MS Uppsala – O Vet 20

The Arabic Text of the Elements

There is still no published edition of the Arabic translation(s) of Euclid's Elements. Some passages have been edited as part of doctoral theses and in scholarly articles, and a few facsimilies and 19th-Century Indian and Iranian editions of al-Ṭūsī's Taḥrīr have been published. Most of this is not easily available, and to tackle the text itself we must work from the manuscripts themselves. So we are currently working to get hold of as many as we can, to establish a preliminary digital edition based on the manuscripts we have access to. The online text will be constantly revised and annotated, and as the project evolves we hope to make as much as possible of the Arabic material on Euclid's Elements available on the net.


The Greek text was apparently first translated by al-Ḥaǧǧāǧ ibn Yūsūf ibn Maṭar, who was active during the reign of Hārūn al-Rašīd (AD 786-809). This text was later referred to as the Hārūnī edition. al-Ḥaǧǧāǧ later translated the text again, during the reign of al-Ma’mūn, and this version was accordingly named the Ma’mūnī edition. A new translation was produced by the more familiar translator Isḥāq ibn Ḥunayn (d. AD 910), whose translation was later revised by Thābit ibn Qurra (d. 288/901), who seems to have had access to other Greek manuscripts for his revision (De Young 1984: 149). The "standard" version, so to speak, then became the Isḥāq-Thābit version, which was the basis of Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī's (d. 672/1274) recension/edition (Taḥrīr).


List of texts that will be used in our seminar

Basic text

  • MS Uppsala, O. Vet. 20
  • We're in the process of gaining access to several other MSS, but this will take some time

al-Ṭūsī's Taḥrīr

  • Teheran, 1880
  • Calcutta, 1824

Commentaries

  • Nayrīzī's Commentary, edited in Codex Leidensis 399,1. Euclidis Elementa ex interpretatione al-Hadschdschadschii cum commentariis al-Narizii. Arabice et latine editerunt notisque instruxerunt R. O. Besthorn et J. L. Heiberg, 1897-1905. There is also a reprint, Frankfurt am Main : Institute for the History of Arabic-Islamic Science, 1997.
  • Anonymous commentary, MS Hyderabad State Central Library (= Oriental Manuscripts Library and Research Institute), riyāḍī 2.

Modern Arabic translation

  • Van Dyck (Van Dyke), translation of Playfair's Geometry, Beirut 1857


There are also several other fragmentary pieces of information about the translation history, in manuscripts of the work itself or commentaries on it. And there are several other related works, which we will try to list here.

  • Ibn Sīnā's paraphrase of the Elements
  • A Syriac fragment of Book I
  • Three latin translations made from Arabic (Adelard of Bath, Hermann of Carinthia, Gerhard of Cremona)