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Ptolemy's Almagest Revised ed. Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691002606
ISBN-10: 0691002606
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"G.J. Toomer's new English edition of Ptolemy's classic treatise is more than just a fresh translation.... What Toomer has produced is the best edition in any language, one that will remain the standard preferred text for years to come."--Nature

"On the whole the accuracy and faithfulness to the original, including the small but important matter of a scrupulous adherence to Ptolemy's own mathematical notations, are exemplary."--G.E.R. Lloyd, The Times Literary Supplement

Language Notes

Text: English, Greek (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 712 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Revised ed. edition (October 19, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691002606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691002606
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,088,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
The main desire of Ptolemy in writing his Almagest is to explain and account for the motions of the apparently erratic celestial beings in terms of perfect and circular motions. In doing so he introduces the epicyclic (which states that the center of a smaller circle orbits around the earth and the object orbits around the smaller circle) and the eccentric hypotheses (which supposes that the center of the circular motion of the planet is not exactly centered on the earth), which are ultimatly equivalent to eachother in terms of result. Begining with the motion of the sun in the sky and moving on to the less accountable outer planets, Ptolemy moves his mathematics brilliantly with a nod to a story teller's art. Some may find his introduction of his equant (something that is often said to defile his principles of perfect motion), which explains the retrogradation of the outer planets, to be a let down to the fanfare of perfection in the stars. Yet, overall, the Almagest manages to recapture the magic and wonder of the universe through complicated mathematical hypotheses and to succesfully lay the ground for the break throughs of Copernicus, Brahe, and Kepler to come. If you are at all interested in astronomy or mathematics, you ought to read this.
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Before buying Ptolemy’s Almagest (written around A.D. 150) I knew of its reputation as a highly technical and difficult text on Greek geocentric astronomy. Still, the extremely thorough treatment by Ptolemy with all its details surprised me, and I really admire the achievements by Ptolemy and his ancestors.

I couldn’t have done much progress without two excellent commentaries. Olaf Pedersen’s “A Survey of the Almagest” (with annotation and new commentary by Alexander Jones, Springer, 2010) was very helpful in revealing the mathematical aspects in Almagest. Even more important for me was James Evans’ “The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy” (Oxford University Press, 1998) since Evans both explained the historical background of Almagest and helped in several mathematical details. An armillary sphere would also have been very helpful in getting a concrete view of the rotations. I didn’t have it, but I made a primitive prototype from a metal wire. With the help of these tools I managed to get a fairly clear picture of the Books I-IV, ca. 200 pages on Ptolemy’s mathematical tools and on solar and lunar motions, in ca. 2.5 months (after normal working days and on weekends). Thereafter, I spent ca. 3 weeks for a fairly superficial overview of the rest of the book. I got what I wanted: a basic understanding of Almagest.

Here are two of my favourite passages. On pages 153-156 Ptolemy shows a “curve fitting” on solar motion. He demonstrates how the parameters of eccentric model are adjusted to match the calculated intervals between equinoxes and solstices with the observations by Hipparchus.
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It was just what I needed for my college class.
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Adding to the other comment below about star names beginning with "al-," I might add that the title "Almagest" itself is an Arabic translation of the original Greek "Megale Syntaxis."
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