The Wonders of Creation


This cosmography by Zakarīyā Ibn Muhammad al-Qazwīnī (circa 1203–83), Kitāb‘Ajā’ib al-makhlūqāt wa-gharā’ib al-mawjūdāt (The wonders of creation, or literally, Marvels of things created and miraculous aspects of things existing), enjoyed great popularity in the Arab world and was transmitted in numerous copies for centuries. This version at the Bavarian State Library in Munich, Germany, is undated, but a strikingly similar manuscript in the National Library of France bears the date 1762. The script, style, and color spectrum of the depictions suggest that both manuscripts were produced in the same workshop, which may have been in Palestine. The illustrations appear naïve and resemble depictions in Christian Arabic manuscripts of the 18th century. Some of the miniatures reveal that occasionally the total composition of the painting was copied by tracing. Some figures seem to be cut off, although there are no frames in which the illustrations were supposed to be set. Compared to the edition of 1280, the manuscript bears witness to a remarkable decline in the artistic quality of Arab painting. Al-Qazwīnī was born in the Persian town of Qazwīn and worked as a legal expert and judge in Persia and Iraq. He is also known for his geographical dictionary, Athat al-bilad wa-akhbar al-‘ibad (Monument of places and history of God's bondsmen), which like his cosmography reflects learning in a wide range of disciplines.

Last updated: May 19, 2015