Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Manuscript Of Al-Kashifi'S Anvar-I Suhayli (lights Of Canopus)
Safavid, dated 13 Safar 1002 H/8 November 1593 CE
Materials and technique
Ink and opaque watercolour on paper
30.1 x 20.3 cm
This manuscript stands out both for the novelty and the number of its illustrations, as well as the circumstances of its commission. The 107 illustrations in this manuscript depict stories from the Anvar-i Suhayli (Lights of Canopus), a selection of fifteenth-century fables based on a twelfth-century version of the Kalila wa Dimna (Kalila and Dimna) collection. The origins of the text are thought to lie in the oral traditions of India and to have been first recorded in writing around 300 CE as the Panchatantra (Five Occasions of Good Sense), a book of five chapters on statecraft (arthasastra) (De Blois 1991, p. 10). Its stories are held together by the framework of an Indian king, Dabshalim (or Dabishlim), consulting his court philosopher Bidpai (or Pilpay, both corrupted versions of Bidnag and later, in Arabic, Bindna) about proper ruling conduct in a variety of situations. Bidpai responds to each question with a fable featuring animal protagonists, each fable in turn framing other stories and sub-stories and eventually returning to the king’s conversation with Bidpai in order to lead to the next of the five main fables. The history of the Panchatantra’s transmission to the Islamic world is recalled in its various recensions into Persian and Arabic, as the story of Kalila wa Dimna was first translated into Pahlavi or Middle Persian by the physician Burzoy in the sixth century; then into Arabic in the eighth century by Ibn al-Muqaffa; later into neo-Persian in the mid-twelfth century by Nasrallah Munshi; and, finally, at the end of the fifteenth century, incorporated into the Anvar-i Suhayli by Husayn ibn 'Ali al Wa’iz al-Kashifi (d. 1504 CE).
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