Treatise on Astrology by Albumazar

Treatise on Astrology by Albumazar – M. Moleiro Editor – Sloane 3983 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)

Netherlands — Ca. 1325–1375

The great work of Albumazar, one of the most famous astronomers of the Orient: the astral mythology of Egypt, Greece, Persia, and India in a magnificently illuminated picture codex

  1. Albumazar aka Abu Ma'shar (787–886) was a highly esteemed early Persian Muslim astronomer

  2. The practical manuals he made for training astrologers were influential in both the East and West

  3. This mid-14th century manuscript feature 72 dreamlike miniatures from the Netherlandish school

Treatise on Astrology by Albumazar

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  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Treatise on Astrology by Albumazar

Written in the mid-14th century, the Albumazar Treatise is one of the most fascinating picture books of the Middle Ages. Masterfully colored and shaded miniatures in delicate hues of green, purple, and blue adorn the manuscript, which is a testament to the contributions made by Arab science and civilization in the West and especially in Spain. The texts consist of fragments from the writings of Albumazar, one of the greatest Muslim astronomers of all time, which was translated by the legendary Toledo school. The manuscript represents a sampling of the astral mythology of Egypt, Greece, Persia, and India. 72 splendid, dreamlike miniatures adorn the manuscript, which was illuminated by unknown Netherlandish masters.

Treatise on Astrology by Albumazar

The stars reigned over all in the Middle Ages, at least in the minds of scholars who believed that astronomy/astrology had an influence over all other fields of medieval knowledge. Muslim scholars were particularly accomplished in the study of the heavens, and the splendidly adorned manuscript at hand contains the Latin translation of a work that summarizes various ancient traditions. This splendid mid-14th century manuscript presents the Treatise on Astrology by Albumazar with 72 dreamlike Gothic miniatures of the highest quality from Netherlandish school of illumination.

Who was Albumazar?

Often Latinized as Albumasar or Albumazar, Abu Ma'shar (787-886) was an early Persian Muslim astrologer regarded as the greatest astronomer of the Abbasid court in Baghdad. Although he did not personal make many new contributions to the field of astrology, his importance lies in his ability to interpret the knowledge of ancient astrology and translate that into practical manuals for training astrologers that proved to be hugely influential not only in the Muslim world but in Christendom as well. Abu Ma'shar commanded such respect as an authority on the stars that he was largely able to avoid religious persecution, save for one whipping as punishment for practicing astrology and another for foretelling an event that subsequently occurred. He also participated in a bitter dispute with the foremost Arab philosopher of his time, al-Kindi (ca. 796-873)

A Survey of Astral Mythology

Muslim civilization benefitted from the wealth of knowledge left behind in the Hellenistic libraries of the East, which came in the form of works from antiquity ranging from histories to poetry to medicine and astrology, which had a lasting effect on almost all fields of medieval knowledge. It was commonly believed since antiquity that there was a connection between astrology and medicine in particular, that the moon and stars had a similar effect on the human body as they did on the tides and other natural phenomena. As it happens, Muslim scholars excelled in both of these fields, and the work they did building on the ancient texts they inherited eventually made its way to the Greek-speaking Byzantines and the Latin West. This treatise is significant because it condenses the astral mythology of the great civilizations of Egypt, Greece, Persia, and India into a single lavishly illustrated book for the very first time. Its breathtaking iconographic cycle features not only unusual forms of the planets and the signs of the zodiac of Greek origin, but also a series of rather disconcerting images of constellations devised by different oriental cultures to pinpoint the position of the stars.


Alternative Titles
Tratado de Albumasar (Liber astrologiae)
Abhandlung über Astrologie von Albumasar
Traktat der Sternbilder von Albumasar: Liber atrologiae
Size / Format
100 pages / 27.0 × 18.0 cm
Ca. 1325–1375
Gothic cursive
72 full-page miniatures; numerous colored drawings
Treatise on astrology by Albumazar
Previous Owners
Sir Hans Sloane

Available facsimile editions:
Treatise on Astrology by Albumazar – M. Moleiro Editor – Sloane 3983 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
M. Moleiro Editor – Barcelona, 2020
Limited Edition: 987 copies
Detail Picture

Treatise on Astrology by Albumazar

Perseus, Medusa, and Blacksmiths

The artist has integrated scenes of normal activities into depictions of constellations and the myths associated with them to stress the influence of the stars on our lives here on Earth. For example, we see a rather accurate depiction of blacksmiths at work complete with anvil, hammers, tongs, forge, bellows, and a coal box with a shovel to feed the fire above a depiction of the famous hero Perseus holding the severed head of Medusa in one hand and a sword in the other.

Tratado de Albumasar (Liber astrologiae)
Single Page

Treatise on Astrology by Albumazar

Mars Declinatio

The second section of the manuscript contains personifications of the planets in the four phases of their power and the respective zodiac signs associated with their houses. So, while the Mars Domus page shows the warrior enthroned triumphantly above Ares and Scorpio, here we see him “in decline” as though he has been knocked off his throne.

While Taurus looks up at him with big dumb eyes, the scales of Libra appear unaffected, perhaps meaning to symbolize a restoration of balance. The eastern style of Mars’ lamellar armor points to the Persian origins of the text and the likelihood that the unknown Netherlandish masters may have had access to an Arabic manuscript or a copy that also modelled the artistic style of the original.

Tratado de Albumasar (Liber astrologiae)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Tratado de Albumasar (Liber astrologiae)

M. Moleiro Editor – Barcelona, 2020

Publisher: M. Moleiro Editor – Barcelona, 2020
Limited Edition: 987 copies
Binding: Red Morocco leather binding with gold tooling
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: Spanish
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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