KHĀQĀNI, Afdal al-Din-al-Shirwani al-.

Tuhfat al-'Iraqayn [The Gift of the Two Iraqs].

[Safavid Iran: colophon signed:] Muhammad Amin al-Qurashi, [c.1600] Stock Code: 132183
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"One of the greatest geniuses in the literature of Persia"

A most attractive and highly uncommon Safavid-era manuscript, the only mathnawi - or long narrative poem in couplet form - of the celebrated 12th century CE Persian poet Khāqāni; it is presented here in an appealing binding, the onlays, probably once gilded but the gilt now oxidised, almost certainly made of paper, a distinct Safavid practice at this time, "instead of cutting filigree designs out of leather, craftsmen began to use paper, which was both cheaper and easier to handle, pasting it onto painted paper or sometimes silk or other material" (Encyclopaedia Iranica: Bookbinding, article 1).

A native of Azerbaijan, Khāqāni is described by the distinguished Czech orientalist Jan Rypka as "more closely attached to his native land... than any other poet... He was not a craftsman in the art of poetry but possessed the true and genuine qualities peculiar to a poet's nature, one of the greatest geniuses in the literature of Persia". His Tuhfat al-'Iraqayn is considered "one of the most eminent examples of sophisticated use of ornament in the whole of classical Persian literature" (Encyclopaedia Iranica). Most of its verses are addressed to the Sun, whom Khaqani asks to undertake the hajj, as "he claims to be unable to perform this himself because he cannot leave Servan. Kāqāni... asks him to deliver two long panegyrics of the Kaʿba and the Prophet at Mecca and Medina. In the last part of the poem there is a shift of addressee from the Sun to Jamāl-al-Din Mawşeli, the vizier of the Zangids, who spent a fortune in embellishing the Holy Places" (ibid). The oldest MS of the text is at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna.

Provenance: apparently found in the tent of Ayub Khan, emir of Afghanistan (1857-1914), at "Muzra" (i.e. Mazra'eh-Ye Abbas), the site of Ayub Khan's camp, after the Battle of Kandahar (1 September 1880), the decisive engagement of the Second Afghan War (1878-80); later in the collection of Sir Eustace Dixon Borrowes, 11th Baronet (1866-1939; listed in an accompanying photocopied typescript document titled "Papers, Deeds, Books, etc: The Property of Sir Eustace Dixon Borrowes Bart., 1924"; thence by descent. The manuscript may have originally been obtained by Sir Kildare Borrowes, 10th Baronet (1852-1924), the only child of Major Sir Erasmus Dixon Borrowes, 9th baronet, by his first wife. Kildare served as an officer with the 11th Hussars, one of the thirty-one cavalry regiments deployed during the Second Afghan War, albeit not present at Kandahar. However, on 2 January 1880 he was seconded for service as an adjutant of Auxiliary Forces in Afghanistan, so may have been present when attached to another unit. He originally joined the 11th Hussars from the Kildare Militia in November 1874, was promoted captain 1880 and major 1886.

We have been able to trace at auction only two other manuscript versions of the Tuhfat al-'Iraqayn: dated 1648-49 CE (Sotheby's 1934), c. 1560-70 CE (Sotheby's 1970); and only a total of six manuscripts of works by Khāqāni. This is a highly engaging pocket-sized manuscript, with a rather glamorous pedigree, of an important text by a poet about whom Rypka eulogises, "he was a master of language, a poet possessing both intellect and heart, who fled the outer world into the inner, a personality who did not conform to type - all this places him in the front ranks of Persian literature".

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Duodecimo (127 x 75 mm). Contemporary green morocco, double blind fillet border to sides enclosing a border of buta-style ornaments, sides with stamped-paper onlays of a central arabesque and pair of foliate quatrefoil motifs, housed in a 19th-century pink silk satchel with embroidered leaf-spray lining and decorative tie, the tie with attached tag annotated in a 19th-century hand "Extracts from the Qran [sic] found in Ayub Khan's sleeping tent in his private Camp at Muzra immediately after he had gone out". Persian manuscript in black ink on glazed laid paper, 151 leaves and 3 blanks (folio 1 recto also blank), 11 lines of nasta'liq script to the page, divided into hemistiches, and set within gilt and blue frames throughout, headings in red, catch-words, incipit page (folio 1 verso) with illuminated headpiece incorporating penwork vegetal motifs and the text of the title set within cloud-bands on gilt ground.


Small area of silverfishing to head of back cover; folio 1 laid down with small portion of text in skilful facsimile, sympathetic paper restoration to margins of outer leaves (just touching frames of final 13 leaves, the lost portions restored in facsimile), 3 further leaves towards rear with paper restoration in the text obscuring a few words. Overall in very good condition.


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