Shahnama Project : Shahnama

Firdausi

Shahnama Project

<p style='text-align: justify;'><p>What might once have been a relatively good 16th-century copy of the Shahnama, with some nice calligraphy particularly in the rubrics, in very poor condition after a damaging sojourn in India. It was presented by Major R.G. Gayer-Anderson and Col. T.G. Gayer-Anderson, C.M.C., D.S.O., on 19 January 1943. Purchased in India for 500 rupees in Jumada I, 1197/1783 (f. 281v).</p><p>Limp burgundy leather binding, almost falling apart down the spine, decorated with a floral ornament and the text of Hafiz’s ghazal no.1, “Ila ya ayyuha’s-saqi..”, tooled in relief on the front cover, continued on the back. Both covers contain also the name of the binder – Baha’ al-Din Pashavari.</p><p>The manuscript is a relatively early one and is in a very poor state of preservation; it must have changed hands many times, and the order of the folios is now very disturbed; those with paintings, at least, are now completely out of order. Some folios bear evidence of at least four separate foliations</p><p>The paper is Oriental, slightly polished, now rather brown, and very badly worm eaten. It has been extensively and clumsily restored, but only in the margins, leaving the text area fragile. During the course of this repair, or at some earlier stage, the order of folios has been greatly disorganised. Traces of a foliation at the centre of the top of the page, where it has survived trimming for rebinding, indicate that it was once part of a larger manuscript, presumably of the complete text, with 568 folios. The catchwords have frequently not survived the marginal restorations, and are totally absent from the last 20 folios. Together with the existing catchwords, the original numbering (which has been pasted onto the new tops of the last four folios of the ms., ff. 565-8 inclusive), provides the key for any future reconstruction of the text. In the following preliminary observations, the current foliation is given first, followed by the original foliation when recoverable.</p><p>The codex has 281 folios, written surface within gold ruled frames. The text is written in an inelegant and irregular nasta‘liq with headings in thulth, in unornamented frames, both in Indian ink.</p><p>The manuscript contains part II only, from the reign of Luhrasp. As it currently stands, however, the text begins (f. 1r/567r) with the killing of Mahu-yi Suri, incipit:</p><p>Haman gah rasidand yaran bad-u//hama dasht az-u shud pur az guft-u guy (Dabir-Siyaqi, ed. ch. 50 line 896).</p><p>This is out of place, and should be the penultimate folio: the same heading is also found on f. 280v/566v. The text proper begins on f. 2v/295v, with Luhrasp, under a narrow ‘unvan (57 x 105 mm), of gold with predominantly olive green, blue and burnt sienna ornament, bearing the inscription “Allah wa’l-tawfiq”. Incipit:</p><p>Chu Luhrasp bi-nishast bar takht-i dad…</p><p>The catchwords and the disorder of the paintings indicate the disturbance of the text at least at the following points: at f. 12/499, now followed by f. 13/300; between ff. 17v and 18r; between ff. 31/319 and 33/320, f. 32/533 is now inserted out of place; between ff. 51v and 52r; at f. 72/479, now followed by f. 73/407 and f. 74/351 (?); between ff. 112 and 114, f. 113 is out of place; f. 130/406 is now followed by f. 131/408 (so that f. 73/407 should be reinserted here); f. 150/427 is now followed by f. 151/429; between ff. 161/439 and 163/440, f. 162 is out of place; ff. 178-9 are misplaced between ff. 177/454 and 180/455. Folio 194/469 is now followed by f. 195/479; between f. 224/509 and f. 226/510 is now found f. 225/560 out of place; f. 235/519 is now followed by f. 236/521 (old folio 520 missing); f. 254 is incorrectly inserted between f. 253/539 and f. 255/540. Lastly, the final folio, f. 568, has been rebound the wrong way round, so that f. 281r is actually f. 568 verso.</p><p>In addition to the illuminated ‘unvan on f. 2v, there is a fine ‘unvan on f.81v (357v), at the start of the story of Iskandar, in ultramarine blue, black and gold.</p><p>The manuscript contains 12 miniatures in Indian provincial style, considerably later than the date of the text. The paintings are painted over the text, which in any event is not close to the standard copies. Any relationship between the images and the text is fortuitous and depends largely on the wording of the rubrics rather than the poetry, suggesting the work of an artist either unfamiliar with, or indifferent to, Firdausi’s poem.</p><p>Probably, the paintings were made on loose folios, which were later reinserted into the manuscript at the wrong place: this is obvious not only from the disturbance of the text noted above, but also from the subject matter of the pictures themselves, which do not occur in the right order.</p><p>Leaving aside the frontis and finispieces, the correct order of the paintings should be: 6, 8, 7, 10, 5, 4, 1, 2, 9 (it is not clear where the episode from the interpolated Barzunama, no. 3, should go, but like four of the other paintings, it must originally have been in the missing first section of the text).</p><p>The paintings are not unattractive, particularly in their colour scheme, of bright blue skies, brown and ochre rocks and foregrounds, and harmoniously coloured prancing horses (white, blue, browns). They are generally set in the text in a rectangular band near the centre of the page, either immediately after or immediately before a heading; sometimes the subject of the picture seems to refer to the heading beneath (as in nos 4 and 8). The execution of the paintings, however, is quite crude, and the paint surface in many cases is rather damaged, especially on the faces. The figures are very wooden, particularly the stiff corpses that occasionally grace the foreground of combat scenes. (FA, ChM)</p></p>


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