Islamic Astronomical Tables: Mathematical Analysis and Historical Investigation, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Islamic Astronomical Tables

Mathematical Analysis and Historical Investigation, 1st Edition

By Benno van Dalen


364 pages

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Hardback: 9781472422385
pub: 2014-01-08
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This volume comprises nine articles on Islamic astronomy published since 1989 by Benno van Dalen. Van Dalen was the first historian of Islamic astronomy who made full use of the new possibilities of computers in the early 1990s. He implemented various statistical and numerical methods that can be used to determine the mathematical properties of medieval astronomical tables, and utilized these to obtain entirely new, until then unattainable historical results concerning the interdependence of individual tables and hence of entire astronomical works. His programmes for analysing tables, making sexagesimal calculations and converting calendar dates continue to be widely used. The five articles in the first part of this collection explain the principles of a range of statistical methods for determining unknown parameter values underlying astronomical tables and present extensive step-by-step examples for their use. The four articles in the second part provide extensive studies of materials in unpublished primary sources on Islamic astronomy that heavily depend on these methods. The volume is completed with a detailed index.


'… what readers have before them in this book is twenty years of insightful, pioneering work into the analysis of Islamic astronomical tables. The impact of van Dalen’s work cannot be overstated.' - Journal of the History of Astronomy

'This is an important collection of papers, published over the span of a quarter century, devoted entirely to one topic, the astronomical handbooks with tables and explanations for their use…' - Zentralblatt MATH

"For the last 25 years, Benno van Dalen has devoted his efforts indefatigably to the study and analysis of medieval astronimical tables, particularly Islamic tables, and his research has contributed substantially to the progress in this field…it is most welcome that nine of his most remarkable papers, dating from 1989 to 2008, are now published together in a single volume." - José Chabás, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Aestimatio

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Part 1 Methods for Analysing Astronomical Tables: A statistical method for recovering unknown parameters from medieval astronomical tables; On Ptolemy’s table for the equation of time; A table for the true solar longitude in the Jami’ Zij; Al-Khwarizmi’s astronomical tables revisited: analysis of the equation of time; Origin of the mean motion tables of Jai Singh. Part 2 Studies of Zijes: The Zij-i Nasiri by Mahmud ibn ‘Umar. The earliest Indian-Islamic astronomical handbook with tables and its relation the Ala i Zij; A second manuscript of the Mumtahan Zij; Re-editing the tables in the Sabi’ Zij by al-Battani (ca. AD 900) (with Fritz S. Pedersen); Dates and eras in the Islamic world: era chronology in astronomical handbooks; Indexes.

About the Author

Benno van Dalen was for long a researcher at the former Institute for the History of Science in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and is now one of the two research leaders of the 25-year project 'Ptolemaeus Arabus et Latinus' at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Munich, Germany.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Middle East / General
SCIENCE / History