Medieval Islamic Views of the Cosmos. The Books of Curiosities

MS. Arab. c. 90

We regret to inform any users of the site that this resource is no longer available. The site has been withdrawn from public use as it had reached end-of-life. The manuscript images should shortly be available through the Digital Bodleian site and we are hoping to provide transcriptions of the material as soon as is feasible.

The site was withdrawn from public use on 28th September 2017. The original site will still be available to internal Oxford users on request.

Preface from the original site

In June 2002, the Bodleian Library acquired an illustrated manuscript of a hitherto unknown Arabic cosmographical treatise, the يKitāb Gharāʾib al-funūn wa-mulaḥ al-ʿuyūn, known as the Book of Curiosities. The manuscript is a copy, probably made in Egypt in the late 12th or early 13th century, of an anonymous work compiled in the first half of the 11th century in Egypt. The treatise is extraordinarily important for the history of science, especially for astronomy and cartography, and contains an unparalleled series of diagrams of the heavens and maps of the earth.

The acquisition of the Book of Curiosities was made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and generous donations from the National Arts Collections Fund, the Friends of the Bodleian, Saudi Aramco, several Oxford colleges, and private individuals.

These grants and donations, along with the Arts & Humanities Research Council, have also funded the project to prepare a full study of the treatise, including an edition of the Arabic text and English translation, and to disseminate the results as widely as possible through the internet, exhibitions, and an outreach programme.

This is the site of that research. It contains an electronic high-quality reproduction of the original text and its illustrations, linked by mouse-overs to a modern Arabic edition and an English translation.

When citing this electronic resource in academic publications, please use the following citation: Emilie Savage-Smith and Yossef Rapoport (eds.), The Book of Curiosities: A critical edition. World-Wide-Web publication. ( (March 2007).

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Teaching materials

This teachers’ Pack explores the themes of the Book of Curiosities which are to do with the Earth and the Heavens from the perspective of an 11th-century writer. It can be used at Key Stage 3 of the UK National Curriculum (aimed at 11-14 year olds) in the study of History, Geography, English, Science.

The links below provide access to the teaching material provided as supplements to the original site.

Additional miscellaneous material.