Studies on the Transmission of Medieval Mathematical Astronomy: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Studies on the Transmission of Medieval Mathematical Astronomy

1st Edition

By Raymond Mercier


334 pages

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Hardback: 9780860789499
pub: 2004-08-16

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Studies on the Transmission of Medieval Mathematical Astronomy opens with a new survey of the transmission of Hellenistic astronomy, followed by two studies on how the notion of precession was treated by Babylonian, Greek, Indian, Arabic and Latin hands. Next is a survey of the astronomical tables that appeared in Latin during the 12th century, drawn mainly from Arabic and to some extent from Hebrew, as well as a special study of the Latin tables for London and Pisa drawn originally from the 10th-century Islamic astronomer al-Sufi. For the Sanskrit texts the focus is on the demonstration that the systems were founded on observations made in India, even though much of the theory was Greek in origin. On Byzantine material there are studies of the Persian Syntaxis whose source lay in the Persian Zij-i Ilkhani, and of the diverse materials drawn on by Gemistus Plethon. Mercier's work shows that there is a unity in medieval astronomy in spite of the great diversity in cultural settings, which included South and Central Asia, the Middle East, Byzantium, and Europe. The texts were recorded in all the major languages of this great region, from Sanskrit to Latin, over a period of time stretching from the late classical world to late medieval Europe. Yet these astronomical texts have much in common, drawn from the whole apparatus of Ptolemaic, or rather more inclusively, Greek astronomy. Transmission is demonstrated partly by the continuity of technical terms, and partly by the conservation and development of numerical parameters.


'No one making a serious study of ways in which the technicalities of ancient astronomy were transmitted to posterity can be unaware of those papers on the subject published by Raymond Mercier over the last thirty years. These are not all easily obtained, and we are fortunate to have the best of them bound together in a coherent single volume of the Variorum Collected Studies Series… considered now a a group, they sweep majestically across a vast landscape, taking in Babylonian, Greek, Indian, Arabic and Latin cultures.' Journal for the History of Astronomy

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: the transmission of the Hellenistic legacy of astronomy; Studies in the medieval conception of precession; Accession and recession: reconstruction of the parameters; From Tantra to Zij; The meridians of reference of Indian astronomical canons; The parameters of the Zij of Ibn al-A'lam; Astronomical tables in the 12th century; The lost Zij of al-Sufi in the 12th-century tables for London and Pisa; The Greek 'Persian Syntaxis' and the Zij-i Ilkhani; The Astronomical Tables of George Gemistus Plethon; The date of the Mahasiddhanta; Index.

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 / General