Ṭabarī: Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad ibn Ayyūb al‐Ḥāsib al‐Ṭabarī
Flourished (Iran), 1092–1108
Ṭabari lived in Iran under the Saljūqs,
probably in Āmul, and is the author of two independent treatises in
Persian on the astrolabe as well as several other books, including two on
arithmetic. Although several modern studies place him in the 13th century,
he must have lived earlier based upon manuscript sources and since he is
mentioned by al‐Bayhaqī in his Tatimmat ṣiwān
The first astrolabe treatise is known under the
title Shish faṣl (Six chapters [on the
knowledge of the astrolabe]), the oldest manuscript copy dating to 1176–1177.
It was probably composed at the request of some students and is arranged
in a question–answer (q/a) format:
On the parts of the astrolabe and their names (60 q/a);
On lines, figures, inscriptions, and circles on the
astrolabe (77 q/a);
On knowing the functioning of the back part of the astrolabe
On knowing the functioning of the face side of the astrolabe
On knowing how to check the exactness of the astrolabe
On the use of the astrolabe for land‐surveying/measuring
The second treatise is a shorter and simplified version of the “six
chapters” and is arranged simply into 104 entries. Entitled ʿAmal
wa‐alqāb ([On the] functions and
names [of the astrolabe]), the oldest extant manuscript copy is dated 1162.
It was written for a certain nobleman of his time, who is named in two copies
as Abū al‐Fatḥ Dawlatshāh ibn Sulaymān.
In the beginning of the treatise, Ṭabari states that there are three types of astrolabes: (1) spherical
(kurī) used in earlier times; (2) circular (dawrī),
used in the time of the author, who describes it as circular and flat; and
(3) boat‐shaped/navicula (King, 1999, p. 352) (zawraqī),
which is nevertheless described by Ṭabari as a “hemisphere, like a cup,” who indicates that it was used
in pre‐Islamic Iran and that the astrolabe was called in Pahlavi “the
cup that mirrors the world” ( jām‐i jahān‐namā).
This passage is not found in Abū Rayḥān al‐Bīrūnī's
Tafhīm and is quoted here as a curiosity.
Ṭabarī's two treatises on the
astrolabe are among the oldest extant Persian texts on the subject. For
a detailed study of their content, they should be compared to the earlier
chapter on the astrolabe in Bīrūnī's Tafhīm and
to the later Bist bāb dar maʿrifat‐i
(20 chapters on knowledge on the astrolabe) by Naṣīr al‐Dīn al‐Ṭūsī.
David A. (1999). World‐Maps for Finding the Direction and Distance
to Mecca. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
G. (1969). “A quelle époque a vécu l'astronome Moḥammad b. Ayyūb
Yādnāmah‐i Īrānī‐i Mīnūrskī,
edited by Mujtabá Mīnuvī and Īraj Afshār, pp. 1–8. Tehran:
1347 H. Sh.
F. (1997). “Observatoires portatifs.” In Histoire
des sciences arabes, edited by Roshdi Rashed. Vol. 1, pp. 139–172. Paris:
Pingree, D. (1987). “Asṭorlāb.” In Encyclopaedia
Iranica, edited by Ehsan Yarshater. Vol. 2, pp. 853–857. Winona Lake,
Muḥammad ibn Ayyūb. (1993). “Maʿrifat‐i
usṭurlāb” maʿrūf bih
“Shish faṣl” bih ḍamīmah‐i “ ʿAmal
wa al‐alqāb,” edited by M. Amīn Riyāhī. Tehran:
1371 H. Sh.