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Folkerts, Menso (2011): Early texts on Hindu-Arabic calculation. In: Science in Context, Vol. 14, No. 1-2: pp. 13-38




This article describes how the decimal place value system was transmitted from India via the Arabs to the West up to the end of the fifteenth century. The arithmetical work of al-Khw¯arizm¯ı’s, ca. 825, is the oldest Arabic work on Indian arithmetic of which we have detailed knowledge. There is no known Arabic manuscript of this work; our knowledge of it is based on an early reworking of a Latin translation. Until some years ago, only one fragmentary manuscript of this twelfth-century reworking was known (Cambridge, UL, Ii.6.5). Another manuscript that transmits the complete text (New York, Hispanic Society of America, HC 397/726) has made possible a more exact study of al-Khw¯arizm¯ı’s work. This article gives an outline of this manuscript’s contents and discusses some characteristics of its presentation.