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Roman vs. Arabic Computistics in Twelfth-Century England: A Newly Discovered Source (Collatio Compoti Romani et Arabici)

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A frequently overlooked aspect of the knowledge transfer from Arabic into Latin in the twelfth century is the introduction of the Islamo-Arabic calendar, which confronted Western computists with a radically different scheme of lunar reckoning that was in some ways superior to the 19-year lunar cycle of the Roman Church. One of the earliest sources to properly discuss this new system and compare it to the old one is the anonymous Collatio Compoti Romani et Arabici, found in a manuscript from Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire. This article contains the first edition and translation of this previously unknown text, preceded by an analysis of its content and sources. As will be argued, the text was written in the second quarter of the twelfth century as a reaction to the astronomical tables of al-Khwārizmī, recently translated by Adelard of Bath, as well as to eclipse observations that had exposed the flaws of the ‘Roman’ computation.

Affiliations: 1: The Warburg Institute, University of London


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