Aja'ib al-Makhluqat [On the Wonders of Creation].Turkey : 1704 Stock Code: 138655
NotesThough al-Qazwini's famous cosmology, 'Aja'ib al-Makhluqat, or "Wonders of Creation", was widely copied in Iran, India and the Ottoman Empire, copies of Muhammad al-Tusi's work of the same name are much rarer. Including the present manuscript, only seven manuscripts of this work are recorded (see Karin Rührdanz, "An Ottoman Illustrated Version of Muhammad al-Tūsī's'Ajā'ib al-Makhlūqāt", in Mélanges Prof. Machiel Kiel, ed. Abdeljelil Temimi. Zaghouan, 1999, pp. 455-475; B. Moor, Ph.D dissertation, Popular Medicine, Divination, and Holy Geography: Sixteenth-Century Illustrations to Tusi's Aja'ib al-Makhluqat, Hebrew University, 2010). Though similar to Qazwini's work, the 16th-century and later copies of al-Tusi's 'Aja'ib contain much additional information on divination and magic, illustrations of pilgrimage places which can be linked to contemporary Ottoman pilgrimage works, and stories of heroes and prophets.
The 16th-century and later copies of al-Tusi's work have been attributed to the same milieu as the stylistically so-called "truncated" Shahnamas, Qisas al-Anbiya', and Qazwini's 'Aja'ib al-Makhluqat manuscripts made in large numbers in the Ottoman Empire in the late-16th and 17th centuries (see Rachel Milstein et al, Stories of the Prophets (Costa Mesa 1999). There is a clear iconographic overlap between the illustrations in this manuscript and those in other manuscripts belonging to this larger group. The image of the Cave of the Seven Sleepers in this manuscript (f. 235r), for example, is iconographically close to those found in 16th-century copies of the Qisas al-Anibya' (Milstein 1999, pl. 20, figs. 7, 31, 39, 46). Likewise, the painting of Akvan Div casting the hero Rustam into the sea is clearly related to illustrations from Shahnamas belonging to this group (e.g, Topkapi Saray, H. 1487, illustrated in Ivan Stchoukine, La Peinture Turque, IIme Partie (Paris 1971), pl. XLIII).
Perhaps the most striking paintings in the manuscript are the illustrations of Biblical subjects where the height of the full page has been used to emphasize the enormous size of giants and demons. These include the painting of Musa (Moses) and the giant 'Uj (Og), the giant dwarfs the figure of the Prophet. Large-scale illustrations of the subject are found in Falnamas and Qisas al-Anbiya manuscripts of the second half of the 16th century (Massumeh Farhad, Falnama: The Book of Omens (Washington D.C 2009), fig. 2.11). In the version here, however, the difference in scale between the two figures is heightened even further. The same principle has been applied to even greater effect in the depiction of the court of Sulaiman (Solomon) (f. 265r), where the figure of the demon in the left corner literally towers over the diminutive figures of Sulaiman, the angels and the wazir Asaf. In this instance, however, the massive difference in scale does not have a precedent in earlier manuscripts (see, Milstein 1999, pl. III).
The manuscript bears a colophon with the date 8 Rabi' I 1116/12 July 1704 AD, placing it at the end of this manuscript tradition. The predominance of lilac and mauve in many of the illustrations (e.g. ff. 1v-2r) in combination with the rather schematized, almost naïve, figural type, correspond to other Ottoman manuscripts of the period (e.g., a copy of the Tarih-e Feth-e Egri, Sotheby's, Arts of the Islamic World, 7 October 2009, lot. 58). A detail of guards and attendants wearing Janissary-style hats (f. 100r, 159v) also belongs to the late-17th/early-18th-century Ottoman manuscript tradition.
A partially obscured inscription on f. 1r indicates that the work took 15 months and four days to complete. Explanatory notes in Ottoman Turkish in a contemporary hand indicate that the manuscript was still in Ottoman hands in the early 18th century (e.g., f. 148v, 149r, 180r). Other marginal inscriptions indicate that the manuscript was later in a Qajar collections: that of a certain Mirza Mahmud, dated 28 Muharram 1266 / 14 December 1849 (f. 67v); and that of an Abu Talib Borujerdi 1262 / 1845-46. Qajar ownership is also evident in the retouching of some of the faces in a style in an early to mid 19th-century Qajar style (e.g. ff. 73, 298v, 299v).
The text is divided into ten main sections called rukn, or pillars. They are:
1. Angels and spiritual beings; the poles; the marvels of the sun, moon, planets and stars (ff 13r-36v).
2. Fire and fire-worshippers; meteorology (ff. 36v-43v).
3. The earth, its features, divisions and climates (ff. 43v-67r).
4. Cities, mosques and temples; natural disasters (ff 67v-114v).
5. Trees and plants (ff114r-124v).
6. Statues, talismans, marvels of tombs of prophets and royal treasures (ff. 114v-142v).
7. Mankind, soul and physical features. Woman. Peoples and tribes. Prophets, wizards and pretenders. Alchemy, medicine, qualities of foods. Wonderful cures. Fate, dreams, death. The faithlessness of the world. The resurrection. (ff. 143r-191r).
8. Djinns, devils and ogres (ff. 191v-205r).
9. Birds (ff. 205v-215r).
10. Animals, sea creatures, insects and snakes, with an appendix on 72 demons, all illustrated, and the afflictions they bring to mankind. The demons were said to have been chained up by Solomon, but affected their escape on his death and returned to their evil ways. This is possibly based on a separate work of demonology. (ff. 215v-302a).
Selection of Illustrations:
F. 20v Ghantoras, the angel of the West, with the head of a human and the body of a horse. The angel faces west.
f. 21v A chart showing the solar system
f. 28r The sun, shown here as a young man on a throne in a chariot
F. 29v The moon, shown as a youth with two heads seated on a throne
F. 31v Mashtari, the nearest star, shown as a man carried on the back of a cow, a camel or a bull
f. 32r, top Merrikh, the planet Mars, shown as a bearded man with five arms, and a fox, wolf and pig nearby
F. 32r, bottom Zohreh, the planet Venus, shown as a young woman with four maidens in attendance
F. 32v Atarod, the planet Mercury, shown as a bearded man on a throne with attendants
F. 41v The monkey people, covered in hair because of the cold climate of their country
F. 46r Khusraw, the king of Persia
F. 54r Solomon showing where to find water
F. 55r Baer, the Spring of Living and Poison waters
F. 59r Two-headed falcon with raven
F. 68v The Ka'bah, Mecca
F. 71r The Mosque of Medina
F. 72v King Solomon in conference with angels and devils
F. 73r A legend of Christ: the hanged man representing Christ as a victim
F. 196r The hero Rustam fighting the div
F. 235r The Cave of the Seven Sleepers
(345 x 205 mm). Bound in 19th century Persian black leather, green inset stamped cartouches. Persian manuscript on paper, 304 folios with 17 lines of nasta´liq script in black ink per page, opening double-page frontispiece showing courtly entertainments followed by double-page illuminated opening, ruled, with extensive use of rubrication and illuminated headings.
Frontispiece and 266 miniatures.
Binding scuffed, first folio loose, waterstains to the edges. Provenance: Bookplate inside back cover: Paolino Berli Collection, Manhattan College, City of New York.
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