the book of fixed stars

This morning I’ve been reading about Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi (903-986), author of The Book of Fixed Stars, which built on the work of Ptolemy after the Greek tradition in astronomy began to die out in the West. al-Sufi had an observatory in Shiraz where, among other things, he documented the Andromeda galaxy. In The Book of Fixed Stars, his illustrations show the constellations twice, in mirror image, so that the reader can see how the stars would appear in the sky as well as on a celestial globe. I believe this is Ursa Major.


al-Sufi’s son, Ibn al-Sufi, wrote a poem to accompany the book and I’ve been trying to find an English translation. These were accomplished scientists, scholars and artists, and it is astonishing that this rich tradition has been twisted and misconstrued in contemporary political thinking.