Professor Charles Burnett

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Professor Charles Burnett
Professor of the History of Islamic Influences in Europe
Warburg Institute
020 7862 8949
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Research Summary and Profile

Research interests:
Ancient History, Cultural memory, History of the book, International Relations, Manuscript studies, Medieval History, Music, Palaeography, Philosophy, Regional history
Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East, United Kingdom
Summary of research interests and expertise:

Arabic and Islamic influences in Europe. The transmission of philosophy, science, medicine and magic from the Islamic world to Medieval and Renaissance Europe principally via translations from Arabic into Latin made in Spain, Sicily, and the Crusader States, The parallel transmission of Greek works into Latin. The cultural milieu of the translators. The importance of Arabic authorities in the curricula of the medieval universities. The printing of translations from Arabic in the Renaissance. The beginnings of Arabic studies in Europe. The European reception of the Qur'an. Attitudes towards Islam.
The theory of music in the Middle Ages. The music of the spheres.
The introduction of humanism into China and Japan by the Jesuits. European knowledge of, and reaction to the fortune of Christians in the Far East.

Spoken Written
German Intermediate Good
Italian - Good
Latin - Fluent
Portuguese - Intermediate
French Good Good
Spanish - Good
Japanese Intermediate Intermediate
Publication Details

Related publications/articles:

Date Details
01-Aug-2022 Mark of Toledo. Intellectual Context and Debates between Christians and Muslims in Early Thirteenth Century Iberia

Edited Book

A collection of articles (including my own) on Mark of Toledo, the early thirteenth-century translator of the Qur'an and the Credal literature of the Almohades. 

01-Aug-2022 Why Translate Science? Documents from Antiquity to the 16th Century in the Historical West, ed. Dimitri Gutas with the Assistance of Charles Burnett and Uwe Vagelpohl, Handbook of Oriental Studies

Edited Book

The statements of the translators of scientific works in the pre-modern era, of which I wrote the chapters on translators from Arabic to Latin, and (with Michael Angold) from Greek into Latin.

01-Aug-2022 A Cultural History of Chemistry in the Middle Ages, ed. with Sébastien Moureau

Edited Book

The medieval part of a series on the Cultural History of Chemistry, to which I contributed an article on alchemy in society.

01-Aug-2021 Thabit ibn Qurra On Talismans


An edition of texts in Judaeo-Arabic, Arabic, Latin and Hebrew relating to the classic 10th-century Arabic text by Thabit ibn Qurra on Talismans. Published together with Gideon Bohak in the series Micrologus Library (no. 106)

01-Nov-2019 ‘Arabic Magic: the impetus for translating texts and their reception’, in The Routledge History of Medieval Magic, eds Sophie Page and C. Rider, New York and Abingdon: Routledge, 2019, pp. 71-84


A chapter in what is now a standard book on magic in the Middle Ages

01-Oct-2019 Astrolabes in Medieval Cultures, eds J. Rodriguez-Arribas, C. Burnett, S. Ackermann and R. Szpiech, Leiden, 2019

Edited Book

A book of articles on the astrolabe arising out of the project on the astrolabe in medieval Jewish culture

01-Aug-2019 Falconry in the Mediterranean Context during the Pre-Modern Era, ed. with Baudouin van den Abeele, Bibliotheca Cynegetica, 9, Geneva

Edited Book

The first book to deal with falconry in the Middle Ages, for which I wrote a chapter on Adelard of Bath's Book of Hawking.

01-Aug-2019 The Great Introduction to Astrology by Abu Ma'sar, Arabic ed. and trans. with Keiji Yamamoto


The most important book on the theory of astrology of the Middle Ages, in two volumes of ca. 1,450 pages.

18-Jul-2019 ‘Preface’ in Pregnancy and Childbirth in the Premodern World, eds Costanza Gislon Dopfel, Alessandra Foscati, and Charles Burnett, Turnhout: Brepols, 2019, pp. xi-xii


The preface to a book on pregnancy and childbirth

12-Jul-2019 ‘Agency and Effect in the Astrology of Ab? Ma?shar of Balkh (Albumasar)’, Oriens, 41 (2019): 1-17.


On how the stars effect movement and change in the sublunar world

01-May-2019 The Great Introduction to Astrology by Ab? Ma?šar, edited by Keiji Yamamoto and Charles Burnett, with an edition of the Greek version by David Pingree, 2 vols, Leiden: Brill, 2019. xiv + 947 pp. and viii + 466 pp


An edition and translation of the major work on astrology in the Middle Ages produced in collaboration with Keiji Yamamoto

10-Oct-2018 ‘Harmonic and Acoustic Theory: Latin and Arabic Ideas of Sympathetic Vibration as the Causes of Effects between Heaven and Earth’, in Sing Aloud Harmonious Spheres: Renaissance Conceptions of Cosmic Harmony, eds Jacomien Prins and Maude Vanhaelen, New York and London, 2018, pp. 31-43

Conference papers

A chapter originally given as a conference paper in a book about celestial music

10-Sep-2018 ‘Reading the Sciences’, in The European Book in the Twelfth Century, eds Erik Kwakkel and Rodney Thomson, Cambridge, 2018, pp. 259-76


A chapter on manuscripts of scientific works in a book meant for a wide audience of palaeographers

12-Jul-2018 John C. Reeves and Annette Yoshiko Reed, Enoch from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, volume 1: Sources from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (2018)


A review of a book introducing the Enochian tradition of thought

01-Jul-2018 Knowledge in Translation: Global Patterns of Scientific Exchange 1000-1800 CE, edited by Patrick Manning and Abigail Owen with a foreword by Charles Burnett, Pittsburgh, 2018


A forward to an important book on the global exchange of knowledge

01-Aug-2017 Textes médiévaux de scapulomancie, édition de Stefano Rapisarda, avec la collaboration de Charles Burnett, traduction de Benoît Grévin, Marco Miano et Stéphanie Vlavianos, Paris, 2017


A comprehensive book on the craft of divination by shoulder blades of animals, written in collaboration with Stefano Rapisarda

27-Jun-2017 The Introduction of Arabic Words in Medieval British Latin Scientific Writings


 in Latin in Medieval Britain, eds Richard Ashdowne and Carolinne White, The British Academy, Oxford Univerisity Press, Oxford, 27 Jun 2017, pp. 198-210.

01-Jun-2017 Physicorum


 Tadeusz Grzesik, ed., Disputationes “Physicorum” dictae Magistri Serpentis “Exercitium”, Warsaw, 2016, reviewed in Isis, 108, June 2017, pp. 441-2.

15-May-2017 Michael Scot


 in Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie, Die Philosophie des Mittelalters, 4, Schwabe Verlag, Basel, 15 May 2017, pp.135-6, 240-1.

01-Jan-2017 The Translator as an Authority

Journal articles

 in The Medieval Translator/Traduire au Moyen Age, eds Pieter De Leemans and Michèle Goyens, Brepols, Turnhout, January 2017, pp.53-67

01-Aug-2016 A New Catalogue of Medieval Translations into Latin of Texts on Astronomy and Astrology


 (with David Juste), in Medieval Textual Cultures: Ages of Transmission, Translation and Transformation, eds Faith Wallis and Robert Wisnovsky, De Gruyter, , Berlin, August 2016, pp. 63-76.

01-Jan-2014 eaching the Science of the Stars in Prague University in the Early Fifteenth Century: Master Johannes Borotin

Journal articles

Teaching the Science of the Stars in Prague University in the Early Fifteenth Century: Master Johannes Borotin’, Aither, 2nd International Issue, Prague, 2014, pp. 9-50 

01-Jan-2014 Time, Astronomy, and Calendars in the Jewish Tradition,

Edited Book

 Ed. Sacha Stern and Charles Burnett, Leiden and Boston, Brill, 2014;

01-Jan-2014 Mapping Knowledge: Cross-Pollination in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

Edited Book

 Ed. Charles Burnett and Pedro Mantas, Arabica Veritas 1, Cordoba and London, CNERU and Warburg Institute, 2014;

01-Sep-2013 3. ‘John North’ in Biographical Memoirs of Felllows of the British Academy XI, London, 2012, pp. 493-99. (2463 words)


01-Jan-2013 Adelard of Bath: The First English Scientist, by Louise Cochrane,


‘Prologue’ and ‘Epilogue’ to the reprint of Adelard of Bath: The First English Scientist, by Louise Cochrane, Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, 2013, pp. 11-13 and 159-166;

01-Jan-2013 Doctors versus Astrologers: Medical and Astrological Prognosis Compared


 ‘Doctors versus Astrologers: Medical and Astrological Prognosis Compared’, in Die mantischen Künste und die Epistemologie prognostischer Wissenschaften im Mittelalter, ed. A. Fidora, Cologne, Weimar and Vienna, Böhlau, 2013, pp. 101-111;

01-Jan-2013 Translations and Transmission of Greek and Islamic Science to Latin Christendom and ‘The Twelfth-Century Renaissance


  ‘Translations and Transmission of Greek and Islamic Science to Latin Christendom’ and ‘The Twelfth-Century Renaissance’, Cambridge History of Science, Cambridge University Press, 2013, vol. 2, ed. David Lindberg and Michael Shanks, pp. 341-364 and 365-384;

01-Jan-2013 Music and the Stars in Cashel, Bolton Library, MS 1


‘Music and the Stars in Cashel, Bolton Library, MS 1’, in Music and the Stars: Mathematics in Medieval Ireland, ed. Mary Kelly and Charles Doherty, Dublin, Four Courts Press, 2013, pp. 142-158 and Plates 6 and 7

01-Jan-2013 Simon of Genoa’s Use of the Breviarium of Stephen, the Disciple of Philosophy


 ‘Simon of Genoa’s Use of the Breviarium of Stephen, the Disciple of Philosophy’, in Simon of Genoa’s Medical Lexicon, ed. Barbara Zipser, Munich, De Gruyter, 2013, pp. 67-78;

01-Jan-2013 The Geometry of the Liber Ysagogarum Alchorismi


 ‘The Geometry of the Liber Ysagogarum Alchorismi’, Sudhoffs Archiv, 97, 2013, pp. 143-173.

01-Jan-2013 Rashid al-Din, Agent and Mediator of Cultural Exchanges in Ilkhanid Iran

Edited Book

Ed. Anna Akasoy, Charles Burnett and Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim, Warburg Institute Colloquia 24, London, Warburg Institute and Nino Aragno, 2013;

01-Jan-2013 2. ‘East (and South) Asian Traditions in Astrology and Divination as Viewed from the West’, in Les Astres et le destin: astrologie et divination en Asie Orientale, Extrême orient-- Extrême occident, 35, 2013, pp. 285-93. (3450 words)


01-Jan-2013 ‘Astrological Translations in Byzantium’, Le Symposium International: Le livre. La Roumanie. L’Europe, Dordrecht, 2013

Conference papers

01-Sep-2012 1. ‘The Arabo-Latin Aristotle’, in The Letter before the Spirit: The Importance of Text Editions for the Study of the Reception of Aristotle, ed. A.M. I. van Oppenraay, Leiden and Boston, 2012, p. 95-107. (2964 words)


01-Jan-2012 Laurence Wuidar, Musique et astrologie après le Concile de Trente

Institut historique belge de Rome, Études d’histoire de l’art 10, Brepols: Brussels and Rome, 2008, 222 pp.
Annals of Science


01-Jan-2012 ‘A Judaeo-Arabic Version of Tabit ibn Qurra’s De imaginibus and Pseudo-Ptolemy’s Opus imaginum’, Islamic Philosophy, Science, Culture and Religion: Studies in Honor of Dimitri Gutas, eds Felicitas Opwis and David Reisman, Leiden and Boston, 2012


with Gideon Bohak

01-Jan-2012 Greek Into Latin from Antiquity until the Nineteenth Century

Edited Book

Warburg Institute and Nigno Aragno


01-Jan-2012 Medieval Arabic Thought: Essays in Honour of Fritz Zimmermann.

Edited Book

Warburg Institute


01-Jan-2012 Plato Amongst the Arabic-Latin Translators of the Twelfth Century

Il Timeo, Esegesi greche, arabe, latine, ed. Francesco Celia and Angela Ulacco, Greco, Arabo, Latino, Le vie del sapere, Studi, Pisa. pp. 269-306


01-Jan-2012 New Testimonies for the Text of Raymond of Marseilles ’On the astrolabe’

Co-Author. Scriptorium


01-Jan-2012 ‘John of Gmunden’s Astrological Library’, Johannes von Gmunden: zwischen Astronomie und Astrologie, eds R. Simek and M. Klein, Vienna, 2012


01-Jan-2012 ‘Revisiting the 1552–1550 and 1562 Aristotle-Averroes Edition’, Renaissance Averroism and Its Aftermath: Arabic Philosophy in Early Modern Europe, eds Anna Akasoy and Guido Giglioni, Berlin, 2012


01-Jan-2011 ‘Al-Qabisi’s Introduction to Astrology: From Courtly Entertainment to University Textbook’, in Studies in the History of Culture and Science: A Tribute to Gad Freudenthal, ed. R. Fontaine, et al., Ledin, 2011, pp. 43-69


01-Jan-2011 Learning to Write Numerals in the Middle Ages’ in Pamela Robinson (ed.), Teaching writing, learning to write : proceedings of the XVIth Colloquium of the Comité International de Paléographie Latine, London, 2010

Conference papers

01-Jan-2011 ‘De meliore homine. ‘Umar ibn al-Farrukh?n al-?abar? on Interrogations: A Fourth Translation by Salio of Padua?’

Adorare caelestia, gubernare terrena: Atti del colloquio internazionale in onore di Paolo Lucentini (Napoli, 6-7 Novembre 2007), eds Pasquale Arfé, Irene Caiazzo, and Antonella Sannino, pp. 295-325. 

01-Jan-2011 Geomancy in the Islamic World and Western Europe

Zhouyi Studies (English Version), 7, pp. 176-80


01-Jan-2011 William of Conches and Adelard of Bath


Guillaume de Conches: Philosophie et science au XIIe siècle, ed. B. Obrist and I. Caiazzo, pp. 67-77

01-Jan-2011 Communities of Learning in Twelfth-Century Toledo

Communities of Learning: Networks and the Shaping of Intellectual Identity in Europe, 110-1500, Turnhout, 2011, pp. 9-1818.

01-Jan-2011 Islam and Tibet: Interactions along the Musk Routes, ed., Farnham, 2011

Edited Book

with Anna Akasoy and Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim

01-Jan-2011 Ptolemy’s Geography in the Renaissance, ed. (with Zur), London, 2011

Edited Book

01-Jan-2011 ‘The Arrival of the Pagan Philosophers in the North: A Twelfth-Century Florilegium in Edinburgh University Library’, in Knowledge, Discipline and Power in the Middle Ages, Essays in Honour of David Luscombe, eds Joseph Canning, Edmund King and Martial Staub, Leiden and Boston, 2011, pp. 79-93


01-Jan-2011 ‘The Latin Versions of Maimonides’ On Sexual Intercourse (De coitu)’ in Between Text and Patient: The Medical Enterprise in Medieval And Early Modern Europe, ed. Florence Eliza Glaze and Brian K. Nance, Florence, 2011, pp. 467-80


01-Jan-2011 ’Experimentum and Ratio in the Salernitan Summa de saporibus et odoribus’, in ‘Expertus sum, l’expérience par les sens dans la philosophie naturelle médiévale’, eds Thomas Bénatouïl and Isabelle Draelants, Micrologus’ Library 40, Florence, 2011, pp. 337-58


01-Jan-2011 ‘The Five Senses in Ramon Llull’s Liber contemplationis in deum’, in Gottes Schau und Weltbetrachtung: Interpretationen zum “Liber Contemplationis” des Raimundus Luluus, ed. Fernando Domínguez Reboiras, Viola Tenge-Wolf and Peter Walter, Subsidia Lulliana 4, Tournhout, pp. 181-208


01-Jan-2011 ‘Coniunctio-Continuatio’, Mots médiévaux offerts a Ruedi Imbach, ed. I. Atucha et al., Porto 2011, pp. 185-98


01-Jan-2011 ‘Two Approaches to Natural Science in Toledo of the Twelfth Century’ in Christlicher Norden - Muslimischer Süden, eds Matthias M. Tischler and Alexander Fidora, Frankfurt, 2011, pp. 69-80


01-Jan-2010 Numerals and Arithmetic in the Middle Ages


Interrelating articles on the different forms of numerals used in the Middle Ages, and the methods of calculation in which they were used.

01-Jan-2010 ‘Musical Instruments as Conveyors of Meaning from One Culture to Another: the Example of the Lute’, in The Power of Things and the Flow of Cultural Transformations: Art and Culture between Europe and Asia, eds L. E. Saurma-Jeltsch and A. Eisenbeiss, Berlin and Munich, 2010, pp. 156-69


01-Jan-2010 ‘“Ptolemaeus in almagesto dixit”: The Transformation of Ptolemy’s Almagest in its Transmission via arabic into Latin’,Transformationen antiker Wissenschaften, eds g. Toepfer and h. böhme,berlin and new York 2010


01-Jan-2009 ‘Abu Ma‘shar (AD 787-888) and His Major Texts on Astrology’, in Kayd: Studies in History of Mathematics, Astronomy and Astrology in Memory of David Pingree, eds Gherardo Gnoli and Antonio Panaino, Serie orientale Roma, Rome, 2009, pp. 17-29


01-Jan-2009 Arabic into Latin in the Middle Ages: The Translators and Their Intellectual and Social Context, variorum reprints, Farnham

01-Jan-2009 The Word in Medieval Logic, Theology and Psychology, Turnhout, 2009

Edited Book

with Tetsuro shimizu

01-Jan-2009 ‘Introduction’ to David Pingree, ‘between the Ghaya and the Picatrix II: The Flos Naturarumascribed to Jabir’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 72,2009

01-Jan-2009 Arabic into Latin in the Middle Ages: The Translators and their Intellectual and Social Context


Substantial articles on the translators of Arabic into Latin from the late tenth century until the mid-thirteenth century, and their cultural and intellectual contexts

01-Jan-2008 Review of Laurence Wuidar, Musique et astrologie après le Concile de Trente, Institut historique belge de Rome, Études d’histoire de l’art 10, Brepols: Brussels and Rome, 2008, 222 pp


01-Jan-2008 Canons, énigmes et hiéroglyphes musicaux dans l’Italie du 17e siècle, Etudes de musicologie 1, P.I.E. Peter Lang: Brussels et al., 2008, 265 pp. in Il Saggiatore, 2/2010, pp. 175-7.


01-Jan-2000 Abu Ma‘sar on Historical Astrology, The Book of Religions and Dynasties (On the Great Conjunctions), ed. and transl. K. Yamamoto and C. Burnett


The major textbook of the Middle Ages on predicting events concerning nations and religions.

01-Jan-1997 The Introduction of Arabic Learning into England (The Panizzi Lectures, 1996)


An account of the introduction of Arabic science and philosophy into ENgland, via translations from Arabic into Latin, and of how these texts where used in the Royal Court and became part of the curriculum of Oxford University.

01-Jan-1997 The Second Sense: Studies in Hearing and Musical Judgement from Antiquity to the Seventeenth Century, edited by C. Burnett, M. Fend and P. M Gouk

Conference papers

An edited volume of conference papers focusing on theories of hearing, the comparison between hearing and seeing, the iconography of hearing and how hearing contributes to the appreciation of music.

01-Jan-1996 Magic and Divination in the Middle Ages: Texts and Techniques in the Islamic and Christian Worlds


A collection of articles, both previously published and newly published, on magic and divination.

01-Jan-1995 Jesuit Plays on Japan and English Recusancy (with Masahiro Takenaka)


Editions and translations of plays written in the early seventeenth century on the them of Japanese Christian martyrs and performed in the Jesuit school of St Omer by children of English Catholics.

1985 Pseudo-Bede, De mundi celestis terrestrisque constitutione: a Treatise on the Universe and the Soul, edition, translation and commentary

London: Warburg Institute Surveys and Texts 10

1984 A Checklist of the Manuscripts Containing Writings of Peter Abelard and Heloise and Other Works Closely Associated with Abelard and his School

Revue d’histoire des textes, 14–15 (with David Luscombe and Julia Barrow)

01-Jan-1982 Hermann of Carinthia, De essentiis, critical edition, translation and commentary


An edition and translation of a work on the universe and on man, written by a highly intelligent scholar who had direct access to both Latin and Arabic sources.

Research Projects & Supervisions

Research projects:


Encounters witth Orient in Early Modern Scholarship Warburg Institute
Project period: 09-May-2013 - 30-Sep-2016

Research interests: Early Modern

PhilAnd - The origin and early development of philosophy in tenth-century al-Andalus: the impact of ill-defined materials and channels of transmission Warburg Institute
Project period: 01-Oct-2017 - 30-Sep-2022

Research interests: Colonies & Colonization, emigration & immigration

Astrolabes in Medieval Jewish Society

A three-year project analysing all the astrolabes from the Middle Ages for which there are indications that they passed through Jewish hands, and all the texts on constructing and using astrolabes written in Hebrew

Catalogue of Commentaries on Aristotle from British Sources

A catalogue of all the commentaries in British manuscripts on the works of Aristotle

Islam and Tibet

A four-year project on the relations between Islam and the Tibet from the 8th to the 14th century involving two full-time researchers.

PhilAnd - The origin and early development of philosophy in tenth-century al-Andalus: the impact of ill-defined materials and channels of transmission

ERC Advanced Grant

The production and reading of musical sources

A project, on which I am co-investigator, addressing the relationship of notes, words and images in manuscripts and printed secular music written between 1480 and 1530.

Current PhD topics supervised:

Dates Details
From: 01-Oct-2012
Until: 30-Sep-2015
Arabic Manuals on Treasure Hunting

This thesis investigates the genre of treasure hunting, whose methods include astrology, magic and historical knowledge. The text derive mainly from Egypt, where there was a could chance of finding treasure.

From: 01-Oct-2011
Until: 30-Sep-2015
The Relationship between commentaries and Illustrations in Medieval Commentaries on Ovid's Metamorphoses

Both illustrations and commentaries interpret a text. In this thesis the select few manuscripts that include both illustrations and commentaries to Ovid's Metamorphoses are investigated. The majority of these contain versions of the commentary of Pierre Bersuire.

From: 01-Oct-2009
Until: 31-Dec-2012
Astronomy and Cosmology in Antioch in the mid Twelfth Century

An analysis (including complete editions and translations) of the first translations into Latin of Ibn al-Haytham's On the Configuration of the World and Ptolemy's Almagest, produced in Antioch in the mid-twelfth century.

Past PhD topics supervised:

Dates Details
Duns Scottus's Metaphysics

The metaphysical thought in the Sentences of the fourteenth-century theologian Duns Scottus

Avicenna's Psychology in the Latin West

The translation of the book on psychology ('On the soul') from Avicenna's Shifa', and its influence on medieval Western philosophers.

Medieval Concepts of the World Year

The different values given to long periods of time (called 'world years'), their origins and diffusion.

Hermes Trismegistus in the Middle Ages

The references to Hermes Trismegistus (particularly, the Asclepius) in Latin theologians of the later Middle Ages

Magic at St Augustine's, Canterbury

The practice of magic and the presence of magical texts in manuscripts at the Benedictine monastery of St Augustine's, Canterbury.

musica humana

The tradition of describing the harmonic relationship of body and soul which developed into the idea of the music produced by the human voice.

About ten more PhD topics

medieval philosophy, Latin philology, history of science.

Professional Affiliations

Professional affiliations:

Name Activity
COST Action Medioevo Europeo Networking, organising conferences, setting up data bases etc.
SOURCEM Coordination of research projects in France


Name Type Activity Start date End date
Keiji Yamamoto Writing books together Editing and translating the major Arabic and Latin astrological texts of the Middle Ages
Gerrit Bos Writing books together Editing and translating the Arabic, Hebrew and Latin versions of Maimonides's medical works.
Tzvi Langermann writing books together Editing and translating the Arabic, Hebrew and Latin versions of Averroes, On Theriac
Relevant Events

Related events:

Date Details
01-Jan-1900 Conferences on the topics of my research, and in connection with the research projects that I direct

Frequent keynote speaker, presenter of conference papers, and academic organiser, and occasional appearance on a radio programme.

Consultancy & Media
Available for consultancy:
Media experience:
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