Stars over Mashhad: The Tarjumah-I Suwar Al-Kawakib Made for Manuchihr Khan in Context

by Public and Community Events


Mon, Mar 27, 2023

12:15 PM – 1:15 PM (GMT+2)

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Alwaleed PO71

AUC Avenue, P.O. Box 74, New Cairo, 11835, Egypt


In early 1631, Hasan bin Sa‘d al-Qa’ini, an astronomer mathematician, finished a draft of a new translation to Persian of ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi’s tenth-century classic, the Book of Constellations of the Fixed Stars. The translation was commissioned by Abu’l Fath Manuchihr Khan, a dignitary of the Safavid court and Governor-general of Khurasan. Al-Qa’ini was hired to “pursue scientific matters, especially the science of urology and knowledge of the stars and their configurations and celestial mansions,” and most importantly, to make knowledge accessible “so that every person might benefit according to his ability and Persian speakers, who were incapable of reading and understanding the Arabic words, might benefit from it.” His other principal task was to update the mapped coordinates of the stars. He went much further than this, adding stars that he had found himself and other modernizing features to the surviving manuscript copies and celestial globe. He cited few authors in the Arabic and Persian astronomical traditions and omitted any European sources. And yet, he and his collaborator, master painter Malik Husayn al-Isfahani, clearly had access to some well-known printed texts, which should not surprise given that they were contemporaries of Galileo. This paper will discuss the two principal surviving manuscript copies, one preserved in the Dar al Kutub and the other in the New York Public Library, and the context of al-Qa’ini’s aspirations and attainments within Safavid Iran and early modern globalism.


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Dr. Heather Ecker

Independent Scholar and Curator

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