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Learning, Piety and Poetry. Manuscripts from the Islamic world

Learning, Piety and Poetry
Manuscripts from the Islamic world



Deborah Freeman and Francois de Blois with contributions
by J.M. Rogers, Elaine Wright, Alison Ohta, Manijeh
Bayani, Stephen Hirtenstein and Shireen Ellinger

This volume is devoted to the illuminated but largely unillustrated Arabic, Persian and Turkish manuscripts in the Collection. The manuscripts cover a wide range of topics, from religious scholarship to personal prayer books, esoteric and scientific works, anthologies and narrative poetry.

Particularly significant is a large group of Shi‘i devotional manuscripts produced in Iran and India from the 16th to the 19th centuries, probably the largest collection of such material outside of Iran. These small manuscripts contain invocations, pious poetry and maxims, including some attributed to the Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. Finely illuminated, and copied by some of the most notable calligraphers of their day, these works are considered as a body of literature in an art historical context for the first time.

A number of illuminated prayer books and other devotional works better known among Sunni Muslims include copies of the Dala’il al-khayrat and of al-Busiri’s poem in praise of the Prophet Muhammad, the Qasidat al-burdah.

Important manuscripts include a volume of poetry by the great 13th-century mystic Ibn al-‘Arabi and an early 14th-century Persian translation of Kitab al‑masalik wa’l-mamalik.

Ottoman manuscripts include a Mathnavi of Jalal al- Din Rumi copied in Sarajevo and two endowment deeds of female Ottoman dynasts.

About the author(s)

Deborah Freeman – Former Assistant Curator, Al-Sabah Collection, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait; specialist in Arabic and Persian manuscripts

Dr François de Blois – Senior Research Associate, University College London; specialist in Semitic and Iranian languages and on the history of religions in the Near East in pre-modern times

Professor J.M. Rogers – Fellow of the British Academy; Honorary Curator, Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art; Former Deputy Keeper of the Department of Oriental Antiquities, British Museum, London; inaugural Nasser D. Khalili Chair of Islamic Art and Archaeology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; specialist in many aspects of Islamic culture and history, especially Seljuk and Ottoman arts

Dr Elaine Wright – Curator of the Islamic Collections, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin; specialist in Islamic manuscript

Dr Alison Ohta – Director, Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland; specialist in the technique and ornament of Mamluk bookbinding

Manijeh Bayani – Specialist in Persian and Arabic epigraphy; contributor to most of the catalogues in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art series

Stephen Hirtenstein – Publications Director, Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society; co-founder of Anqa Publishing; specialist in the life,
thought and writings of Ibn ‘Arabi

Shireen Ellinger – Special interest in art and architecture of the Mamluk period, especially textiles and metalwork


fully illustrated in colour section on documentary inscriptions, hardback with dust jacket (slipcased), 36 × 26 cm, Isbn: 978-1-874780-84-7

Release date: 2024


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