SPL Hand Coloured Rare Book Collection Featuring Norman R Bobins

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Firdawsi’s Shahnama.

India: Kashmir. 19th century.
illustrated in Schmitz 1992, pp. 195-199, figs. 195-198, and Plate XV. For examples of similar painting styles, see two Kashmiri manuscripts dated 1806 and 1820.
India: Kashmir. 19th century.

Large 4vo. 577 leaves; 39 paintings, 35 x 21 cm; Persian manuscript on paper with a red leather binding, 25 lines of fine nasta’liq script in black ink in four columns per page. Some pages of text are damaged to a greater or lesser extent. This is a copy of the Shahnama, the Persian ‘Book of Kings’, complete with 39 paintings. There is an addition to the colophon with a date 1016/ 1607-8. The Shahnama is a work in 60,000 couplets which tells the history of Persia from its mythical origins to the Muslim conquest. It was written in about 1010 AD by one of the greatest Persian poets, Hakim Abu’l-Qasim Firdawsi, based on an earlier work by the poet Daqiqi (d. circa 980 AD). The work took 35 years to complete, and was presented to the Sultan Mahmud of Ghazneh, one of the rulers who revived Persian independence after centuries of Arab rule. The miniatures in the present copy are examples of the so-called Kashmiri school, with the usual characteristics of the Kashmiri painting style, including the distinctive colour palette of mauve, blue, orange and gold. According to Ada Adamova and T. Greck (Miniatures from Kashmirian Manuscripts, 1976), Kashmiri manuscripts can be categorised in two groups between the years 1750 and 1850: typical features for the later transitional period- which this manuscript falls into- are the turbans, which replace the high, rounded hats of the eighteenth century, as well as the uncomplicated renditions of the landscape and architecture (B. Schmitz, Islamic Manuscripts in the New York Public Library, 1992, p. 196). Coloured plates in order: 1. Persian ruler surrounded by armed warriors. 2. Royal couple in bed, a 'princeling' standing by the bed, another man standing guard (?) outside. 3. Ruler giving an audience. 4. Fighting between two men of rank on horseback, with swords drawn at each other. In the foreground lie two dead/wounded soldiers. 5. A Ruler giving instructions to a senior figure. Soldiers and an attendant guard him. 6. A Ruler sits on a cushioned chair, and watches some sporting activity. 7. A bloody fight where two men, with bow and arrows, on horseback, bring down their enemy from his horse. 8. A beautifully decorative coloured illustration, set in script. 9. Royal hunter (?) on horseback, surrounded by bloodied animals; tigers, pigs etc. 10. Ruler, in his palace, speaking before a man on his knees. In the foreground, a soldier leads a man away, by binding him by rope. 11. Four Men bear a funeral casket (?) or similar. 12. Men of rank fighting on horseback. 13. Ruler in the background, giving wise council to a subject, while in the foreground a man is seen pulling back his bow and arrow, and is aiming it directly towards another man. 14. Man of high rank practicing his archery skills, while his horse rests and eats the grass. 15. More fighting by two men on horseback. Wounded man in foreground (?) 16. Man on horseback hunting animals. 17. A beautifully decorative coloured illustration, set in script. 18. Three men approach a cave on horseback. 19. A Ruler granting an audience to some of his senior military men and advisors. 20. Two men of rank search for something in the countryside. An servant tends a horse in the foreground. 21. A man is killed by another in combat, as you see his blood is spilt. Their horses are in the foreground. 22. Two men locked in a fight to the death, both with daggers drawn at each other. Soldiers and a woman look on. Horses in the foreground. 23. A man or on horseback, leads another on horseback, by tying rope around his neck! 24. A man rescues (or lowers?) a small boy from (into) a dark hole in the ground. Soldiers and a woman look on. 25. A giant demon / god carries a man, lying on a bed of rock, above it's head. 26. Two 'square' up to each other, before they fight. Their retainers look on in the background. 27. A page of text, like all the others, but this page has three coloured vertical stripes running the length of the page. 28. A beautifully decorative coloured illustration, set in script. 29. Fighting between Persian and Muslims, wounded men, with blood pouring from their respective wounds are seen in the foreground. 30. A man is almost beheaded by a sword from his attacker. 31. A Ruler / King sets off on a journey on horseback with his wife and guard. Man in background y a tree. 32. A wise old man sits on a cushion, under a canopy, speaking to a younger man. In the foreground we see two men attacking and wounding a woman (?) 33. A man stabbing and wounding a woman. 34. A man and his horse attack and wound a fire breathing dragon. 35. Man rounds up wild horses. Another man sits in the background, with his dog, gazing at his herd of sheep. 36. A brave warrior fires his arrows into the bloodied body of a fire breathing beast. People look on in the background. 37. A Ruler / King kills an opponent by spear. 38. [Plate is damaged] Ruler gives an audience to two soldiers, while in the foreground, two soldiers appear to saw an enemies head! 39. A wise man sits on cushions, flanked by two men playing musical instruments, assorted animals also gather around him; rabbits, tiger, bear, birds. 40. A beautifully decorative coloured illustration, set in script.