127. Anthology of Poetry

Probably Herat, Afghanistan, early 16th-century AD
Size: 22.5 × 15 cm
Lacquer binding, circa 1600 AD

The manuscript has 36 folios including the flyleaf, on which an inscription in pencil states ‘Mir Ali Recueilles des poesies 36 feuilles’. After folio 18 the order of the pages has been scrambled, no doubt when it was rebound with its present lacquered binding. The colophon has been erased, replaced with a 19th-century attribution to Mir Ali. The 16th-century attribution in the text is to the calligrapher Mahmud ibn Ishaq, who lived in Herat until he was moved to Bukhara by Ubaydullah Khan after his capture of Herat in 935 (1528–9).

The calligraphy is outstanding, as is the quality of the illumination and the delicate floral decoration in gold of the borders on pink, green, eau-de-nil, light blue, dark blue and cream paper. This kind of production is usually attributed to Bukhara, possibly due to Mahmud ibn Ishaq’s forced relocation there.

The Mughal emperors had a habit of recording each time they took a manuscript out of their library to read. Thus we know it was in Akbar’s library, and was inspected on various occasions by Jahangir and Shah Jahan, and at least once under Shah Alam. Being an anthology of Persian poems, it is not surprising that there is no indication that it was looked at by the more fundamentalist Aurangzeb. The manuscript must have been among those brought back by Nadir Shah to Iran after his sack of Delhi in 1151–2 (1739), and was acquired for a son of Fath’ali Shah. Its fate after the death of the Prince is not clear, other than it was still in a Qajar hand in 1274 /1857–8.

Notes and seal impressions:

On the opening page (Folio 1r)
 in the shamsah:
‘For the library of the one of high-standing, exalted office, centre of kingdom with signs of bravery Nizam al-Din Nazar Muhammad Bey, may his power be increased’

At the top left of the Shamsah, a note by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir:
‘God is Most Great. It entered the library of the one in need of Divine threshold, in the Capital Agra on the fifth of ådhar, regnal year 1 (26 November 1605). Nur al-Din Jahangir son of Akbar Padshah, the conqueror, wrote it in the year 1014 (1605)’

A Qajar note below the Shamsah (all names have been deliberately
‘Following the order of the one whose decree flows, the one whose abode is the celestial globe, firmament his threshold, the Moon his stirrup, the Sun his vaults, the most noble, the exalted, the eminent, shadow of God ….. moreover His Excellency who has minister- ial rank, Minister ….. Prime Minister, Mirza [Muhammad Shafi’…..], teacher and administer of the affairs of the beloved son and worthy of the royal crown, an ornament of the throne of the empire …. this anthology was acquired for [the prince] and that was …..’

Muhammad Shafi was appointed Prime Minister to Fath’ali Shah in 1215 (1800–1801) and stayed in his post until he died in 1234 (1818–19). He is said to have failed all missions he led, particularly the one against Russians. He is recorded as someone who ac- cumulated much wealth. (M. Bamdad, Dictionary of National Biography of Iran, 1700–1900, vol 2, Tehran, 1966, pp. 146–7)

The seal of a Qajar Prince on the top right hand corner:
‘As Royal destiny/horoscope is favourable, laudable are qualities of Mahmud. 1217 (1802–3)’.

Seal of Mahmud Mirza, 15th son of Fath’ali Shah. He is recorded as a cultured and educated prince who composed a few books on biography of nobles and great men, scholars, poets and Sufis. He was a poet himself with the pen-name ‘Mahmud’. He held gov- ernorship of Nahavand and Luristan for many years. After Fath’ali Shah’s death, he was called to Tehran and held under house arrest before being sent to the fortress in Ardabil and then to Tabriz where he is reported as having died in 1835. (M. Bamdad, Dictionary of National Biography of Iran, 1700–1900, vol 4, Tehran, 1966, pp. 51–3).

A døvån of Sa’ib Tabrizi in the Majlis Library in Tehran bore a similar note when Mirza Shafi’, the Prime Minister to Fath’ali Shah who was a teacher of the Prince acquired it for him in 1222 (1807–08). The manuscript also bears the same seal impression of the Prince.

A Qajar note above the Shamsah:
‘Anthology of poems is by Mir Ali 1274 (1857–8)’.

A Qajar note on the left of the Shamsah:
‘Anthology of poems by a calligrapher in the month of rajab al-murajjab …’

Notes and seal impressions on the verso of the last folio, as chronological as possible:
‘Collection of poems of properties of Qasim Ali Khan Vali was put in the custody of Khwajah Inayat the Royal Librarian on 20th of the divine month of tør, [regnal] year 38 corresponding to 11 shawwal 1001 (11 July 1593). Collection in the hand of Khwajah Mahmud [son of] Ishaq. Value … two (? written in søyåq) muhr …..’
‘It was inspected in the divine month of bahman, [regnal] year 42 (January–February 1596).

An inspection note of Jahangir period:
‘God is Most Great. It was inspected on seventeenth of ådhar first [regnal] year (8 December 1605)’.

Traces of the seal of:
‘Fath [ullah] bin [Abu’l]-Fath’
.

A transfer note of Jahangir period:
‘God is Most Great. It was entrusted to Habibullah from custody of Muhammad Yusif on 25 of shahrøvar [regnal] year 7 (16 September 1612)’.

A transfer note of Jahangir period:
‘It was entrusted to Muhammad Mu’min from custody of Habibullah on 22 bahman [regnal] year 12 (11 February 1617)’.

A transfer note of Shah Jahan period:
‘It was entrusted to [Khwajah] Anbar from the custody of Muhammad Mu’min [the superintendant] of the library on 30 of the divine month of khordåd first [regnal] year (20 June 1628)’.

Seal of:
‘Abd al-Haqq ibn Qasim Shirazi [1037 (1627–8)]’.
‘Abd al-Haqq is the better known as Amanat Khan whose monumental work in the Taj Mahal in Agra has been praised for centuries. He was one of the Persians who moved to India with his father and entered the Royal court. He was honoured with the title Amanat Khan on 18 Urdøbihisht 1041 (8 May, 1632). Impressions of two seals with his title as an official of Shah Jahan are seen in manuscripts, indicating he must have been involved with the Royal Library most of his life.

An inspection note of either Jahangir or Shah Jahan period:
‘God is Most Great. It was inspected on 15 ådhar [regnal] year 5 (6 December 1610 or 1633)’.

Note of Shah Jahan period:
‘God is Most Great. It was inspected on 27 of the divine month of ådhar [regnal] year 8 (19 December 1635)’


Seal of an official of Shah Jahan:
‘Sadiq is a devoted servant of Shah Jahan’.

Seal of an official of Shah Jahan, undeciphered. An inspection note of Shah Jahan period:
‘God is Most Great. It was inspected on 19 of the divine month of farvardøn [regnal] year 10 (8 April 1637)’.

Seal of an official of Shah Jahan
‘Salih is a servant of Shah Jahan*’
* The name is read from a better preserved impression and next to a similar note in another manuscript.

An inspection note of Shah Jahan’s period:
‘It was inspected on 21 jumådø al-awwal, [regnal] year 21 (13 June 1648)’.

Seal of an official of Shah Jahan:
‘Ahmad Shahid, the sincere devotee of Shah Jahan Padshah 18 [regnal year] 1054 (1644)’.

Seal of an official of Shah Jahan:
‘Arif the devotee of Shah Jahan’

Seal of an official of Shah Jahan:
‘Itimad Khan, servant of [Shah] Jahan 1063 (1653)’.

An inspection note of Shah Jahan’s period:
‘It was inspected on 25 jumadi al-awwal [regnal year 31 (28 February 1658)’.

Seal of an official of Shah Jahan:
‘Inayat Khan Shah Jahani [1068/1658]’.

Seal of an official of Shah Alam:
‘Arshad Khan, born in the Royal household of Shah Alam the conqueror King’.

An unclear inspection note:
‘Inspected in jumadø al-thånø… (?)’.

There are also a few faint notes and seal impressions that have not been deciphered.

I am grateful to Manijeh Bayani for translating the inscriptions, and providing their historical context.