Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Folio From A Manuscript Of Kitab Fi Ma'Rifat Al-Hiyal Al-Hindasiyya By Al-Jazari: A Blood-Letting Device
Mamluk, dated Safar 755 H/February-March 1354 CE
Materials and technique
Opaque watercolour, gold, silver and ink on paper.
39.3 x 27.2 cm
Badi al-Zaman ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari wrote his mechanical treatise, the Kitab fi ma'rifat al-hiyal al-hindasiyya (Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices, also known as Automata), in 1206 CE for the Artuqid Sultan Nasir al-Din Muhammad, who had a great fascination for machinery. The book included descriptions and illustrations of gadgets invented by al-Jazari and was highly copied and disseminated throughout the medieaval Middle East. This folio, depicting a blood-letting device explained in the seventh chapter, comes from an Egyptian copy dated February-March 1354 CE, made for the Mamluk amir Nasir al-Din Muhammad ibn Tulak al-Hasani al-Malik al-Salih at the time of Sultan Hasan’s second reign (r. 1354-61). The Arabic description at the top of the page reads: “And I am showing an illustration in the shape of a wash basin, the stand, and the cylinders.” While most of the extant folios from this codex, including its colophon, are in the Süleymaniye Library in Istanbul (Aya Sofya 3606), a number of the original illustrated pages remain dispersed. Anthony Welch has alluded to the humour that may have been intended to accompany some of these illustrations (Welch and Welch 1982, p. 26). Perhaps this followed in the footsteps of al-Hariri’s witty Maqamat, or Assemblies, illustrated copies of which circulated widely in the thirteenth century.
© 2007 The Aga Khan Development Network. This is the only authorised Website of the Aga Khan Development Network.