Pseudo-Masha’allah, On the Astrolabe

A Critical Edition of the Latin Text with English Translation by Ron B. Thomson

Guest post by Ron B. Thomson
Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto
11/4/2015: Updated files have been published at

The astrolabe was the most important scientific instrument in the Middle Ages, and the treatise ascribed to Masha’allah (but not actually by him) is the most important text on the subject. It was much copied and survives in all or in part in almost 200 manuscripts. Generally there are more than 100 copies of each part of the treatise.

The 1929 edition published by R. T. Gunther was based on only three or four local manuscripts, and as such is defective in many places. Missing phrases, or mis-copies or mis-read phrases at times make that text unintelligible.

This edition is based on the collation of a significant number of manuscripts (over 80, and eventually, it is hoped, all manuscript copies). What is now being published here is the text of the Prologue and of the twenty-two chapters of the Composition text (Version 1.2). The edition is available in the ShareOK repository.

The edition is available in five PDF files:

  1. Part I: Introduction contains the preface and introductory material, including manuscript information;
  2. Part II: Critical Edition contains the Latin text and diagrams, the critical apparatus and a facing English translation;
  3. Part III: Latin Text contains the Latin text and diagrams, without the apparatus criticus, but maintaining the line numbers of the critical edition;
  4. Part IV: English Text contains the English text and diagrams, for those who are interested in consulting only the translation.
  5. Appendix I: Catalogue of Stars contains information about all the stars mentioned in the text.

Over time these texts will be updated and expanded, when the remaining manuscript copies are collated, and when the editing of further sections have been completed. However, it is not expected that the present version will change – the rest of the manuscripts will expand the apparatus criticus but are unlikely to modify the text itself.

The editor is interested in the receiving comments on the text, and further insights into its interpretation, from others. He is willing to incorporate such additions into later versions for the benefit of others who would consult this edition in the future. Comments may be sent to

Permission is given for scholars to print out (and bind) any or all of these texts for non-commercial uses: research, study, criticism and citation. Commercial reproduction of all or part of the texts is not permitted without the prior consent of the copyright owner.

The proper citation of this work is: Pseudo-Masha’allah, On the Astrolabe, ed. Ron B. Thomson, version 1.2 (Toronto, 2012-2015), accessed at

Note: We thank Prof. Thomson for this guest post, and for making this important edition available to scholars in electronic form as downloadable pdfs from Bookmark this page to obtain future versions of Prof. Thomson’s edition. Should it become available elsewhere, this page will forward visitors to the most current location.

Posted in Digital projects | 1 Comment

Annual Constitution Day Celebration at OU

Constitution Day Celebrations at the University of Oklahoma


Celebrate Federal Constitution Day Sept, 17, 2015 by attending the annual lecture sponsored by OU’s Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage (IACH). This year, Dr. Andrew J. O’Shaughnessy will speak on “The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the Revolutionary War and the Fate of the Empire” at 4:30 in Meacham Auditorium, Oklahoma Memorial Union. Dr. O’Shaughnessy is Professor of History at University of Virginia and Saunders Director of the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. For more details see the IACH website.

You are also invited to celebrate the 122nd anniversary of Government Documents at their Open House, 2pm-4pm, on the 4th floor of Bizzell Memorial Library. The first 100 attendees will receive complimentary mini-Constitutions. Punch and refreshments will be served. See here for more information, including images from previous celebrations.

Law, History, Government & Constitutional Studies in the Collections

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Each year on this day we take the opportunity to promote awareness of books and materials related to law, government, political science, the classical tradition, American and British history which are held within the four special collections in Bizzell Memorial Library: Bass Business History Collection, Bizzell Bible Collection, History of Science Collections, and the John and Mary Nichols Collections. Relevant materials in the collections include American and European books from the 15th through 20th centuries.

For a glimpse into these holdings, see the following links to some of our past exhibits and blog posts:



Using Special Collections Materials for Teaching and Research

In addition to rare books and primary source materials, the Collections have significant holdings in non-rare materials: modern scholarly works, critical editions and facsimiles, introductory texts, and reference books. For these materials, browse Guide to Resources in History of Science, Technology and Medicine and Galileo’s World Resources Guide

Both rare books and recent works held in the special collections are included in OU library’s online catalog. For help searching for materials see Guide to Searching

Interested in using Collections materials for teaching or research? Need help identifying items to use for a class assignment, capstone project, thesis or dissertation topic? Please contact our staff for assistance (405) 325-2741.

See the Collections blog for more information on resources, activities, and events relating to OU’s 5th floor special collection libraries. See the Galileo’s World website for a virtual view of our campus-wide exhibit and related programs and events.

Beyond the Collections

Want to dig deeper into these topics? See the following online guides to resources beyond the 5th floor special collections:

Posted in Exhibits and events, In the news, Uncategorized

Two new space exhibits are now open

Kerr rocketThe Carl Albert Center of the University of Oklahoma has launched a new exhibition, “Rockets’ Red Glare: Robert Kerr and the Space.”

View the exhibit both online and in person at Monnett Hall on the north oval of the OU campus. A website, Oklahoma and the Space Race, also displays a collection of Kerr’s Space and Aeronautics Memorabilia along with speeches and other archival material. Special thanks to Nathan Gerth and the archives staff for their creation of this exhibit, and to Mike Crespin and Cindy Rosenthal for including the Carl Albert Center in the Galileo’s World initiative.

The Carl Albert exhibit is a perfect complement to the Oklahomans and Space exhibit curated by Bill Moore, now open at the National Weather Center. Aviators, astronauts, scientists and engineers from Oklahoma have participated in aerospace activities throughout the history of the state. This special exhibit explores how the pioneering spirit that brought space scientists to Oklahoma also inspired them to explore the new frontier of space. It is based on the book by Bill Moore, Oklahomans and Space (Oklahoma Historical Society, 2011).


Posted in Exhibits and events

Galileo’s World opens at Sam Noble!

Galileo’s World is upon us… The first Galileo’s World exhibit opened Saturday, August 1st, at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History!

The joint-exhibit, Through the Eyes of the Lynx: Galileo, Natural History and the Americas, will run Aug. 1 – Jan. 18, 2016.

This exhibit explores the question: “How did the natural knowledge of Native Americans shape European science in the age of Galileo?”


The focal point of this exhibit is the natural history of Mexico by Francisco Hernandez, published by Galileo and his colleagues in the Academy of the Lynx. Through this work, Native American knowledge of plants and animals became part of mainstream European biology. Galileo’s world extended far beyond Italy to include the western hemisphere. Natural history became transformed into a global endeavor.

Check out “FRANCISCO HERNANDEZ: THE COOLEST EXPLORER YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF”, a report of this exhibit by Cara Giaimo on the Atlas Obscura news site (a “definitive guide to the world’s wondrous and curious places”).




The king of Spain commissioned a physician, Francisco Hernandez, to compile Native American plant and animal knowledge. Beginning in 1571, Hernandez worked closely with Aztec artists and physicians in central Mexico. This work resulted in a massive, multi-volume set of notes, with painted illustrations, describing thousands of animals and plants unknown to most of the world.

An Italian nobleman, Federigo Cesi, founded the Academy of the Lynx (Accademia dei Lincei), one of the earliest scientific societies. Publishing a definitive edition of the manuscript of Hernandez comprised the central, albeit elusive, goal of Cesi and the Academy of the Lynx. Galileo joined the ranks of the Lynx in 1611, bringing wide-ranging expertise in mathematics, engineering, literature, art and medicine. Soon he became their star member. Other members included some of the leading naturalists of the day. They worked together to publish a monumental natural history of the Americas based upon the manuscript Hernandez prepared for the king of Spain. The landmark project, finally accomplished in 1651, more than 70 years after Hernandez’ sojourn in central Mexico, symbolizes the transformation of natural history into a global endeavor.

In antiquity, the lynx was renowned for possessing sharp eyesight at night. Cesi believed that the eyes of the Academy of the Lynx would peer more deeply into the secrets of nature than ever before. Because of their work to publish Hernandez’ natural history of Mexico, the keen eyes of the Academy of the Lynx stretched the boundaries of European thought in the life sciences just as with Galileo’s discoveries in the physical sciences.

What you will see

The Lynx edition of Hernandez is on display in this exhibit, alongside specimens from the Sam Noble Museum and the Robert Bebb Herbarium of the OU Department of Biology.

Three Galileo first editions: The first edition of Galileo’s masterwork in physics, the Discourse on Two New Sciences (1636), finds its place in the exhibit because of its critique of giant tales, which provided a scientific constraint for assessing reports of strange creatures. This prized Galileo first edition is included alongside a little-known work of literary criticism by Galileo, Considerations on Tasso (first published in 1793). A third Galileo first edition is a pamphlet of letters to Cesi about the Academy of the Lynx.

Other original books include the first published edition of Aristotle’s biological works (1476); the natural histories of Aldrovandi and Topsell; early hand-colored printed herbals of Fuchs and Gerard, and other works in natural history by members of the Academy of the Lynx.

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Co-curators: James Burnes, Carolyn Scearce, Jackson Pope, Tom Luczycki, Katrina Menard, Melissa Rickman, Kerry Magruder.

Posted in In the news | 2 Comments

Communities of collaboration

Our thanks to Rob Reynolds and the NextThought team for their series on “The Power of Connections.” Here’s an excerpt from an interview on open access and “collaborative communities.” For more, see Rob’s Power of Connections blog.

Kerry Magruder and Rob Reynolds – Open Access from NextThought on Vimeo.

Kerry Magruder and Rob Reynolds discuss open access to learning materials

Posted in In the news

Galileo’s World – teaser video

Posted in In the news | Tagged

Tower of Pisa on Fox Morning News

The Tower of Pisa project of the OU College of Engineering was featured last Friday, July 24, for the Fox News 25 morning show, broadcast live from the lobby of Bizzell Memorial Library. Four brief reports featured footage of the Tower under construction, as well as interviews with various College of Engineering students and faculty (including Chris Ramseyer and Theresa Marks); Chelsea Julian (Galileo’s World Project Manager); and Kerry Magruder (Galileo’s World Curator).

Watch the four reports on the Fox25 website.

Posted in In the news | Tagged