Kitab fi marifat al-hiyal al-handasiyya by al-Jazari
Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices

MS copied in Syria or Egypt in 1315 CE
Copied by Farrukh ibn Abd al-Latif

Commonly referred to as the Automata al-Jazari's scientific text is among the most fascinating illustrated works from the Arab world. It is devoted to the construction of fifty mechanical devices, ranging from fountains, clocks, and automated palace gates to pitchers, locks, and bolts. One chapter discusses hand-washing devices, such as this large ewer held by a kneeling female attendant in a domed pavilion. Al-Jazari maintains that once the bird whistles, water pours into a basin below. A duck then drinks the used water and releases it through its tail into a container hidden under the platform
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Miniature from a copy of al-Jazari’s Kitab fi marifat al-hiyal al-handasiyya. “Machine Pouring Wine”
Syria or Egypt; 1315
Leaf: 31.5 × 22 cm
The mechanical genius al-Jazari was in the service of the Artuqids in Diyarbakir when he finished his Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices in around 1205. It contained descriptions of humanoid metal robots like this one, but also door handles and combination locks quite similar to examples in the David Collection (38/1973 and 1/1984).

The manuscript was copied in 1315, and although the costume with the tiraz band around the sleeves and the distinctive hat are in accordance with contemporary Muslim fashions, the style, as in so much other “Arab painting,” was influenced by the Christian painting tradition, as shown e.g. by the physiognomy, the halo, and the folds of the kirtle.
David Collection museum, Copenhagen Inv. no. 20/1988
A larger imager image of the Machine Pouring Wine
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Folio from an Automata by al-Jazari; A Musical Toy in the form of a boat
Early 14th century (1315)
Copied by Farrukh ibn Abd al-Latif
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper
H: 30.2 W: 21.7 cm
Syria
F1930.73
Freer Sackler. The Smithsonian's Museums of Asian Art
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Folio from an Automata by al-Jazari; A Candle Clock
Early 14th century (1315 December) /Dated Ramadan 715
Farruk ibn Abd al-Latif (CB)
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper
H: 30.8 W: 21.9 cm
Syria
F1930.71
Freer Sackler. The Smithsonian's Museums of Asian Art
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Folio from an Automata by al-Jazari; recto: the basin; verso: text
1315
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper
H: 31.1 W: 21.6 cm
Syria
F1930.75
Smithsonian
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Folio from an Automata by al-Jazari; The Water Clock of the Drummers
dated 1315
Copied by Farrukh ibn Abd al-Latif
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper
H: 30.8 W: 21.5 cm
Probably Syria
F1942.10
Smithsonian
A larger image of the Water Clock of the Drummers
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Folio from an Automata by al-Jazari; Container for Dispensing Wine
Early 14th century (1315)
Copied by Farrukh ibn Abd al-Latif
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper
H: 30.1 W: 21.9 cm
Syria
F1930.72
Smithsonian
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Folio from an Automata by al-Jazari; recto: two drinking men; verso: text
Early 14th century
Mamluk period
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper
H: 30.9 W: 20.4 cm
Syria
F1930.77
Smithsonian
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1315
Folio from an Automata by al-Jazari; recto: the basin of the two scribes; verso: text
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper
H: 30.8 W: 19.7 cm
Syria
F1930.76

One of the earliest and most fascinating illustrated manuscripts from the Arab world is the so-called Automata by al-Jaziri. The text is devoted to the construction of fifty mechanical devices, including different types of clocks, fountains, and containers for liquids. While the compositions are primarily intended to illustrate the mechanisms of these ingenious instruments, their vibrant colors and fine surface details enhance the pictorial interest of these early scientific manuscripts. The first chapter of the Automata discusses complicated hydraulic clocks and their various components. One such clock is adorned with a copper disc decorated with the signs of the zodiac. Each one encircles the sun and moon along its own orbit. At certain times of the day, the disc revolves and musicians play to announce the new hour.

The Basin of the Scribes belongs to the chapter on pitchers, basins, and other vessels containing or measuring liquids. The device is intended to specify the exact amount of blood taken from a patient. According to al-Jaziri, two scribes are placed on a platform supported by columns. The pens of the scribes move according to the amount of blood gathered in the basin below.
Smithsonian
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Leaf from a copy of al-Jazari's Treatise on Automata with a picture of a wine-serving device. (Section II. No. 7)
al-Jazari's "Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices": Device for a Drinking Party
Islamic, 1315
Place Depicted: Eastern Turkey or Syria
Dimensions: Legacy dimension: 35.0 x 21.0 cm
Medium or Technique: Paper; manuscript
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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Leaf from a manuscript of al-Jazari's "Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices" (Section I No. 1). The page depicts an elaborate clock in the shape of a palace gateway.
al-Jazari's "Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices": The Castle Water Clock
Islamic, 1315
Eastern Turkey or Syria
Dimensions: 21.0 x 35.0 cm
Medium or Technique: Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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Leaf from a copy of al-Jazari's "Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices" (Section III No. 7). The illustration depicts a device for measuring the amount of blood let from a patient.
al-Jazari's "Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices": The Reckoner's Blood-letting Basin
Islamic, 1315
Eastern Turkey or Syria
Dimensions: 21.0 x 35.0 cm
Medium or Technique: Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Classification: Books and manuscripts
Type: Painted page from a manuscript
Accession Number: 31.124
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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"The Elephant Clock", Folio from a Book of the Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices by al-Jazari
Calligrapher: Farrukh ibn `Abd al-Latif
Author: Badi al-Zaman ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari (1136–1206)
Object Name: Folio from an illustrated manuscript
Date: dated A.H. 715/A.D. 1315
Geography: Syria
Culture: Islamic
Medium: Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Dimensions: 11 13/16 x 7 3/4in. (30 x 19.7cm) Mat: 19 1/4 x 14 1/4 in. (48.9 x 36.2 cm) Frame: 20 1/4 x 15 1/4 in. (51.4 x 38.7 cm)
Accession Number: 57.51.23

This page comes from a treatise on fantastic devices invented by the author al-Jazari. His elephant clock was especially intricate: every half hour, the bird on the dome whistled; the man below dropped a ball into the dragon’s mouth; and the driver hit the elephant with his goad. While illustrated manuscripts were growing increasingly popular at the time, this folio is a rare survival from Syria, where few such manuscripts are known from this date.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
A larger image of "The Elephant Clock" after al-Jazari



A manuscript of Kitab fi marifat al-hiyal al-handasiyya by al-Jazari, copied in Egypt in 1354 CE



See also Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers from Egypt and Syria
Seljuk Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers
Index of Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers