"The Shahnamah of Firdausi" is an epic poem composed around 1000 CE that tells the story of pre-Islamic Iran, beginning in the mythic time of creation and continuing forward to the Arab invasion in the seventh century. This study focuses on a particular manuscript of the work produced in the late 1440s for the Timurid Muhammad Juki, seventh son of Shah Rukh, regarded by some as the finest surviving Persian illustrated manuscript. It contains thirty-one exquisite miniature paintings depicting scenes from the epic, and illumination on two pages finely executed in lapis lazuli and gold, amongst other striking colours. The manuscript was presented to the Royal Asiatic Society in 1834 by Lt. Col. C.J. Doyle, who probably received it as a parting gift from Lord Hastings on leaving India. Previously, it had been housed in the Mughal imperial library and bears the seals of the Mughal emperors Babur, Humayun, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and Awrangzib. It also exhibits an autograph note by Shah Jehan and further notes that trace the manuscript's subsequent history.
This monograph by Dr Barbara Brend, the first complete study of the manuscript, provides a detailed analysis of the cycle of illustrations, and is accompanied by a commentary on the manuscript notes by A.H. Morton, which offers telling insights into the practices of the Mughal library.
Dr Barbara Brend is an independent scholar with a particular interest in Persian and Mughal manuscript illustration. Her previous publications include 'Islamic Art' (1991), 'The Emperor Akbar's Khamsa of Niami' (1995), and 'Perspectives on Persian Painting: Illustrations to Amir Khusrau's Khamsah' (2003). A.H. Morton was lecturer in Persian at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, from 1979 to 1999. He has written on a variety of subjects, including the pre-modern history of Iran, and Islamic numismatics and metrology.