Under King Alfonso X, El Sabio, (1252-1284), the tradition of the Toledan translators was continued.1 These translator/scribes worked in pairs. Both these scribes had in common the local vernacular, the Jewish2 and the Muslim scholar/scribes having a better knowledge and command of Hebrew and Arabic, while the Christians were more expert in Latin. In a team effort, one scribe, usually a Jew, would read from the original Arabic and simultaneously translate into Castilian. The second scribe would then translate the Castlian into Latin. Eventually only the Castilian was recorded, the Latin being abandoned altogether.
Alfonsine literary production covered a wide variety of topics: literary, historical, legal, and scientific. The Libros del saber de astronomia, along with the Tablas astronomicas, the Libro de las cruces, the Libro de las formas et de las ymagenes que son en los cielos et de las uertudes et de las obras que salen de ellas en los cuerpos que son de yuso del cielo de la luna3 and the Libro conplido en los iudizios de las estrellas have been seen by some as the most important of King Alfonso's literary legacies. In fact, these scientific works shed light on Alfonso's own involvement in the creation of those texts attributed to his reign, as well as identifying a number of his collaborating scholars and scribes.
The Tablas astronomicas were compiled by two Jewish scholars: Isaac ben Sid and Jehuda ben Moses Cohen. Apparently King Alfonso took a more active part in the creation of the Libros del saber de astronomia, and his name is listed along with those of the authors of the Arabic original texts.
In the Libro de las estrellas fijas, first produced in 1256, Alfonso himself took part in the 1276 revision done by Jehuda ben Moses Cohen and Guillén Arremón Daspá. This time with the added help of Samuel and John of Messina and John of Cremona. Approximately fifteen scholar-scribes, Jews and Christians, Spaniards and Italians alike, are named as having been involved in the creation of the works referred to as the Alfonsine corpus. Most such names occur only in the prologue to the treatises and there is no further information given about them. Of the Jews Isaac ben Sid, also known as Rabiçag, Jehuda ben Moses Cohen, and Samuel ha-Levi Abraham are from Toledo. They all seem to have taken part in the translation process in some capacity or another, especially Isaac ben Sid and Jehuda ben Moses Cohen. Among the Spanish collaborators who worked with their Jewish counterparts were Maestre Fernando de Toledo, Garci Perez and Guillén Arremón Daspá. Among the Italians two names stand out: Maestre Joan de Messina and Maestre Joan de Cremona.4 The role of the Jewish scholars within this chain of translations should not be understated, insomuch as they were intermediaries between Arab and Christian translators, and as such played an essential role in the compilation/translation process.
The Libros del saber de astronomia is essentially a compilation of translations into Castilian from Arabic texts on astronomy complemented by original astronomical observations that took place in Toledo and Burgos. The final compilation was probably completed between 1276 and 1279, even if some of the prologues of its book divisions do indicate earlier dates of compositions.5
The Libros del saber de astronomia contains sixteen treatises6 on astrognosis, astronomastics, and astrotetics. Book One is a catalogue of stars. It embodies the tradition of Ptolemy—through his Almagest—continued by Arab astronomers. Book Two through Ten, as well as Book Sixteen, concentrate instead on the more practical matter of the instruments of observation: the celestial globe, the armellas, the spherical astrolabe, the flat astrolabe, the atazir, the universal lamina, the asaphea, the laminae of the seven planets (also known as the planetaries), the quadrant, and the atacir. Each of these books is then divided into two books: one dealing with the construction proper of the instrument, the other with its use. Books Eleven through Fifteen describe the construction and use of five types of clocks: the sundial, the clepsydra, the mercury, the candle, and the hour palace.
There are several surviving manuscrpts of the Libros del saber de astronomia, all of which are either incomplete or fragmentary. Ms. C, Complutense, (Madrid, Biblioteca de la Universidad, Ms. 156-94-115-Z-14, formerly Facultad de Derecho, Ms. 73, 1), dates back to the 13th century and is believed to have emanated from Alfonso's cámara regia and served as the archetype for the other extant copies of the work, including the 14th-century Italian translation (Ms. V), the edition of which is being published herein for the first time. Ms. C is, however, missing a number of folios and has suffered considerable mutilation over the centuries.
Ms. H1, which belongs to the Academia de la Historia de Madrid, (Madrid, Biblioteca de El Escorial, sala 12, est 26, gr. 4, D, Ms. 97), is written in a 15th-century hand, and Ms. H2 (Ms. 3,306), which is bound in the same codex as Ms. H1, is in all likelihood a copy of it. Ms. N, (Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional L3, Ms. V-11-9), dates from the beginning of the 16th century and is incomplete, preserving only forty-nine folios.
Ms. V, (Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Ms. 8174), from which the present edition is made, is a translation of the original Castilian into 14th-century Florentine Italian. It was done in Seville in 1341 by Guerruccio, son of Cione Federighi, from Florence, as is revealed from internal evidence:
E dopo molto tempo che andaua la era in .Mccclxxviii. anni Egli anni domini .Mccxli. essendo in ispagna nella citta di Sibilia Guerruccio figluolo di Cione Federighi della molto nobile citta di firençe fece traslatare questo libro. di Castellano in fiorentino.7
It is written in a beautiful Gothic minuscule hand and is "astonishingly identical to the original [i.e., Ms. C] [in that] … it reveals an identical textual format,"8 even to its faithful reproduction of illuminations, rubrics, star-wheels, charts, figures, tables, layout and size, and even the colors of ink used.9 It is obvious that the Italian translation was done from C when the latter had not yet suffered mutilation, since the Italian Ms. Is in a magnificent state of preservation. In fact, the only lacunae it has are in the blank spaces left by the translator where the Spanish original has transliterated Arabic words which must have been unknown to the Italian. Ms. V is, however, "the most complete of all the variants,"10 and as such, must figure in any serious attempt at producing a critical edition of this important Old Spanish work. Moreover, given that the Italian translation was demonstrably copied directly from the Castilian original and only some seventy years after the Alsonsine archetype was created, it may well turn out to be the most reliable of the surviving sources for recovering those passages in the original Castilian Ms. lost through abuse and neglect.
It is my intention to provide with the present edition a semi-paleographic transcription of the Italian text, with an eye toward eventually preparing a reading editon of it.
It is hoped that the present transcription will be useful not only to students of the Old Italian language, but also to historians of science, as well as to those concerned with the transmission of scientific knowledge in the Middle Ages.
I have endeavored to respect the transcription norms established by the Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, in its Manual of Manuscript Transcription for the Dictionary of the Old Spanish Language. 4th ed. Madison: HSMS, 1986.
1 Latin translations of Arabic astronomical and other scientific works were already being done in the ninth and tenth centuries.
2 Often more than one Jew would collaborate in this first step of the translation.
3 A collection of eleven books, otherwise known as "lapidaries." Part one is also called Lapidario de Abolays.
4 For further details see Evelyn S. Procter. "The Scientific Works of the Court of Alfonso X of Castille: The King and his Collaborators." Modern Language Review 40 (1945): 12-29.
5 It seems that a few of these team-work translations passed through different stages of elaboration. In most cases many years may in fact have separated the first translation from its final revised version.
6 All of which are abundantly illustrated with illuminations, headings, figures, diagrams, wheels, charts, tables, and clocks.
7 Libro di sapere di astronomia, Ms. 8174, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Città del Vaticano, folio 53r.
8 Anthony J. Cárdenas. "The Complete Libro del saber de astrología and Cod. Vat. 8174." Manuscripta 25 (1981): 14-22; 18.
9 For a detailed analysis of the codicological features of Ms. V and its similarities to C see Anthony J. Cárdenas, "The Complete Libro del saber de astronomía and Cod. Vat. 8174," 18.
10 Anthony J. Cárdenas, "The Complete Libro del saber de astronomía and Cod. Vat. 8174
HSMS = Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies, Ltd.
MLR = Modern Language Review
RFE = Revista de Filología Española
UTET = Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese
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