A catalogue of Western manuscripts at the Bodleian Libraries and selected Oxford colleges

St John's College MS 40

Al-Battani, De scientia astrorum


Language(s): Latin

Fols. 1–109v
Incipit: Inter vniversa liberalivm artium que grecos que est prius Inuenisse constat […]
Rubric: [fol. 1v, the text] In nomine Domini Incipit liber MACHOMETI FILIJ GEBIR FILIJ CINIENI QUI UOCATUR ALBETEGNI in numerus stellarum cum locis motuum earum experimenti racione conceptorum […]
Incipit: ALBETEGNI […] Inquit in cunctorum operum inicijs omniumque rerum exordijs principatum et excellentiam dei […] [fol. 100] de numero minueris reliquum erit altitudinis arcus Rerum quidem occasiones originesque radicii numeri Geometricalis demonstratorium immitantes quasi occasiones
Explicit: eleuationem ab orizonte versus meridiem elongabitur et hec est figura subscripta
Final rubric: Explicit liber ALBATENI Deo Gratias Amen Bartholomeus Vicinatus De Murro manu propria scripxit Anno salutis Domini MoCCCCCo. Die XXV Magij
Al-Battani, De scientia astrorum

Also called De motu stellarum or Opus astronomicum (eTK 0770D, 0669D, 0841B), ed. Bologna, 1565, but here with additional experiments, beginning at fol. 100 ‘Rerum’. The Bologna explicit agrees with that in the copy at BodL, MS Digby 51, fol. 17v. For Al-Battani, see Francis J. Carmody, Arabic Astronomy and Astrological Sciences in Latin Translation (Berkeley, Calif., 1956), 19.1 (129–30), without reference to our MS. The prologue is by the Latin translator, PLATO OF TIVOLI. Fol. iv is blank. On the basis of the colophon, in Watson, DMO, no. 869 (146) and plate 806 (fol. 12), where ‘Murro’ is identified as ‘Morone del Sannio, Campobasso province’ (Abruzzo).

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: Ex seietijs
Form: codex
Support: Paper. Each quire is a regular group of five sheets folded in folio, in the main (fifty sheets total), of one paper-stock:

A Waage/Balance: very like Piccard Type V, nos. 50, 58, 60 (1496 × 1498, Austria); cf. also nos. 22–31 (northern Italy 1487 × 1502), but here with two circles above the balance and on the chain (not between chains);

B Chapeau: probably Briquet, no. 3402 (Venice and Udine, 1499), appearing on only the five sheets of quire 9 (fols. 81–90).

Extent: Fols. iii + 110 (numbered fols. 1–109, iv) + i (numbered fol. v).
Dimensions (leaf): 315 × 215 mm.
Dimensions (written): 225 × 150 mm.


1–1110 Only one surviving catchword, on fol. 70v at the centre of the leaf. All quires have been assigned letters (quires 1–11 = a–l); beginning with quire 4, there is evidence for leaf signatures, with all leaves in the first half of each quire receiving a roman numeral.


In long lines, about 32 lines to the page. Bounded in stylus, no rules or prickings.


Written in humanistica cursiva. Punctuation by point only.


Headings, not all filled, in red.

Two-line red roman capitals at chapter heads (6-line for the prologue), parts of opening lines in capitals, sometimes in red.


A modern replacement. Sewn on five thongs. At the front, three paper flyleaves, the first modern, the second two the same paper-stock as the book (and fol. iii bounded in stylus, like the text leaves); at the rear, one modern paper flyleaf (v). The front fly-leaves have rust stains from nails fixing clasps or straps in an earlier binding.


Origin: s. xv ex./1500 ; Italy

Provenance and Acquisition

The old shelfmark ‘N.5’ (fol. ivv, s. xvi or xvii).

‘Liber Guilielmi Laud Archiepiscopi Cant et Cancellarij Vniuersitatis Oxon 1638’ (fol. 1, lower margin).

Record Sources

Ralph Hanna, A descriptive catalogue of the western medieval manuscripts of St. John's College, Oxford (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)


For enquiries relating to this manuscript please contact St John's College Library.

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (full digital facsimile)


    C-M Briquet, ed. Allan Stevenson, Les filigranes: Dictionnaire historique des marques du papier des leur apparition vers 1292 jusqu'en 1600: A Facsimile of the 1907 edition with supplementary material contributed by a number of scholars, 4 vols. (Amsterdam, 1968).
    Francis J. Carmody, Arabic Astronomy and Astrological Sciences in Latin Translation (Berkeley, Calif., 1956).
    Gerhard Piccard, Die Wasserzeichenkartei Piccard im Hauptstadts-archiv Stuttgart: Findbuch, currently 17 vols. (Stuttgard, 1961– )
    Lynn Thorndike and Pearl Kibre, A Catalogue of Incipits of Medieval Scientific Writings in Latin, 2nd edn. (Cambridge, Mass., 1963).
    Andrew G. Watson, Catalogue of Dated and Datable Manuscripts c.435-1600 in Oxford Libraries, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1984).

Funding of Cataloguing

Conversion of the printed catalogue to TEI funded by the Thompson Family Charitable Trust

Last Substantive Revision

2021-10: First online publication

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