Islamic Celestial Cartography

Elly Dekker

in Illustrating the Phaenomena

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199609697
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745645 | DOI:
Islamic Celestial Cartography

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The oldest artefact in Islamic celestial cartography is the ceiling painting in Quṣayr cAmra. All other mappings are found on celestial globes. In the ninth century Arabic astronomers wrote the first treatises on the use of globes, an activity underlining the significance of globes in education. A highlight in Islamic celestial cartography is the Book on the Constellations of the fixed Stars which the Persian astronomer al-Ṣūfī wrote for his patron cAḍud al-Dawla. The illustrations of this treatise in Oxford, MS Marsh 144 may have been copied from a globe, possibly one designed by al-Sūfi himself. The earliest extant mathematical celestial globes were made in Muslim Spain in ca. 1080. Although made in the west these globes show glimpses of an eastern tradition in globe making predating the work of al-Ṣūfī. The remaining eight early globes are made between 1145/46 and 1383/84 and show all the impact of al-Ṣūfī's work.

Keywords: Quṣayr cAmra; Islamic mathematical tradition; projections; celestial maps; precession; trepidation; Abu’ l-Ḥusayn al-Ṣūfī; Islamic globe

Chapter.  37542 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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