1204. [Persian manuscript]
Glazed cream paper, 23 x 15 cm, 477 ff., 15 ll. of elegant nastaʿlīq script on a page (some lvs loose, some margins restored, with occ. very light loss of text in the marginal comments, sometimes restored, waterstains on some lvs, soiling mainly marginal).
Contemp. lacquered papiermâché front and back covers, decorated with a painted floral motif and both an ovoid ("toronja") and a lozenge-shaped gold tooled stamp (rebacked, used, faded gilding, some lvs disbound).
Fine illuminated manuscript, of a complete "Khamsa" (collection of five epic poems) of the famous poet Nezâmi Ganjawi (± 1141-1209). Undated, although a French inscription on the inside cover states "fin XVIIIe", judging from the style of the miniatures it is much earlier. Although none of the colophons give a name of a scribe, his pride in his craftmanship is shown when he makes himself known as "Mohammad-e 'Ali" at the bottom of fol. 57a, as he particularly finely executed this page, and its reverse 57b, arranging the lines in a different, diagonal way. The "Khamsa" contains the following poems: on ff. 1b-39b, "Makhzan al-asrâr" (The Treasury of Secrets), a poem of ethical-didactical content; on ff. 40b-140a, "Khosrow o Shirin" (Khosrow and Shirin), about the love between the pre-islamic Sassanian ruler Khosrow Parwiz (ca. 591-629) and the Armenian princess Shirin; on ff. 141b-216b, "Lailâ o Majnun" (Lailâ and Majnun), a poem in a Bedouin setting about the mutual but unhappy love between Qais and Lailâ, Qais becoming mad ("majnun") as their families oppose their union; on ff. 218b-302a, "Haft Paykar" (The Seven Portraits), which tells the story of the Sassanian ruler Bahrâm (ca. 421-439) and his seven wives, and, finally, an epic on Alexander the Great, "Iskandar-nâma" (The Book of Alexander), in 2 parts, "Sharaf-nâma" (Book of Honour, ff. 303b-417a,), and "Iqbâl-nâma" (Book of Happiness, ff. 417a-477a).
Illustration: On ff. 1b-2a a double-page front. in gold, with floral pattern in blue an red, and 7 ll. in two col. separated by thick golden lines. The halflines in two col. separated by two fine golden rulings and encircled by a double golden ruling (s.c. jadwal), and another 14 ll. written obliquely in the margins, surrounded by a thicker golden ruling. Except for these two pages the half lines of the poems are in two columns. Titles of chapters and subchapters in cartouches in silver and blue, in crenelated lines (s.c. dandân-mushi, "mouse teeth"). The manuscript has 4 illuminated front. (s.c.ʿonwân) on ff. 40b, 141b, 218b and 303b, and 27 fine miniatures, with scenes sometimes continuing in the margins beyond the written text on top of the pages. Some examples of illustrated scenes: the parable of "Jesus and the dead dog" (f. 27a), - a bathhouse, in which a barber is shaving the head of Caliph Harun al-Rashid (f. 36a), - Khosrow on his horse, standing before Shirin’s castle (f. 103a), - Khosrow and Shirin sitting together, deeply in love, drinking wine and listening to musicians playing harp and tambourine (f. 119b), - a classroom (f. 156a), - the army of Majnun’s friend Nowfal confronts that of Lailâ’s tribe (f. 171a), - Lailâ and Majnun in the desert, populated with wild animals such as lions and gazelles (f. 205b), - one of Bahrâms hunting feats, knocking down two lions (f. 239b), - six of the seven pavilions built by Bahrâm for each of his seven wives (ff. 251b, 260b, 264b, 269a, 280a, 286a), - a battle scene from Iskandar (Alexander)'s story (f. 342b), - the prophet Khezr kneeling at the "Fountain of Life" in the "Land of Darkness" (f. 413b), etc.
Prov. Obviously the manuscript has been a treasured possession, as appears from notes at different places (ff. 2b, 39b, 205b, 332b). It has been part of a family endowment in favour of male descendants ("waqf-i awlâd-e dhokur"). Inscriptions relating to this endowment, partly erased to the point of being illegible, on ff. 1a, 40a, 141a, 218a, 303a. In the first inscription on f. 40a the date 1234 (= 1818-19) can be read. A number of stamps presumably contain the names of the beneficiaries: "Ebn Abu Mortazâ Qoli" (ff. 40a, 141a, 218a, 303a), - "Lotf-ʿAli" (ff. 40a, 218a, 303a), - "Jaʿfar” (f. 218a).
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