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A female collector of al-Sufi's Book on Star Constellations

Posted 30/5/2015

Emilie Savage-Smith translated in her paper on the copy of al-Sufi's book on star constellations from 1125 different parts of the colophon. They contain important information about how the copyist worked, that al-Sufi taught his book to at least one student whom he gave apparently some kind of testimony that the student's copy was correct, that the copyist had also access to the alleged autograph of al-Sufi produced for the treasury of the Buyid ruler 'Adud al-Dawla which had since then moved into the possession of the 'Abbasid caliph. This last mentioned part of the colophon contains the only reference to a high-raking female official in the caliphal household as a collector and owner of scientific books - the head mistress of the women's part of the palace.

 

Due to the extreme rarity of such information about the interest of women in scientific books I copy here Emilie's translation of this part of the colophon:

  

        "I compared this book from its beginning to end, during the month of Safar of the year mentioned earlier [March 1125], with the copy that was made for the treasury of al-Malik 'Adud al-Dawla Abu Shuja' Fana-Khusraw ibn Rukn al-Dawla, may God be pleased with him, and it was a copy in an upright? (mujallas) script derived from Kufic, and all of the corrections and additions which were in it were in the handwriting of Abu’l-Husayn al-Sufi, the author of this book, and all the drawings (suwar) were the work of (san'a) Abu’l-Husayn al-Sufi in his own hand. 

And this copy moved about amongst the treasuries of the rulers of the Banu Buway [the Buyids] until it reached al-Sahliya, head housekeeper (qahramana) of the Prince of Believers [the caliph] al-Qa'im bi-Amr Allah (d.1075), and he [the caliph] bequeathed it as a waqf." Emilie-Savage Smith, The Most Authoritative Copy of 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi's Tenth-century Guide to the Constellations, p. 137 (paper is uploaded on academia.edu).

 

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