Suwar al-Kawakib al-Thabitah ('Book of fixed Stars')

Abd al-Rahman al Sufi

Perhaps 12th century

Manuscript

This treatise, by a court astronomer in Iran, was the most important guide to constellation forms in the Islamic world. Al-Sufi represented the classical constellations according to the observer’s viewpoint. Thus, very constellation is illustrated with two drawings: one as seen in the sky by an observer on earth, and one in mirror-image as it appears on a celestial globe. Al-Sufi also described the constellations used in pre-Islamic Arabia and related them to their classical Greek counterparts.

The first image shown here is the constellation of the serpent and serpent-bearer, as it appears on a celestial globe. The black dots with red writing trace the serpent, the red dots with black writing the serpent-bearer. 

Comments

What makes this a treasure?

This is the oldest known manuscript of the Book of Fixed Stars. It maps stars as known to Arabs to the Constellations of the Greek. It is an extremely valuable source to identify accurately the Arabic star names.

Posted by Khalid AlAjaji

On 31/01/2012

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