Arts of the Book: Manuscripts, Folios, Bindings
Manuscript Of Gulshan-I Raz Of Shabistari
Qajar, dated 1310 H/1893 CE
Materials and technique
Painting and varnish on pasteboard
Page 18.2 x 11.4 cm
The Qajar ruler Nasir al-Din Shah (r. 1848-96 CE) appears in a central portrait medallion on the lacquer binding decorated with scrolling vine-plants in gold of this manuscript. The second half of the nineteenth century saw the increasing influence of Europe and Nasir al-Din Shah responded with a combination of conservatism and modernity. The Dar al-Funun, Iran’s first polytechnic (1851 CE), was modelled on western institutions. This lacquer binding likewise combines modernity with conservatism: a European-style portrait medallion of Nasir al-Din Shah is set within a more traditional vegetal composition in gold on a dark ground. The roots of Qajar lacquer bookbinding are very deep and are found within the Timurid traditions of fifteenth century Herat, which then continued into the Safavid period. The Gulshan-i Raz (Secret Rose Garden) is a Sufi poem composed in 1311 CE by Shaykh Sa'd al-Din Mahmud ibn 'Abd al-Karim ibn Yahya al-Shabistari (d. 1320-21 CE), arranged in a format of fifteen rhetorical questions posed by Amir Husayni of Khurasan, with lengthy answers by the author.
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