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Scholarly writings on music during the medieval period were often composed at the request of private patrons or were otherwise dedicated to members of the Baghdadi elite (e.g., caliphs and other rulers) who were not professional musicians. The existence of such treatises suggests that this Baghdadi elite had an interest in learning and/or patronizing the science of music. In this article, I examine the various functions which learning the science of music fulfilled for the elite of medieval Baghdad (third/ninth-seventh/thirteenth century), and which in turn prompted their interest in the patronage thereof. The two most important of these functions were to enhance the appreciation of performed music and to evince a status marker in a culture that celebrated mastery of the Greek-inspired sciences as a sign of one having socially arrived.

In: Journal of Abbasid Studies


Historiography on the introduction of the Copernican astronomical paradigm in Iran has acknowledged the presence of Persian treatises from India in early-nineteenth century Qajar Iran for some time. In spite of this acknowledgment, the processes by which the modern paradigm was transmitted to Iran via the subcontinent have remained shrouded in mystery for the most part. MS Or. 462 at Columbia University, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, represents a unique early nineteenth-century composite manuscript (majmūʿah), in which, alongside treatises belonging to the premodern Ptolemaic paradigm, appears an entry on the Copernican planetary system. The treatise in question, titled “The discovery of the novel opinions of the sages of Europe” (Istikshāf-i rāyhā-yi tāzah-ʾi ḥakīmān-i farang), outlines the expanding geographical knowledge of Europe as well as the cosmological revisions of Copernicus and Newton, among other unnamed European scholars. In this article, we first examine the treatise’s connection to its Indo-Persian source and present an overview of its content on the new Copernican cosmology. Furthermore, we examine an encounter between proponents and detractors of the new scientific paradigm as detailed at the end of the treatise. Finally, we draw a few conclusions about the introduction of modernity and modern science into nineteenth-century Qajar Iran, based on the information that can be retrieved from this treatise.

In: Philological Encounters