Broader horizons

Books do get about.

I found this provenance mesmerizing..

In 1714 the Bodleian Library, Oxford, received by bequest over 700 manuscripts belonging to Narcissus Marsh, Archbishop of Armagh and fellow of Exeter College.

Among the Marsh manuscripts is the Arabic version of the Conics of the Greek geometer Apollonius of Perga (MS. Marsh 667). Dated 1070, this manuscript was used by the astronomer Edmund Halley for his 1710 edition of Apollonius’s work.


Apollonius scribbling away in Asia minor somewhere between 262 BC – c. 190 BC (though more likely later than earlier and probably not scribbling himself but dictating to a professional scribbler, also termed ‘scribe’.

His Greek text preserved, it survives about eight hundred years here or there, until there arise people who like their manuscripts written in Arabic. So a translation is made, perhaps in Baghdad around the ninth century or so.

And then the thing is copied again in about 1070 AD.

Still as a text in Arabic.

More long, long centuries pass – about seven hundred – and then a western astronomer finds that dear old Apollonius knew a thing or two that was still newsworthy.

One imagines Halley picking up the really quite ancient tome and blurting something like  ‘Oh wow, lookathat…’.

Enlightenment.. tscha!

(PS. my spell check recommends ‘Boodle’ for ‘Bodleian’ in the first paragraph. Should I take SC’s advice or not – what would readers recommend?)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s