Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition: G600030

An Irish Astronomical Tract

Author: [unknown]

Background details and bibliographic information

File Description

Electronic edition compiled by Beatrix Färber and Ruth Murphy

Funded by University College, Cork and
Professor Marianne McDonald via the CELT Project, formerly CURIA

1. Preliminary draft, revised and corrected.

Extent of text: 94 900 words


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Text ID Number: G600030

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This Irish recension of an Astronomical Tract of Messahalla (Masha'allah) combines matters cosmographical and astronomical with subject matter regarded as astrological today.


    MS sources for Irish translations of the work
  1. Stowe, B II 1; Royal Irish Academy, Dublin. Electronically available, with cataloguing information, on the ISOS Project (
  2. Z 2. 2. 1. (olim V. 3. 1. 38); Marsh's Library, Dublin.
  3. 23 F 13; Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.
    MS sources for Latin base text (from which a substantial portion of the Irish text derives)
  1. British Library L 3. B. 32 (transcript of 'De Scientia Motus Orbis').
    Printed sources for Latin base text
  1. 'De Scientia Motus Orbis', translated from Arab into Latin by Gerard of Sabionetta, edited by J. Stabius, printed by Johann Weissenburger, Nuremburg 1504.
  2. 'De Elementis et Orbibus Celestibus', edited by Joachim Heller, Noribergae (Nuremburg) 1549 (re-edition of Gerard of Sabionetta's work, contains 27 chapters).
    Messahalah (Masha'allah) and his work
  1. Edward Stewart Kennedy and David Pingree, The Astrological History of Masha'allah, Harvard University Press, Cambridge/Mass., 1971 (with full bibliography).
  2. 'Liber Messahallae de revolutione annorum mundi', edited by Joachim Heller, Noribergae (Nuremburg) 1549.
  3. 'Epistola Messahallae de rebus eclipsium et de coniunctionibus planetarum in revolutionibus annorum mundi', transl. into Latin by Ioannes Hispalensis and edited by Joachim Heller, Noribergae (Nuremburg) 1549; and by N. Pruckner in Iulii Firmici Materni Astronomicon Libri VIII, Basilae (Basle) 1551, 115-118, as 'Messahalach de ratione circuli et stellarum et qualiter operantur in hoc seculo'.
  4. Liber Messahalae de receptione, edited by Joachim Heller, Noribergae (Nuremburg) 1549.
    Secondary literature (about this tract, and other Irish Astronomical texts)
  1. J. J. O'Farrelly, Irish Cosmographical Tract: Transcription of the Irish Text with contractions retained. [From Stowe B II 1]. Unpublished handwritten manuscript, MS 3A7, 852, Royal Irish Academy Library, 1893.
  2. J. J. O'Farrelly, Irish Cosmographical Tract: Transcription of the Irish Text, with contractions in Irish extended with reference to Marsh copy and to RIA copy 2. Unpublished handwritten manuscript, MS 3A10, 855, Royal Irish Academy Library, 1893.
  3. J. J. O'Farrelly, Irish Cosmographical Tract: English Translation. Unpublished handwritten manuscript, MS 3A8, 853, Royal Irish Academy Library, 1893.
  4. Maxwell H. Close, Remarks on a Cosmographical Tractate in the Irish Language, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. VI (1900-02) 457-464.
  5. J. J. O'Farrelly/Maxwell H. Close, Irish Astronomical Tract: Introduction, Comments and Appendices. Unpublished handwritten manuscript, MS 3A9, 854, Royal Irish Academy Library, 1901. [Contains O'Farrelly's typed translation and handwritten annotations by Close.]
  6. J. E. Gore, 'An Irish Astronomical Tract', in: 'Knowledge & Scientific News'; February, 1909.
  7. Maura Power, Chapters 8, 39, and a portion of chapter 9, with another small fragment of the text, were published with the same English translation of the 1914 edition in Celtia, a pan-Celtic monthly magazine, 11 (London, The Celtic Association) 54-6; 90-92; 101-03.
  8. Tomás Ó Concheanainn, The Scribe of the Irish Astronomical Tract in the Royal Irish Academy, B II 1, Celtica 11 (1976) 158-67.
  9. Mario Esposito, An Unpublished Astronomical Treatise by the Irish Monk Dicuil. Dublin: Hodges/Figgis 1907. PRIA vol. 26, Section C, no. 15, 378-446. Reprinted in: Mario Esposito, Irish Books and Learning in Mediaeval Europe, Ch. 7, Variorum 1990. (Edited from MS 4.4.3, [= Mangart no. 386], Bibliothèque Municipale de Valenciennes, ff. 66-118.)
  10. Mario Esposito (ed.), A Ninth-Century Astronomical Treatise, in: Modern Philology 18, Chicago 1920-21, 177-188. Reprinted in: Mario Esposito, Irish Books and Learning in Mediaeval Europe, Ch. 8, Variorum 1990. (Contains fresh collation of printed text with MS 4.4.3, Bibliothèque Municipale de Valenciennes, ff. 66-118, and emendations).
  11. Bartholomei Anglici 'De proprietatibus rerum liber octavus'. Leagan Gaeilge ó thús na 15ú aoise. Ed. by Gearóid Mac Niocaill, Celtica 8 (1968) 201-42; 9 (1971) 266-315. (Early 15th century translation of the book of astronomy, based on MS TCD H 2 8; with a Latin text.) [Reviews by Tomás Ó Concheanainn, in Éigse 13 (1969/70) 247f.; Éigse 14 (1971/72) 161.]
  12. An Irish Corpus Astronomiae (being Manus O'Donnell's seventeenth century version of the Lunario of Geronymo Cortès), ed. by F. W. O'Connell and R. M. Henry, London 1915.
  13. John A. Williams, The Irish Astronomical Tract: a case study of scientific terminology in 14th century Irish. M. Phil. Thesis, University of Sydney, 2002. Contains a revised translation. Electronically available at:
    Secondary literature (General)
  1. Edward Grant, Planets, stars and orbs: the medieval cosmos, 1200-1687. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1996.
  2. The Cambridge illustrated history of astronomy, ed. Michael Hoskin. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press 1997.
  3. Donald K. Yeomans, Comets: a chronological history of observation, science, myth, and folklore. New York: Wiley, 1991.
    The edition used in the digital edition
  1. An Irish Astronomical Tract. Based in part on a mediaeval Latin version of a work by Messahalah. Edited with preface, translation and glossary by Maura Power, M.A.. Maura Power (ed), First edition [xviii + 176 pp.] Irish Texts Society London (1914; repr. 1994) . Irish Texts Society [Cumann na Sgríbheann Gaedhilge]. , No. XIV


Project Description

CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling Declaration

Contents of printed edition: Preface i-xi; frontispiece and transcription xvii-xviii; text and translation 2-159; glossary 161-176; notes 177. The electronic text represents pages i-xi and pages 2-159 of the volume. The first text consists of the even pages with the Irish document, the second text consists of the odd pages with Power's English translation. A second revised and annotated English translation compiled by J. A. Williams, based on the translations of Power and O'Farrelly/Close follows. For TEI-related reasons, Williams' preface to the revised translation has been appended. NB: Without recourse to the manuscript, in some cases doubts remain as to where an apparatus entry starts, since the hardcopy text does not indicate this. It is hoped to eliminate any doubts for the next edition of this text.

Editorial Declaration


Text has been checked and proofread three times. All corrections and supplied text are tagged.


The electronic text represents the edited text. Where nasalisation occurs, this has been hyphenated off; particles/prepositions amalgamated to the next word have been separated by an apostrophe to facilitate search.


The few quotations are rendered q.


Soft hyphens are silently removed. Words containing a hard or soft hyphen crossing a page-break have been placed on the line on which they start.


DIV0=the whole document; div1=the Irish/English text; div2=the chapter; div3=the subsection; paragraphs and page-breaks are marked.

Standard Values

Dates are not tagged.


The ae ligatures and accentus gravis in Latin text are not retained; The editor's notes are numbered and tagged as note type="auth". Editorial additions in these are in brackets. Names of persons are tagged as name type="person" and capitalized. The reg attribute of the name tag contains a regularized form of the name to facilitate searching. Placenames are tagged. Titles of articles, books and journals are encoded. Expansions are tagged ex (the expanded characters are displayed in italics in the HTML file). Text supplied by the editor is marked sup resp="MP" (which is displayed in italics, too, in the HTML file).

Canonical References

This text uses the DIV2 element to represent the Caibidil.

Profile Description

Created: First half of 14th century (?)

Use of language

Language: GA

The text is in Early Modern Irish.

Language: EN

Introduction, footnotes, appendix and the two translations are in English.

Language: LA

Some words and phrases in Latin.

Language: AR

One word in Arabic.

Revision History