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Compositions attributed to Abū Ma‘shar Balī in the manuscript collection of the Institute of Oriental Studies, St Petersburg1

  • Sergei Tourkin


Five manuscripts from the collection of the Institute of Oriental Studies, St. Petersburg contain compositions which are connected in one way or another with the name of the outstanding medieval astronomer and astrologer Abū Ma‘shar Balī (born in Bali on AH 20 Safar 171/10 August 787 AD, died at Wasef on AH 29 Ramazan 272/9 March 886 AD).2 According to existing catalogues these five manuscripts are the only ones among those kept in the city collections that contain Abū Ma‘shar's works.



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2 For his life and works see Storey, C. A., Persian Literature. A Bio-bibliographical Survey, vol. II, part i, London, 1958, pp. 3940; two articles by Pingree, D. in the Encyclopædia Iranica, vol. I, fasc. 4, pp. 337–40 and in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. i, New York 1970, pp. 3239; Sezgin, Fuat, Geschichte des Arabischen Schrifttums, vol. V, pp. 274275, vol. VI, pp. 156–57, vol. VII, pp. 139–51, 328–29.

3 The manuscript was first reported on in: Miklukho-Maklay, N. D., Akimushkin, O. F., Kushev, V. V. and Salakhetdinova, M. A., Some Rare Persian and Tajik MSS in the Collection of the Leningrad Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies, the USSR Academy of Sciences (Moscow, 1960), p. 4, No. 6 (Papers Presented by the USSR. Delegation at the XXV International Congress of Orientalists).

For a more detailed description of the manuscript and the second treatise attributed to Abū Ma'shar balī (see below) see also our article Astrologkheskii Traktat XIV v. o Soedineniiah Svetil v Odnom Znake Zodiaka, Pripisyvaemyi Abu Ma'sham Balkhi” in: Pis';mennye Pamiatniki i Problemy Istorii Kul'tury Narodov Vostoka, vol. XXIV, part 1 (Moscow, 1991), pp. 212–17.

4 Akimushkin, O. F., Kushev, V. V., Miklukho-Maklay, N. D., Mughinov, A. M. and Salakhetdinova, M. A., Persidskie I Tadzhikskie Rukopisi Inslituta Narodov Azii Akademii Nauk SSSR, Kratkii Alfavitnyi Kalalog (Persian and Tajik MSS of the Institute of the Peoples of Asia. A Concise Alphabetical Catalogue), part 1 (Moscow, 1964), p. 189, No. 1277.

5 See: Sezgin, F., G.A.S., vol. VII, pp. 41–8.

6 See ibid., pp. 32–38.

7 See ibid., pp. 38–41.

8 Anushirvan – the celebrated Sasanian ruler (531–579 AD). For Isḥāq al-Kindī see F. Sezgin, idem., pp. 130–34.

9 We have not succeeded in identifying this name so far.

10 Cf. Storey, , II, i, p.40.

11 For other copies see Storey, idem, Monzavi, A., A Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts, vol. 1, Tehran, 1969, pp. 306–07 and Note 13 below.

12 In the Catalogue of Persian and Tajik manuscripts (Note 4) these two copies are recorded as though containing different compositions under the same tide (part 1, p. 305, Nos. 2184 and 2185). It is also mentioned there that in the copy B 20862 the author's name is Abū Maghribi Balī (sic). However, in our opinion this is the result of a wrong reading of the name. The name of Abū Ma'shar Balī has been written in this copy in a way that the combination of three dots above the Arabic letter was taken for the cursive writing of the two letters and and the very letter , written without “teeth” and quite short, was omitted in reading. On comparing the texts in the two copies it has become clearly evident that they both contain the same work.

13 Bodleian Library MS Bodl. Or. 413, ff. 26b–28a and British Library MS Or. 9604, ff. 175b–177b.

14 It has already been remarked by Storey in this concern (see Note 10), that irrespective of whichever Bahrāmshāh is meant, this would still post-date Abū Ma‘shar's lifetime.

15 See Storey II, 1, p. 39; Pingree, D., Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 1, p. 37, no. 19 and Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 1, p. 339, no. 11; Sezgin, F., G.A.S., vol. VII, p. 142, no. 2; etc.

16 Arobskie Rukopisi Instituta Vostokovedeniia. Kratkii Katalog (Arabic Manuscripts of the Institute of Oriental Studies. A Concise Catalogue), ed. byKhalidov, A. B., part 1 (Moscow, 1986), p. 456, No. 9733.

1 The present article is a fuller variant of the paper presented at the Third European Conference of Iranian Studies organised by Societas Iranologica Europæa and held in Cambridge in September 1995.

The author sees his pleasant duty in thanking the British Academy for the financial support which made his participation in the Conference possible. Dr Charles Melville (Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Cambridge), the Conference Organiser is to be thanked in this regard as well for his numerous efforts and arrangements. We are also indebted to Dr Raymond Mercier (now retired) and the late Mr John Cooper (Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Cambridge) for their help in the preparation of the English version of the paper.

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