Romancing the Tome: Love in Illustrated Persian Manuscripts by Sâqib Bâburî From the British Library Blog

For anyone inspired by celebrations of St Valentine’s day, Persian literature has much to offer. Whether it be platonic adoration, romantic affection, or star-crossed disappointment, Persian poetry, in particular, has something to say about it. With a written tradition stretching over a millennium, much of it still preserved in manuscripts; we explore here a few select examples of epic and romantic compositions from the British Library’s growing collection of digitised Persian manuscripts available online to observe wonderful and alternative responses to love, physical and spiritual.

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More: http://blogs.bl.uk/asian-and-african/2017/02/romancing-the-tome-love-in-illustrated-persian-manuscripts.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

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Nasir Shah’s Book of Delights from the British Library Blog

To celebrate our new series of South Asian seminars and especially the focus on food with Neha Vermani’s talk this evening Mughals on the menu: A probe into the culinary world of the Mughal eliteI thought I would write about our most ʻfoodyʼ Persian manuscript, the only surviving copy of the Niʻmatnāmah-i Nāṣirshāhī (Nasir Shah’s Book of Delights) written for Sultan Ghiyas al-Din Khilji (r.1469-1500) and completed by his son Nasir al-Din Shah (r.1500-1510). We are planning to digitise this manuscript in the near future but meanwhile I hope some of these recipes will whet your appetite.

 

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More: http://blogs.bl.uk/asian-and-african/2016/11/nasir-shahs-book-of-delights.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

Revisiting the provenance of the Sindbadnamah, by Ursula Sims-Williams, Asian and African Studies, British Library Blog

While recently looking for documentation on the Library of Tipu Sultan, Sultan of Mysore (r. 1782-1799), my eye fell on this entry in Charles Stewart’s Descriptive Catalogue of the Oriental Library of the late Tippoo Sultan of Mysore (Cambridge, 1809), pp. 72-3:

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XCIV. Diwāni Sindbād Hakīm. Thick quarto, common hand, ornamented with pictures, &c. The instructions of the philosopher Sindbād to his pupil, the ignorant son of a king; in a series of interesting and facetious stories. The author is unknown; but it is dedicated to Shāh Mahmūd Bahmeny of the Dekhan, A.D. 1374.

More: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2016/06/revisiting-the-provenance-of-the-sindbadnamah-io-islamic-3214.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

 

 

Marking the Aftermath of the Massacre at Karbala: New manuscripts of the Mukhtarnamah – British Library Blog

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See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2015/10/marking-the-aftermath-of-the-massacre-at-karbala-new-manuscripts-of-the-mukhtarnamah.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29#sthash.eQmAOrfY.dpuf

Persian literature was dominated by a sophisticated tradition of poetry

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A manuscript of Rumi's Masnavi dated1652–53. (Image: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford) A manuscript of Rumi’s Masnavi dated1652–53. (Image: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford)

Persian literature is dominated by a highly  sophisticated tradition of poetry dating to the tenth century. Persian poetry can generally be divided into two forms: the lyrical and the epic. The major lyrical forms are the qasida, ghazal, and rubai. The basic form of epic poetry is the masnavi.

The qasida, a long mono-rhyme (aa, ba, ca) similar to an ode, is mostly used as a speech or in praise of somebody as well as for secular or religious moralism. It consists of three parts – a prologue, the actual praise or tribute, and a final appeal to the patron. It was also used to praise of God and the Prophet. The chanted qasida is part of the religious tradition of Arabic and Persian–speaking Nizari Ismailis.

The ghazal, rhythmically similar to the qasida only…

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Map of the city of Mahdiyya in The Book of Curiosities and Marvels for the Eye

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Map of the city of Mahdiyya (Image: The Ismailis: An Illustrated History) Map of the city of Mahdiyya (Image: The Ismailis: An Illustrated History)

The map of the city of Mahdiyya (in modern-day Tunisia) is one of seventeen maps and diagrams illustrating a treatise about the earth and the universe titled Kitab Ghara’ib al-funun wa mulah al-‘ayun, loosely translated as The Book of Curiosities of the Sciences and Marvels for the Eye. The work was composed in Egypt between 1020 and 1050.*

The volume comprises two books, the first on the heavens in ten chapters , and the second, on the earth, in twenty-five chapters. The thirteenth chapter of the second book discusses “the island-city of Mahdiyya and begins with a description and history, followed by a map of the city, describing the founding of the city by the Fatimid Caliph-Imam al-Mahdiyya in 916-921.”*

This manuscript is a copy made in the late twelfth or early thirteenth century and shows, and depicts the city…

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A new manuscript of ‘Inayatallah’s Bahar-i Danish

Shaikh ‘Inayatallah Kanbu of Delhi finished his romantic tale the Bahar-i Danish (‘The Springtime of Knowledge’) in 1651, a collection of Indian tales held together by the frame story of the romance of Jahandar Sultan and Bahravar Banu.  No early illustrated copy seems to have survived.   A previously unknown manuscript of the text illustrated with 118 miniatures appeared recently at auction from the collection of the Duke of Northumberland (Sotheby’s, London, 8 October 2014, lot 275).  Although undated, this manuscript goes some way to fill the gap in Mughal manuscript illustration between the end of the reign of Shah Jahan (r. 1628-58) and the revival of the imperial Mughal studio in the 18th century.  The present writer was able to study it closely and concluded that the text was copied around 1700, that there were three illustrative campaigns, the first two of which were contemporary with the writing, but that the third campaign was undertaken later, almost certainly in the 1720s in the imperial studio of Muhammad Shah (r. 1719-48).  The illustrations in this third campaign seem preparatory to the paintings by Govardhan II in the Karnama-i ‘Ishq, the finest known imperial manuscript from the 18th century (BL J. 38, see Losty and Roy 2012, figs. 138-45).

There are very few good quality Mughal manuscripts from the latter half of the 17th century with which this manuscript could be compared.  Shah Jahan was interested in manuscript illustration only for inclusion in his chronicles, while under the puritanical Aurangzeb (r. 1658-1707) painting was discouraged along with all the other arts of the court.  Artists must have sought other employment in this period whether with princes and noblemen or else in a more commercial environment.   In searching for other illustrated manuscripts of this text, an unexpected find was a hitherto ignored but important Mughal illustrated manuscript with 126 miniatures in the India Office collections in the British Library (numbered IO Islamic 1408, Ethé 1903, no. 806), the subject of the present note.  Although inscribed as a Johnson manuscript and hence collected by Richard Johnson in India before his return to England in 1790, it is not certain that the inscription is correct.  However, a note in an old hand mentions Alexander Dow’s partial translation (published 1768) but not Jonathan Scott’s complete one of 1799, suggesting that the manuscript was already in a contemporary collection.  Even more interesting was the discovery that it is another version of the Northumberland manuscript.  Its miniatures are also divided into three distinct campaigns to be discussed below and have the same compositions and colouring, except that the third campaign in the ‘Johnson’ manuscript is a continuation of the style of the first campaign.

As two of the earliest if not the earliest illustrated versions of this text, these manuscripts, by far the finest known illustrated versions, assume a particular importance. Their style is derived from the 17th century Mughal style, as they are copying the Shahjahani style albeit in a simplified manner.  This comes through particularly in the costume details in the three illustrative campaigns, which all show the jama (gown) at mid-calf length in vogue in the mid-17th century.  Both of the manuscripts must be based on a no longer known exemplar from the 17th century, perhaps the first illustrated version done under the author’s supervision.  Indeed the Northumberland manuscript refers to a lacuna in its exemplar (f. 101) which in the Johnson manuscript is filled with a painting, so that there can be no question of one being copied from the other.  In the third campaign in the ‘Johnson’ manuscript there are several preliminary drawings and unfinished paintings.

more: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2015/03/a-new-manuscript-of-inayatallahs-bahar-i-danish.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

suggesting that the different paths taken in the third campaigns are because the original exemplar was unfinished.