Sa'di's "Gulistan"


This fragment includes the beginning of Sa'di's Gulistan (The rose garden) on its recto, as well as the work's final page on its verso. The first page includes the title of the work written in white ink on a blue background decorated with orange leaf spirals. The rest of the illuminated top panel contains interlacing flowers and gold panels on a blue ground. A didactic work in both prose and verse, Gulistan was composed in 1258 by the Persian poet and prose writer Shaykh Sa'di Shirazi (circa 1213–92), a contemporary of the famous poet Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (1207–73). It contains a number of moralizing stories that bear similarities to the fables of the French writer Jean de La Fontaine (1621–95). In Persian lands, Sa'di's maxims were highly valued and manuscripts of his work were widely copied and illustrated. Sa'di notes that he composed Gulistan to teach the rules of conduct in life both to kings and dervishes. The work was used as a tool of instruction and commentary, as witnessed by the extensive marginal glosses and notes that are executed in red or black ink and cross-checked with a corresponding note within the original text. A few notes in red ink in the main text frame also develop some of the terms or expressions: for example, the first line praising God bears a small note in red above specifying that God is Sahib (lord) and Malik (king). The main text is executed in the Persian cursive script called Nasta'liq. It is placed in three columns, two of which are written horizontally and the third diagonally. At the top and bottom of the third column bearing diagonal writing appear two corner pieces (thumb-pieces) decorated with a gold vine with an orange bud. This motif is intended to fill the triangular space left blank by the intersection of the diagonal and horizontal registers. At the very bottom of the text frame appears a barely legible square seal impression. The verso of this fragment bears the last page of Gulistan. In concluding his work, Sa'di states: “Reader! For him who wrote this book, ask grace; / And let the scribe, too, in your prayers find place: / Next for yourself whatever you wish pray; / Lastly, a blessing for the owner say. / By aid of the All-Gracious King, / This work here to an end we bring.”

Last updated: December 24, 2013