-ta'lim" is sometimes confused with a later Persian work by Sharaf al-Din Muhammad ibn Masud al-Marwazi (fl. 13th century CE) entitled "Jahan-i danish", but is a distinct and earlier work.


Covers chipped, a few paper repairs and occasional stains, altogether in good condition, with text and diagrams largley unaffected.


GAL S I, 863f.