Arabus et Latinus

JORDANUS: The Data Available

The database aims at providing information on almost all mathematical texts written in western languages contained in mediaeval manuscripts (i.e. manuscripts written before 1500 A. D.). Most of the texts concern arithmetics, algebra, geometry and trigonometry.

The majority of the sources were written in Latin, but manuscripts written in vernacular languages, such as French, German, Italian, English and Spanish, have also been included. No strict boundaries have been set, so that manuscripts from other mathematical sciences (such as astronomy, optics, hydraulics and military engineering) and also from adjacent fields (such as physics and medicine) have been incorporated as well. No attempt, however, has been made to undertake a systematic search for these manuscripts. Also, manuscripts written after 1500 A.D. were not left aside, so that in fact the database also contains information about many more recent manuscripts — up to university lectures from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Most of the data entered in the database come from printed and unpublished catalogues of manuscripts. These data were inserted into the database ICCMSM (now: Jordanus) by several revisors during the late 70s and early 80s. At the moment approximately 13.000 manuscripts are included in the database.

In view of the long period of data acquisition and the large amount of data available, inconsistencies are inevitable. In many cases these are due to mistakes in entering data. It was not possible to present the names of the authors in a standardized form. Thus one and the same mediaeval author may occur in the database under different names and under different spellings of these names. Also the titles of the works have not been standardized. For these and other shortcomings we kindly ask the user for their understanding.

The rapid development of computer technology during the 1990s opened up new possibilities for making the database available to a large audience. The wish to make it accessible on the world wide web led to a cooperation between Menso Folkerts for the Institute for the History of Science in Munich and Jürgen Renn for the Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science in Berlin in 1997. In several workshops and working sessions held at the Max-Planck-Institute in Berlin during the years 1998/1999 the raw data were transferred and processed first by Gerd Graßhoff and Michael May, then by Jochen Büttner, Peter Damerow, and Paul Weinig (all MPIWG Berlin). The most important part of the work was done by Gerhard Brey (IGN, Munich), who checked the more than 60.000 field entries and corrected them whenever necessary with the help of a new interface, Filemaker. An internet-ready version, using mySQL and Perl, was developed and tested in the intranets of both institutions. It was then made available in the world wide web under its new name JORDANUS through the Max Planck Institute for History of Science in Berlin, the King's College in London, and the Institute for History of Science in Munich. After Gerhard Brey's death (8 February 2012) Jordanus could no longer be maintained on the servers of these institutions. In 2014 Erwin Rauner recovered and reinstalled the database on the server of the project Ptolemaeus Arabus et Latinus at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, where it can now be accessed through the address:

Comments and corrections are welcome. Please send these by email to:

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