The Mirror of Orrery


Āyinah-i jahān numā (The mirror of orrery) is a prose work of fables in Persian, which are relevant to both religious and worldly affairs. An orrery is a model representing the movements of heavenly bodies around the sun. The book was published in 1899 in Kabul by lithography. It is thought that it may derive in part from a work by Ḥusayn Vāʻiẓ Kāshifī, but the name of the author is unknown. This copy is arranged in several sections. It has a typically late-19th century Afghan-style leather cover embossed with flowers. The inside cover page also has a description affirming the approval for publication of ʻAbd al-Raḥmān Khān, then emir of Afghanistan, and the name of the scribe or the man responsible for the publication, Gul Mohammad Mohammadzai Durrani Afghan, who seems to have been an official in the Afghan administration. This information appears in more detail in the foreword and the epilogue, which mentions that the emir himself had read the book several times at night and approved its publication so that “people should read and benefit from its fables.” The contents are arranged as 14 short and 12 long fables. These fables cover themes of ethics, religious piety, honesty, loyalty, friendship, obedience, respect, and the like. The fable on pages 17−18 is on the moral and professional responsibility of society’s learned individuals in serving, advising, and correcting a (new) ruler or king. Page 28 has a fable on why it is wrong and potentially harmful if a person is not frank and truthful in addressing the king, a doctor, or friends. The 14 short fables that appear on pages 5−15 mostly start with the relative pronoun “That” or “Who.” The 12 long fables usually start “Scholars have said that” or “The story of.” Each title is in bold face and numbered. Well-known poems appear occasionally, as on page seven, often after a fable for the purposes of acclaiming its importance and value. The pages are numbered with Indo-Arabic numerals; pages 141, 173, 236, 270, 278, and 311 are missing. Pages 1−144 were by Gul Mohammad; after his death, his brother, Mohammad Zaman Khan Barakzai, completed the remaining pages.

Last updated: September 30, 2016