The Princely Offering


Tuḥfah-i Amīrī (The princely offering) is a book on the topic of gunpowder published in Afghanistan at the end of the 19th century. The author, Gul Muhammad Khan Barakzayi, dedicates the work to the Afghan ruler, Amir ʻAbd al-Rahman Khan (reigned 1880–1901). The introduction gives the proportions of the constituent parts of gunpowder (saltpeter, charcoal, and sulfur) used in European countries such as Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, and Sweden. The main body of the book is in two chapters, each of which is further divided into sections. The first chapter is on topics related to the physical and chemical characteristics of gunpowder, such as its composition, water content, and hardness. The second chapter deals with the industrial manufacture of gunpowder, but Barakzayi concludes this chapter with sections on the manufacture and storage of dynamite, an invention that predates the book by about three decades. The book lists as possible stabilizing agents for dynamite the diatomaceous earth known as Kieselgur (mined in Hanover, Germany, the author notes), sawdust, and paper. In his introduction, Barakzayi associates gunpowder with European progress, but he also offers a short account in which he claims that the compound originated in the East. In Barakzayi’s rather muddled rendering, however, gunpowder is said to have been in use by the Arabs before the birth of Christ and was subsequently transmitted to Europe during the Sassanian era (224‒651). The book was published by the Dar al-Saltana press in Kabul in 1315 AH (1897‒98).

Last updated: September 30, 2016