- Recently Published Books
Editor's note: For books published in Hebrew, the English title is given in parentheses as found in the book itself, or (if none is given) in our translation. Authors' names are given according to their common English spelling, usually as indicated by the publisher. The reviews are by the Editor, unless otherwise indicated.
Abraham Ibn Ezra's Introductions to Astrology. A Parallel Hebrew-English Critical Edition of the Book of the Beginning of Wisdom and the Book of the Judgments of the Zodiacal Signs. Abraham Ibn Ezra's Astrological Writings, Volume 5. Edited, translated, and annotated by Shlomo Sela. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2017. 822 pp. Glossaries, indexes, bibliography.
Abraham Ibn Ezra was fortunate to find in Shlomo Sela a most dedicated and competent scientific editor for his astrological writings. The present volume, the fifth in the series of Abraham Ibn Ezra's Astrological Writings, includes critical editions, accompanied by English translations and detailed commentaries, of Sefer Reshit ḥokhmah and of [Sefer] Mishpeṭei ha-mazzalot, which Sela takes to constitute "Introductions to Astrology." The two texts "belong to the same astrological tradition and to the same genre of astrological literature," and have similar contents, although they differ in their degrees of organization (pp. 6–7).
Sela reports a significant discovery: Sefer Reshit ḥokhmah incorporates Hebrew translations or paraphrases of extensive passages from two Arabic works on astrology: Abû Maʿashar's Kitāb al-mudkhal al-kabīr and Sahl Ibn Bishr's Nawādir al-qadā. This seems to imply that when he traveled in Europe, Ibn Ezra at least occasionally had access to manuscripts of Arabic works. He himself was famously poor , so perhaps he found the manuscripts in urban centers where he took up residence (e.g. Béziers, recently described by Charles Burnett as an "astronomical center for Jews and Christians in the mid-twelfth century" [Aleph 17 : 197–219). The demonstrated fact that Ibn Ezra had access to (some) Arabic books after he left Spain significantly alters our presuppositions concerning his scholarly writing.
Following a detailed "General Introduction" (pp. 1–45), Sela presents the critical editions and English translations of these two "introductions," accompanied, as in the earlier volumes of the series (see, e.g., Aleph 15 (2015): [End Page 311] 185–186), by a copious and erudite annotation. There are no fewer than 12 appendices. Among other things they provide the passages Ibn Ezra "borrowed" from his Arabic forerunners (texts and English translations), glossaries of terms (which are also concordances), and indexes (of terms and authorities). These valuable tools will be extremely helpful to anyone interested in Hebrew astrological terminology.
This fifth volume of Abraham Ibn Ezra's Astrological Writings is also the last (of his Hebrew works). Over the last ten years, Shlomo Sela has accomplished the formidable task of making Ibn Ezra's entire Hebrew astrological corpus (and some Latin translations) available to scholars in excellent editions and translations. He is to be congratulated for this exceptional scholarly achievement. Some of his future projects are alluded to here and there in this book and we look forward to them.
The Light of the World: Astronomy in al-Andalus by Joseph Ibn Naḥmias. Edited, Translated, and with a Commentary by Robert G. Morrison. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2016.
In 1985 I wrote that "among the [astronomical] texts most in need of study is 'The Light of the World' by Joseph Ibn Naḥmias, who developed the spherical models of al-Biṭrūjī."1 Robert Morrison has now produced the study I envisaged. Ibn Naḥmias (fl. 1400) is known only for this treatise, which survives in a unique Judeo-Arabic manuscript with the title Nūr al-ʿālam, and in a unique copy of the Hebrew recension with the title Or ha-'olam, possibly by the author himself. In fact, it is the only extant treatise on theoretical astronomy in Judeo-Arabic. Morrison includes editions of both versions, with translations and a commentary on the astronomical content. As Morrison notes, the Hebrew expands some sections of the Judeo-Arabic text; he concludes that the Hebrew is a revision of the original...