49 results in English
The Luminous Treasure with Acceptable Answers to Matters of Faith
Aḥmad ibn ʻAbd al-Laṭīf ibn Aḥmad al-Bashbīshī (1631–85) was an Islamic jurist of the Shāfiʻī school of jurisprudence. He was born and died in the village of Bashbīsh in the region of Al-Mahalla in the Nile delta of Egypt. He studied Islamic jurisprudence in Cairo and taught at the Cairo-based Al-Azhar Mosque, long considered the foremost institution in the Islamic world for the study of Sunni theology. Al-Tuhfa al-Saniyya bi Ajwibat al-Masaa’il al-Mardhiyya (The luminous treasure with acceptable answers to matters of faith) is a collection of writings ...
Fortress of Dio: Plans of Plazas and Forts of Portuguese Possessions in Asia and Africa
This drawing shows the fortress of Diu, located on an island off the northwest coast of India. In 1509, the Portuguese defeated the forces of the Sultan of Gujarat in the Battle of Diu, thereby securing dominance over trade routes in the Indian Ocean. Construction of this fortress-garrison complex began in 1535, under an agreement with the sultan, but the agreement fell apart and the sultan’s troops attacked the fort in 1537. The fortress was reconstructed in 1545 by João de Castro (1500-48), a Portuguese naval commander and the ...
Fortress of Chaul: Plans of Plazas and Forts of Portuguese Possessions in Asia and Africa
This drawing shows the fortress of Chaul, one of Portugal’s defense complexes along the western coast of India. The Portuguese first settled at Chaul in 1521 and constructed a fort, which was rebuilt several times. The structure shown in this drawing most likely is the one built in 1613, which featured expanded defense works.
Fortress of Ormuz: Plans of Plazas and Forts of Portuguese Possessions in Asia and Africa
This drawing shows the Portuguese fort at Ormuz, located on the Persian Gulf island of Hormuz. In its heyday, Ormuz was one of the most important ports in the Middle East, controlling trading routes between India and East Africa. Before coming under Portuguese control in the early 1500s, Ormuz was a city-state that flourished as an independent kingdom. Its prime location along trade routes made it one of the wealthiest cities in the world. The Portuguese controlled the city and its port from 1515 until 1622, when they were expelled ...
Guyana, or, the Kingdom of the Amazons
This map of colonial Guiana (present-day Suriname) is the work of Jan Jansson (died 1664), a Dutch cartographer who married into the Hondius family of illustrious mapmakers. Jodocus Hondius (1563-1612) and his sons, Jodocus and Henricus, engraved maps of the Americas and Europe, and were instrumental in popularizing the work of Gerard Mercator, the developer of the Mercator Projection that allowed navigators to use a flat map reflecting the curvature of the globe. The Hondius family published an early pocket-size atlas of the Mercator map. The atlas series grew under ...
Collection of Poems by Shāhī
Dīvān-i Shāhī (Collection of poems by Shāhī) is a divan (collection) of verse by Amīr Shāhī Sabzavārī (died 1453; 857 A.H.), a prominent Persian poet of the Timurid era who composed in many of the classical forms of Persian poetry. Amīr Shāhī’s poetry belongs to the tradition of Persian mystical love poetry. The collection includes poems composed in the ghazal (a metrical form expressing the pain of loss and the beauty of love), qaṣīda (lyric poem), and rubā’ī (quatrain) forms. Amīr Shāhī was born in Sabzevar (present-day ...
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The Crown Jewel
This manuscript of Durrat al-tāj (The crown jewel) is a Shiite prayer book, consisting of prayers to be said when making a visitation to the tomb of Caliph ʻAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib (circa 601−61). ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib is one of the most revered religious and holy figures of Islam. His honorary name, Amīr al-Mu‘minīn, translates from Persian as the “prince of the believers.” Written works by ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib and sayings attributed to him are sacred to the Shiite faithful, particularly among Persian speakers. The ...
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The History of the Roman Provinces of the Near East
This Arabic manuscript is a history of the Roman provinces of the Near East, with special reference to King Herod the Great and the dynasty he founded. The manuscript lacks numerous pages at the beginning and end. The remaining portion contains the history of Roman Palestine during the first century BC until the destruction of the temple by Roman emperor Titus in 70 AD. The author, title, and date of copying are unknown. The work has been tentatively ascribed to the 17th century. The text is unadorned except for marking ...
General Ledger, 1600–1608
The Officina Plantiniana, also known as the Plantin Press or Plantijnse Drukkerij, was established in 1555 by Christopher Plantin (1520–89), the greatest typographer and printer-publisher of his day. The Officina grew to become the largest printing and publishing house in Europe and helped to make Antwerp, along with Venice and Paris, one of the most important centers of printing in the West. Shown here is a ledger that provides a summary of the daily journaux (account books) of the activities of the press in the years 1600–1608 when ...
Ibuki Dōji, the Boy from Mount Ibuki
This picture scroll of an otogizōshi (Japanese fairy tales of the Muromachi era, 1392−1573), recounts the childhood of Shuten Dōji, the oni (demon) who would one day be subdued by the real-life warrior, Minamoto no Yorimitsu. It tells the story of Shuten Dōji’s birth and his childhood on Mount Ibuki in the old province of Ōmi, protected by wild animals and feeding on magical herbs that prevented old age and death, up to the time he went to live on Mount Ōe-yama in the former province of Tanba ...
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Taishokan
Taishokan is a story loosely based on the life of Fujiwara no Kamatari (614−69), who was a famous court official. In the story, the daughter of Kamatari is married to the emperor of China. When she hears that her father is going to build the main hall of the Kōfuku-ji Temple in Nara, she sends him Mugehōju, a precious crystal with divine powers, as a gift. While a military escort is sailing to Japan with the crystal, dragons attack the ship and the treasure is carried down to the ...
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Shahnameh
Shahnameh (Book of kings) was composed by the revered Iranian poet Abū al-Qāsim Firdawsī (940–1020). The book recounts in verse the mythological history of ancient Persia and tales of the famous heroes and personalities of Iranian history, from legendary times to the 7th-century reign of Yazdegerd III, the last king of the Sassanid dynasty. Considered the national epic of Iran, the book was widely read throughout the Persian-speaking world. This manuscript copy was made in India in the 17th or 18th century. The text is written in nastaʻliq script ...
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Safinah Fragment
This calligraphic fragment is the first page of an album in a longitudinal shape (safinah). At the top are a fine illuminated panel and finial (sarloh) with gold and blue flower and vine motifs. In the upper and lower corners, two gold and blue illuminated triangles (or thumb pieces) fill the spaces between the rectangular frame and the diagonal lines of text. The text is written in black nasta'liq on beige paper. It includes three bayts (verses) praising God and describing humans' inability to comprehend His power: "Praise ...
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Verses in Persian and Chaghatay
This calligraphic fragment includes a number of verses in Persian and Chaghatay Turkish (Turkish spoken in Central Asia). A continuous Persian lyrical poem (ghazal) is written in the top and bottom horizontal rectangular panels. Another ghazal appears written in diagonal in the right and left vertical columns. Both ghazals are by the famous Persian poet Shaykh Sa'di (died 1292) and address moral issues. In the central text panel, verses in Chaghatay Turkish are written in black nasta'liq script on beige paper, surrounded by cloud bands on a gold ...
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Black Practice
This calligraphic sheet includes a number of diagonal words and letters used in combinations facing upwards and downwards on the folio. The common Persian cursive script nasta'liq is favored over the more "broken" shikastah script. These sheets--known as siyah mashq (literally “black practice”) in Persian--were entirely covered with writing as a means of practicing calligraphy and conserving paper. In time, they became collectible items and thus were signed and dated (this fragment, however, does not appear to be signed or dated). Many fragments such as this one were given ...
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Entertainments for Twelve Months
This colored, hand-drawn picture scroll presents annual events and seasonal plays in Kyoto, month by month. This particular drawing depicts children holding brooms and playing a ballgame called gicchō on a street in Kyoto. The style of the calligraphy and brushwork suggest that the scroll was made early in the Edo period (1600-1867). The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland, has the same type of picture scroll.
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The Book of Aroodh
This manuscript, by an unknown author, is an incomplete work that endeavors to apply Arabic poetry metrics to Ottoman Turkish poems. It starts with the seas (or metrics) of al-mutaqarib, ar-ramal, and al-munsarih. The transcription is possibly from the 17th century. The manuscript is from the Bašagić Collection of Islamic Manuscripts in the University Library of Bratislava, Slovakia, which was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 1997. Safvet beg Bašagić (1870-1934) was a Bosnian scholar, poet, journalist, and museum director who assembled a collection of ...
The Burdah Poem
This illuminated small codex contains a famous poem in honor of the Prophet Muhammad popularly known as “Qaṣīdat al-Burdah” (The poem of the mantle), which was composed by Sharaf al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Būṣīrī (died 694 AH [1294 CE]). This copy was executed in a variety of scripts, probably in Iran, by Ḥabīb Allāh ibn Dūst Muḥammad al-Khwārizmī in the 11th century AH (17th century CE). The first page (folio 1b) of the manuscript features an illuminated rectangular headpiece with five inner panels of text executed in the following scripts: muhaqqaq (gold ...
Contributed by Walters Art Museum
Pandect
This text is an Arabic translation of a Christian work originally written in Greek in the 11th century, known as the Pandect (or Pandektes) of Nikon of the Black Mountain. The Greek title of the book means The Universal (Book). The Arabic title, Al-Ḥāwī, has almost the same meaning: The Comprehensive Book. The text is divided into 63 sections and offers an exposition of Christian doctrine and life based on excerpts from the Bible, the church fathers, and church canons. The work was popular among Arabic-speaking Christians, as evidenced by ...
Five Doctrinal Works
This 17th-century manuscript is a collection of five doctrinal works translated into Arabic from Greek. Three of the works are by John of Damascus (died circa 750): On the Orthodox Faith, Dialectics, and Against the Heretics. John of Damascus was often read in both Greek and Arabic (he himself was bilingual, although he wrote only in Greek). The other two texts are by the monk, Paul of Antioch, Bishop of Sidon in the 13th century. They are a letter entitled That the Creator is One and that Christians are not ...
The Blossoms of Thoughts Regarding the Precious Stones
Azhār al-Afkār fī Jawāhir al-Ahjār (The blossoms of thoughts regarding precious stones) is considered the most detailed and complete treatise of the Middle Ages on stones and their properties. Lapidaries, or treatises devoted entirely to the discussion of precious stones and their features, can be traced to ancient Greece. Pliny, in his Naturalis Historia (Natural history), mentions at least 20 authors as sources of his knowledge of stones, even though, of the works he cites, only the treatise On Stones by Theophrastus (circa 371–287 BC) has survived. Theophrastus’s ...
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Commentary on "The Compendium of Plain Astronomy"
The author this commentary, Ṣalāh al-Din Musa ibn Muḥammad, also known as Qādī  Zāda (the son of the judge), was born in Bursa (present-day Turkey) in 1364 and died in Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan) in 1436. His first teacher, al-Fanāri, suggested that he move to the scientific centers of the time, Herat in Khorasan (present-day Afghanistan) or Bukhara or Samarkand in Transoxiana, in order to develop his extraordinary ability in the mathematical and astronomical sciences. Following this advice, Qāḍī Zāda presented himself to the Samarkand court of the very promising Ulugh ...
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The Abridged Amusement of the Calculator from "The Guide"
Much traditional scholarship holds that the period after about 1250 saw a decline in the production of scientific and philosophical works in the Arab world. This view is challenged by the impressive number of manuscripts written after that date in different Arabic-speaking countries that contain original treatises and commentaries. The work preserved in this manuscript, Nuzhat al-Hussāb al-Muhtasara min al-Muršida (The abridged amusement of the calculator from The guide), is a shorter version of Muršida fī Sina’at al-Gubar (The guide to the art of the numerals), an extensive treatise ...
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General Rules in the Science of Measurement
This manuscript, probably dating from the 17th century, preserves only a section of what appears to have been an extensive and complete treatise on practical geometry. The title on the second page of the manuscript in fact states that it is “the third section of the book of the General Rules in the Science of Measurement.” The larger work of which this is a part consisted of four introductory essays, five chapters, and a conclusion. The author is unknown, as the opening of the treatise where indications of authorship might ...
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The Lights of the Stars
The present manuscript is a commentary entitled Anwār al-nujūm (The lights of the stars) by an author who appears to have stated his name as Jamist al-Rumi (Jamist the Byzantinian). The work is based on Al-zīj al-jadīd (The new astronomical tabulations) by Alī ibn Ibrāhīm Ibn al-Shāṭir (died 1375), the most-distinguished Muslim astronomer of the 14th century. Ibn al-Shāṭir was active as muwaqqit (timekeeper) at the Umayyad mosque in Damascus, where he constructed a magnificent sundial to adorn the central minaret; it had special curves to measure the times ...
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Genealogy of Ma Family
This manuscript is a collection of records documenting the deeds and actions of four members of Ma family, prominent in Liaoyang, northeast China. They are Ma Mingpei (1600–1666), his son Ma Xiongzhen (1634–77), his grandson Ma Shiji (1650–1714), and his great-grandson Ma Guozhen (1666–1720). Ma Mingpei rose in his official career to the presidency of the Board of War and to the military governorship of Jiangnan and Jiangxi, and took part in the suppression of the Southern Ming forces in the sixth year of the Chongzhen ...
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Four Novels Vying for Glamor
During the Ming dynasty, the production of block-printed novels in workshops flourished and the earliest professional community of novelists was born. Deng Zhimo, who lived in the late 16th century–early 17th century, the main author of this work, was known for a series of Daoist novels with themes such as the immortals, and for his novels in a genre called Zheng qi xiao shuo (Novels vying for glamor). The distinguishing themes of these novels, which Deng’s works epitomized, included birds and flowers, mountains and waters, wind and the ...
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A Letter Confirming Nobility
This manuscript from Mexico City is the record of testimony offered by Sebastián Vizcaíno (1550?-1615) in 1597-1600 to prove the noble status of his wife, Magdalena Martínez Orejón, and her brother, Francisco Martínez Orejón. Vizcaíno was a prominent Mexico City merchant and an explorer of Baja California. The proofs of nobility were important to defend Vizcaíno's brother-in-law, Francisco Martínez Orejón, in a lawsuit that put him in debtor's prison. The text is written in an italic style in black ink within ruled frames, on both sides of ...
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Poetic Verses Offering Advice
This thin fragment is quite damaged by worm holes and has been pasted to a larger sheet for the purpose of preservation. Written in black Nasta'liq script tending towards Shikastah, the text begins with a ruba'i (iambic quatrain), continues with two tak bayt (single verses), and ends with a ghazal (lyrical poem) with the rhyming terminal sound sati. The verses are separated by diagonal lines in red ink, and the term aydan (also) at the top of the left column initiates the ghazal. These various poetical verses provide ...
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Petition to a Ruler
This fragment probably formed part of a collection of munsha'at (literary compositions) showing how to write appropriate praises and petitions to a ruler. Some of these calligraphies, including this piece, appear to have been executed in Ta'liq script in India during the 17th and 18th centuries. This fragment tells how to compose a na't or munajat (formal praise) to a ruler using his many alqab (honorific epithets). A number of praises of the ruler's mulkuhu (power) and his sultanuhu (dominion) precede the ardh or arz (formal ...
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First Page of Sa'di's "Bustan"
This calligraphic fragment consists of the first seven pages of Bustan (The fruit garden), a famous and beloved work composed by Shaykh Sa'di (died 691 AH/1292) in 1256–57. The work contains histories, personal anecdotes, fables, and moral instruction. This copy of Bustan may have been produced in India during the 17th century. The back of the second page includes a note supporting this provenance, as it states that the work was written by 'Abd al-Rashid Daylami, one of the famous calligraphers active at the court of the ...
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Ghazals by Sa'di
This calligraphic fragment includes a number of ghazals (lyrical verses), composed by Shaykh Sa'di (died 691 AH/1292). Many of these verses express the pain at separation from a friend and exhort faithfulness to one's companions. Sa'di's name appears in one of the verses at the very bottom of the right column. The text is executed in black Shikastah script and is surrounded by cloud band motifs on a background covered with gold leaf. The central gutter separating the main text panel into two columns is ...
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Noruz (New Year’s) Poem
This calligraphic panel includes a ruba'i (iambic pentameter quatrain) signed by the calligrapher Agha'i. He has signed his work: "written by the poor Agha'i." Unfortunately, nothing is known about this calligrapher, and the approximate date of the piece (17th−18th centuries) must remain conjectural. The quatrain is written in black nasta'liq script on a piece of paper framed in blue and pasted to a brown paper strengthened with cardboard. The poem reads as follows: “For you, Pride of Government and Religion / May happiness be your aide ...
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Page from an Unidentified Text
The recto and verso of his calligraphic fragment contain portions of an unidentified Persian text about the futility of the world. The text continues on the fragment's verso, which includes a chapter, provided with a heading in red ink in the center of the text panel, supplying a sifat (description) of craftsmen in a particular land. The text is executed in a rather hasty nasta'liq script written horizontally in two columns and diagonally in one column. Some lines are lost due to water damage. The text and folio ...
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Decorative Borders
The recto of this calligraphic fragment includes verses composed by the famous Persian poet Ḥāfiẓ (died 1388−89, AH 791), as well as a number of other verses framed in rectangular bands along the inner border of the central panel. Every line of calligraphy is cut out and pasted individually onto the fragment's illuminated background. The verses are framed by white and blue borders decorated with gold flower-and-leaf motifs, and pasted onto an orange paper painted in gold and provided with ornamental medallions containing pink and white flowers. This ...
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On the Lovers’ Passion
This calligraphic fragment includes an anecdote about the ishtiyaq-i muhibb va mahbub (passion of the lover and the beloved), as written in red ink in the upper-right corner. As the author then notes, the story seems to have been recorded by the prolific Arab prose writer al-Jahiz (died 869, 255 AH). The subsequent text describes the tragic story of two lovers who drowned at sea. The text is executed in minute shikastah-nasta'liq script in diagonal lines in two columns. Written on a beige paper, the text is framed by ...
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Quatrain Praising Vision
This calligraphic fragment includes a ruba'i (iambic pentameter quatrain), praising vision as the most keen of the human senses. The text is written in black Nasta'liq script on a beige paper decorated with gold paint. The text panel is framed by two borders in beige and gold and pasted to a blue paper decorated with gold flower and vine motifs. Beginning with an invocation to huwa al-mu'izz (God as the Glorified), the verses read: “The heart is a place of sadness and the eye is the site ...
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The Guide to Benevolent Deeds and Rising Lights in the Prayers on the Chosen Prophet
This illuminated manuscript is a copy of Dalā’il al-khayrāt (Collection of prayers for the Prophet Muhammad), which was composed by Muḥammad ibn Sulayman al-Jazūlī (died 870 AH [1465 AD]). It was written in black Naskh script in the 11th century AH (17th century AD) in Ottoman Turkey. The prayers ask for blessings for the Prophet, and the individual reciting the prayers would also receive God’s blessings. Like many copies of this text, this manuscript includes additional devotional material, such as lists of al-asma al-sharifa (the noble names). It ...
Contributed by Walters Art Museum
Quatrain Eulogizing a King
This calligraphic fragment includes a ruba'i (iambic pentameter quatrain), in honor of a king. Written diagonally in black Nasta'liq script and framed by cloud bands on a rather crudely painted purple background, the verses read: “Oh King, may the mornings of your fortune / Last until the morning of [the Day of] Gathering / May good luck take you to the utmost limit of hope / And may the evil eye not reach you.” With these words, the poet wishes the king good fortune until the end of time, literally until ...
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The Eloquent Prosody in the 40 Verses
This manuscript is an Ottoman Turkish commentary on forty verses of the Qur'an, with hadith (the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) and verse citations by Okçuzade Mehmet Şahî, who died in 1039 AH (1629 AD). This copy was made in the 11th century AH (17th AD). The text is written in Naskh script in black and red ink. The waqf (bequest) stamp of al-Wazīr al-Shahīd ‘Alī Pāshā, dated 1130 AH (1717 AD), appears on folios 1a, 1b, and 2a. The name of a former owner, Sayyid Burhān al-Dīn, and ...
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Folk Dances of Japan
This hand-painted picture scroll contains illustrations of eight kinds of Japanese folk dances: Sumiyoshi Odori, a dance handed down at the Sumiyoshi Shrine in Osaka; Oise Odori, a dance from Ise Province, where the Ise Shrine is sacred to Amaterasu, the principal female deity of Shinto; Kake Odori, in which a group of people dance toward the edge of a village or town to exorcise its evil sprits; Kokiriko Odori, in which folk dancers clack bamboo sticks in each hand; Komachi Odori, in which a group of girls in beautiful ...
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The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter
This 17th-century scroll recounts the story of Taketori Monogatari (The tale of the bamboo cutter), famous as the earliest piece of prose fiction in the Japanese literary tradition and originally written around the 10th century. In the scroll, flowers are drawn on the paper of the main text. The main preoccupation of the story is Kaguyahime, discovered as a tiny infant inside a mysteriously glowing bamboo stem by an elderly bamboo cutter. He and his wife raise her as their daughter, and Kaguyahime quickly becomes a beautiful young woman, a ...
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