May 9, 2016

Nizami’s "Iskandarnāmah"

This folio includes a fragmentary text from Nizami’s Iskandarnāmah (The book of Alexander the Great), the fifth book of his Khamsah (Quintet). Written during the last few decades of the 12th century, the Khamsah consists of five kitab (books) written in mathnavi (rhyming distichs). The Iskandarnāmah of Nizami Ganjavi (1140 or 1141–1202 or 1203) recounts Alexander the Great’s heroic exploits, battles, and journey to China, and his travel to Gog and Magog at the end of the world. It is loosely based on the epic narrative of Alexander’s deeds as recounted by Firdawsi in his Shāhnāmah (Book of kings) completed in the early 11th century, which may have drawn from the history of Alexander as written by his official biographer, Callisthenes of Olynthus (circa 370−327 BC).  This particular text is executed in black nastaʻliq script in four columns separated by plain gutters. The text panel is framed by lines of various colors and pasted to a larger sheet bearing a number of a posteriori notes at the top. It appears to date from the 16th or 17th century. Another textual fragment of Nizami’s Iskandarnāmah is also held in the collections of the Library of Congress and can be seen in the World Digital Library.

Jahan Malak Khatun’s Prayer for Power

This calligraphic panel includes three bayts (verses) of Persian poetry possibly composed by Jahan Malak Khatun, a female poet of the Qajar period (not to be confused with the 14th century poet of the same name). Beginning with an invocation of God as al-ghafur (forgiving) and al-rahim (merciful), the verses then provide a repeated versified duʻaʼ (prayer) for the patron's continued mulk (power): “Oh, the continuity of power depends on the survival of your substance / Good fortune has sewn a cloak of power for your rank / Your policy on the land was such that not even one bird / Could fly away into the air of the country / Malak-i Jahan [the power of the world] wants you to invoke God / And this will bring victory as blessings from the prayer of power.” The diagonal verses are executed in black nastaʻliq script on a beige paper and framed by cloud bands on a gold background. Blue and beige frames decorated with gold sprinkles have been pasted onto the sheet in a rather sloppy manner. The text panel originally contained a signature in the lower-left corner, which has been erased and is no longer legible. As Jahan Malak Khatun was active in Persia (Iran) over the course of the 19th century, this particular fragment must have been produced sometime in the 19th or 20th century.

Petition for Funds and Inshaʼ

This calligraphic fragment belongs to a series of 22 inshaʼ (literary compositions or letters) written by calligraphers named Mir Kalan, Khan Zaman (son of Khan Khanan), Qaʼim Khan, Lutfallah Khan, and Mahabat Khan. Judging from the script (Indian nastaʻliq), a seal impression bearing the date 1113 AH (1701−2), and a letter mentioning the city of Janpur in India, it appears that these writings were executed in India during the 18th century. Furthermore, if one were to identify the calligrapher Mir Kalan as the renowned painter active during the mid-18th century in Lucknow, then this identification would add further support to identifying this calligraphic series in the Library of Congress’ collection as a corpus of materials produced by several writers active in 18th-century India. The calligraphies are typically written in a hasty nastaʻliq on white paper, framed in blue, and pasted to a pink or salmon cardboard. They stand out for being in rather poor condition, in many cases badly damaged by worm holes and/or water stains. Some bear squiggle-like marks in the margins, while others include seal impressions that were cut out and pasted onto the cardboards. In most cases, an attribution to a calligrapher is written at the top, preceded by the expression raqamahu (written by) or khatt-i (the handwriting of). This particular fragment is attributed to Lutfallah Khan, as noted by the expression “khatt-i Lutfallah Khan” written above the blue frame and below a cut-out seal impression pasted in the upper horizontal margin. The seal impression includes the year 1113 AH (1701−2) and the name Bahadur Shams al-Dawlah Khan. The text itself is a petition addressed to a certain Navab Sahib, asking him to endow a piece of land and provide funds for the employees working at the khanagah (monastery) of the deceased dervish Hajji Muhammad in Janpur. Bahadur Shams al-Dawlah Khan also asks for further supplies (i.e., food and clothing) for the fuqaraʼ (poor) who frequent this holy place of worship. He ends his letter by stating that he and the dervishes are busy praying for him and his welfare. At the top of the verso of the fragment appears a now illegible attribution note stating that the text was khatt-i . . . . The calligrapher may well be Lutfallah Khan, who also executed the text on the fragment’s recto. The text itself, written in a crisp nastaʻliq, is highly florid. It begins with a poetical excerpt dedicated to the addressee, calling him the “flower of the garden and the towers of Fortune.” The writer states that he was very happy to see him, that he was satisfied, and that he treasures their friendship.

Inshaʼ

This calligraphic fragment belongs to a series of 22 inshaʼ (literary compositions or letters) written by calligraphers named Mir Kalan, Khan Zaman (son of Khan Khanan), Qaʼim Khan, Lutfallah Khan, and Mahabat Khan. Judging from the script (Indian nastaʻliq), a seal impression bearing the date 1113 AH (1701−2), and a letter mentioning the city of Janpur in India, it appears that these writings were executed in India during the 18th century. Furthermore, if one were to identify the calligrapher Mir Kalan as the renowned painter active during the mid-18th century in Lucknow, then this identification would add further support to identifying this calligraphic series in the Library of Congress’ collection as a corpus of materials produced by several writers active in 18th-century India. The calligraphies are typically written in a hasty nastaʻliq on white paper, framed in blue, and pasted to a pink or salmon cardboard. They stand out for being in rather poor condition, in many cases badly damaged by worm holes and/or water stains. Some bear squiggle-like marks in the margins, while others include seal impressions that were cut out and pasted onto the cardboards. In most cases, an attribution to a calligrapher is written at the top, preceded by the expression raqamahu (written by) or khatt-i (the handwriting of). This calligraphic fragment includes a note at the top horizontal stating that the text is by Khan Zaman, the walad (son) of Khan Khanan. In the lower horizontal margin are a squiggle design and a cut-out seal impression pasted onto the salmon paper. The seal impression also bears the name of Khan Zaman. The main text is executed in black ink on white paper decorated with blue sprinkles. The author writes to his baradar-i mahraban-i man (dear friend or brother) to tell him how much he misses him and that he is in his duʻaʼ (prayers). Interestingly, the fragment’s verso provides an exact duplicate copy of this text, suggesting that the original was executed as a stencil and used as an exemplum of how to write inshaʼ (compositions) to one’s friend or brother during times of separation.

Inshaʼ

This calligraphic fragment belongs to a series of 22 inshaʼ (literary compositions or letters) written by calligraphers named Mir Kalan, Khan Zaman (son of Khan Khanan), Qaʼim Khan, Lutfallah Khan, and Mahabat Khan. Judging from the script (Indian nastaʻliq), a seal impression bearing the date 1113 AH (1701−2), and a letter mentioning the city of Janpur in India, it appears that these writings were executed in India during the 18th century. Furthermore, if one were to identify the calligrapher Mir Kalan as the renowned painter active during the mid-18th century in Lucknow, then this identification would add further support to identifying this calligraphic series in the Library of Congress’ collection as a corpus of materials produced by several writers active in 18th-century India. The calligraphies are typically written in a hasty nastaʻliq on white paper, framed in blue, and pasted to a pink or salmon cardboard. They stand out for being in rather poor condition, in many cases badly damaged by worm holes and/or water stains. Some bear squiggle-like marks in the margins, while others include seal impressions that were cut out and pasted onto the cardboards. In most cases, an attribution to a calligrapher is written at the top, preceded by the expression raqamahu (written by) or khatt-i (the handwriting of). The recto of this calligraphic fragment includes a note at the top horizontal stating that the text is raqamahu by Mahabat Khan. In the lower-left corner appears a squiggle design. The main text, executed in a very fluid Indian nastaʻliq, consists of a letter addressed to the writer’s dear friend or brother. The writer states that he received his friend’s letter and that he is well. The verso of this page includes a note at the top horizontal stating that the text is “khatt-i . . . Khan Zaman.” The main text is addressed to the writer’s baradar-i mahraban-i man (dear friend or brother) to confirm receipt of the latter’s letter. At the end of his text, the writer states (in lines executed vertically to the right on the main horizontal text) that he composed his letter on the 24th day of Jumadah II (a month in the Islamic lunar calendar) although he does not specify the year.

Inshaʼ

This calligraphic fragment belongs to a series of 22 inshaʼ (literary compositions or letters) written by calligraphers named Mir Kalan, Khan Zaman (son of Khan Khanan), Qaʼim Khan, Lutfallah Khan, and Mahabat Khan. Judging from the script (Indian nastaʻliq), a seal impression bearing the date 1113 AH (1701−2), and a letter mentioning the city of Janpur in India, it appears that these writings were executed in India during the 18th century. Furthermore, if one were to identify the calligrapher Mir Kalan as the renowned painter active during the mid-18th century in Lucknow, then this identification would add further support to identifying this calligraphic series in the Library of Congress’ collection as a corpus of materials produced by several writers active in 18th-century India. The calligraphies are typically written in a hasty nastaʻliq on white paper, framed in blue, and pasted to a pink or salmon cardboard. They stand out for being in rather poor condition, in many cases badly damaged by worm holes and/or water stains. Some bear squiggle-like marks in the margins, while others include seal impressions that were cut out and pasted onto the cardboards. In most cases, an attribution to a calligrapher is written at the top, preceded by the expression raqamahu (written by) or khatt-i (the handwriting of). This particular fragment includes a now-damaged attribution note at the top, stating that the calligraphy was executed by a “son of Mir Afkan Khan.” Immediately below the attribution note appears a cut-out illegible seal impression. The main text, written in an Indian nastaʻliq tending towards shikastah, begins with an invocation to God, or Huwa al-ʻaziz (He is the Glorified). The writer then begins his letter to his brother or friend, stating that he was happy to receive his wonderful letter. He hopes to see his friend or brother soon and asks him to send him news as soon as possible. The verso of this particular fragment includes a now-damaged attribution note at the top, stating that the calligraphy was executed by a son of Mir Afkan Khan. Immediately below the attribution note appears a cut-out seal impression with the name “al-Dawlah Bahadur” still legible. In the lower-left corner appears a squiggle design. The main text executed on the white paper is addressed to the writer’s dear friend or brother, in which he states that he received the latter’s letter. He hopes to see him and his friends on Yakshambah (Sunday).