Illuminated First Page and Identification Note of the "Farhang-i Jahāngīrī"


This fragment is the third folio of the Farhang-i Jahāngīrī, a Persian lexicon purportedly executed in Agra in 1028 AH (1618‒19). A total of four folios of this work are held in the collections of the Library of Congress. The author of this Persian-language farhang (dictionary) was Jamal al-Din Husayn b. Fakhr al-Din Hasan Inju Shirazi (died 1626), a learned man from an old Persian sayyid (noble) family who came from Persia to Akbar’s court in India, where he held high offices. He began writing his dictionary in 1596‒97 at Akbar’s request, basing it on Persian poems and previous lexicographical works. Because of the scope of the work and his continuous revisions, he did not complete the dictionary until after Akbar’s death in 1605. Instead, he presented the work in 1608 to Akbar’s successor Jahangir. For this reason, Jamal al-Din’s Persian dictionary came to be known as the Farhang-i Jahāngīrī (Jahangir’s dictionary). Along with the Burhān-i Qāṭiʻ and the Farhang-i Rashīdī, it is one of the three most important Persian-language dictionaries produced in Mughal India. The first page of the farhang includes a sarloh (lavish illumination) followed by an Arabic bismillah (In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful) written in gold on a blue ground and followed by a translation in Persian. Then follows Jamal al-Din’s introduction, which identifies the work as a lexicon or lughatnamah (book of words) containing a number of lughat (Persian- and Arabic-language words) and istalahat (expressions) compiled from a variety of works in nazm (prose) and shiʻr (verse). After his introduction, he includes an excerpt of poetry in Persian, the verses of which are separated by three small dots executed in red ink. The note on the verso identifies Jamal al-Din’s work as having been completed in the Dar al-sultanah (Mughal capital) Agra in the month of Jumadah I 1028 (April 1619). Below the note appears a smeared area, which may have contained a former owner’s ex-libris mark or reading statement. A sheet of gold also has been added to the lower part of the folio, camouflaging two seal impressions. Below the smudge and on top of the gold leaf appears a later note written in diagonal giving the truncated title of the work, i.e., Kitāb-i Farhang (Dictionary). The text is framed by lavish gold-illuminated borders and margins decorated with putti, phoenixes, and grapes painted in gold ink. During the early 20th century, a section of the Farhang-i Jahāngīrī was acquired by the French art dealer Demotte, who cut out its pages and used the decorative margins as mounts for Safavid and Mughal paintings. In some cases, paintings remounted on margins originally intended for the dictionary retain the marginal glosses accompanying the main text.

Last updated: September 30, 2016