Beginning of Saʻdi’s "Gulistan"


A didactic work in both prose and verse, the famous Gulistan (The rose garden) was composed in 1258 by the Persian poet and prose writer Shaykh Saʻdi Shirazi (circa 1213–92), a contemporary of the famous poet Jalal al-Din Rumi (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, Saʻdi’s maxims were highly valued and manuscripts of his work were widely copied and illustrated. Saʻdi notes that he composed Gulistan to teach the rules of conduct in life both to kings and dervishes. The work, which includes eight chapters, an introduction, and a conclusion, was used as a tool of instruction and commentary. Each chapter narrates a number of stories, maxims and admonitions. This fragment is the first page of the Gulistan’s introduction, initiated at the top by a bismillah (in the name of God) and followed by Saʻdi’s praise of God. He states: “Praise to God of Majesty and Glory. Obedience to him is a cause of approach and gratitude in increase of benefits. Every inhalation of the breath prolongs life and every expiration of it gladdens our nature. Every breath confers two benefits and for every benefit gratitude is due: Whose hand and tongue is capable to fulfill obligations of thanks to Him?” Executed on a white-and-brown ebru or abri (marbled) paper, the text is written in black ta ʻliq. This fluid cursive script is typical of 18th-century Indian compositions. Red strokes serve to separate visually the lines of text, both in the diagonal and the vertical. The text is framed by a salmon border and pasted to a cardboard backing decorated with a light-purple paper.

Last updated: September 30, 2016