1203. [Persian manuscript]
KÂSHEFI, Hoseyn Wâʿez
Glazed cream paper, 31 x 21 cm, 271 ff., 19 ll. of neat nastaʿliq script on a page (some sm. marg. tears restored, occ. sm. stains).
Contemp. lacquered wooden front and back covers, decorated with a painted frame with a small floral motif, itself between black and gold rulings, in the centre a large bouquet of many different flowers on a golden background, spine in black leather, doublures in lacquered paper decorated with a single bunch of white narcissus and a sprig of violets at its base (covers sl. rubbed, spine used, front cover loose, some lvs disbound). Good condition.
Fine, large format manuscript of the "Anwâr-e Soheylī" (The Light of Canopus), a famous and very popular Persian collection of fables, written in 1501-1502 by the prolific writer and Sufi scholar Kâshefi (1436-1504) for a military commander and vizier in Herat, the brilliant capital of the Timurid dynasty. This work is based on the Sanskrit "Pañcatantra", the Arabic "Kalila wa Demna" by Ebn al-Moqaffaʿ, and Nasr-Allâh Monshi’s earlier (± 1144) Persian version "Kalila wa Demna". Translated in many languages, such as Turkish and Urdu, it became a standard examination text in the Indian Civil Service and the Indian Army during the English rule in India. Text in golden inner and black outer rulings (s.c. jadwal). It is divided in fourteen chapters, entitled, e.g., "On Avoiding Calumniators, Slanderers and People with Ulterior Motives", "On the Punishment of Evildoers and their Disgraceful End", "On the Danger of Seeking too Much and Failing in One’s Purpose", and contains 101 stories. Although there is a colophon on f. 271a, it gives only the month of completion (Shaʿbân) but not the year. However, the style of the miniatures and the clothing of the figures - the men wearing the typical black astrakhan hat (kolâh) - make clear that the manuscript was produced in the Qajar era (1779-1925).
Illustration: On f. 1b, a large illuminated front. (onwân) in blue and gold and a red floral motif. Titles of the chapters and other captions (hekâyat, "story", beyt, "verse", nazm, "poetry", mesraʿ, "half verse", mathnawi, "couplet", qetʿa, "fragment") in red. The manuscript is very finely illuminated with 48 charming miniatures showing particularly courtly scenes, with a crowned ruler and some attendants, but animals figure in the most appealing ones. E.g. on f. 36a, where we see an ape whose paws are caught in a piece of wood: while the carpenter was away he had removed the wedges which held the pieces in place. The moral is that one should mind one’s own business. F. 67a shows a tortoise, hanging by its mouth on a stick held in the air by two geese. This had been their advice, so that it could accompany them on their travel, but, of course, it should have kept its mouth shut, as they had ordered him. One should heed advice, is the moral. The collection contains some ribald stories too. On f. 90a we see a man and a woman in intercourse. The woman had an attachment to a neighbour who had made a cape which he would don as a signal for her to come to meet him. However, his slave had overheard this scheme, donned the cape, and the woman, overjoyed, fell in his arms, to discover her mistake too late, and thereby losing her true love. The moral is that precipitation should be avoided. Gore is not avoided either. In yet another story, illustrated on f. 180b, showing how faithlessness is punished. We see an unfaithful wife who, leaving her elderly husband, had run away with a young lover, being mauled by a lion they had encountered on their flight. Severed heads figure on ff. 209a and 216b. The illustrations are as entertaining as the stories themselves.
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