Vatican Palimpsests Digital Recovery of Erased Identities [by A. Németh]


Two bifolios (ff. 115 + 122, 121 + 116) survive in Vat. sir. 623. pt. 2, which together make up a single, large-sized folio of an important Arabic manuscript. This page includes a fragment from an Arabic translation of Theon of Alexandria, The Commentary on Ptolemy's Handy Tables. The extraordinary feature of this codex is its content and its early date. Probably it is closely linked to the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, where an extensive translation activity was sponsored by calif al-Ma'mum (r. 813-833). The folio itself seems to have been the original copy of the version it preserves because it is incomplete and even includes Greek words from the model text. A century later this commentary on Ptolemy was not mentioned by Inb al-Nadim in his Fihrist, so most likely the text was not widespread and can hardly be identified as a later copy. Thus it very likely dates to the early period when the translation was composed, making it the earliest datable Arabic manuscript containing non-Quranic texts in existence. It certainly dates before 886, when the Syriac upper text was completed.

[Cf. Proverbio, Theonis Alexandrini fragmentum].

Vat. sir. 623, pt. 2, ff. 121r + 116v