The Pote Collection of Islamic Manuscripts: The Highlights (I)

The Pote collection contains many textually useful manuscripts especially in the field of the history of India; however, although most codices are neatly transcribed, not many of them contain sumptuous decorations. Below, I mention some of the most significant codices in the King’s part of the collection, as well as those more aesthetically appealing.

Highlights

King’s 32: Inshā’-i ‘Abd al-Hayy. ‘Abd al-Hayy Munshi Astarabadi (d. 907/1501) a pioneer ta’liq calligrapher, was the munshi of the Timurid ruler Sultan Abu-Sa’id Gurkani. He is said to have been a pupil of Ja’far Tabrizi Baysunghuri. This collection of letters by ‘Abd al-Hayy is written in beautiful ta’liq script in Jamadi I 941/Nov 1535. The colophon does not include the scribe’s signature, but it was probably penned by the most prominent ta’liq master Khwaja Ikhtiyar Munshi Gunabadi (d. 974/1566) or one of his contemporaries.

Inshā’-i ‘Abd al-Hayy (King’s 32, UL)

King’s 56: Barzū-nāma (or Burzūy-nāma). The Shāhnāma‘s Rustam and Suhrāb episode; very fine, early nasta’liq calligraphy; illuminated. It is dated to 829/1425-6, but Browne believed the date was not correct and was a mistake for 1019/1610. In notes held in the King’s Archive (attached to a letter dated 16.4.1951), Robinson disagrees with Browne, saying: “A very neat little manuscript clearly dated Muḥarram 829 (Nov. 1425) and with an illuminated heading in exactly the same style as found in a number of manuscripts produced at Shiraz at about this time.”

Illuminated sarlauh in Shiraz school. Barzū-nāma (King’s 65, UL), dated 829/1426.

King’s 64: Burhān-i Ma’āthir. A copy of the history of the Sultans of Deccan, dated 1684, and collated with the original.

Opening (f.1v). Burhān-i Ma’āthir (King’s 64, UL), 1684, Hyderabad.

King’s 65: Bayāz in three parts. Three oblong anthologies of verse and prose, containing numerous poems by Persian poets, elegies and Arabic texts (such as Fusūs al-Hikam) in various scripts and hands on gold sprinkled paper.

Poems in shikasta
Arabic text in naskh
Elegies in nasta’liq

King’s 70: Two celebrated commentaries of the Qur’an: Anwār al-Tanzīl wa-Asrār al-Taʾwīl of Baydāwī and Tafsīr al-Kashshāf of Zamakhsharī (in the margins). Copied by Maḥmūd b. Ḥabīb Allāh al-Nakhjavānī in Damascus on Friday, 1 Rajab 980/7 Nov 1572.

Illuminated frontispiece (ff. 1v-2r). Anwār al-Tanzīl wa-Asrār al-Taʾwīl of Baydāwī and Tafsīr al-Kashshāf of Zamakhsharī (King’s 70, UL), scribe: Nakhjavānī, 1572, Damascus.

King’s 71: Tarīkh-i Dilgushā. A history of Shah Jahan and his predecessors, which according to Storey is the only extant manuscript of the work (Storey, C.A. A bio-bibliographical survey, 1927–39, p.578). The manuscript is undated, but there is an acquisition note dated 1152/1739.

Folio 582. Tarīkh-i Dilgushā (King’s 71, UL).

King’s 85: Tīmūr-nāma of Hātifī. Unsigned and undated; 10th/16th century, containing six illustrations, some of which are smudged. Robinson assumed it “is in a provincial style of about 1540.”

Illuminated sarlauh (f. 1v). Tīmūr-nāma of Hātifī (King’s 85, UL).
An enthronement scene (f. 160). Tīmūr-nāma of Hātifī (King’s 85, UL).

King’s 87: Safwat al-Safā (Tazkira of Sultan Shah Safi). A rare biography of Shaykh Safi al-Din Ishaq, ancestor of the Safavid kings.

Opening folios 1v-2r. Safwat al-Safā (King’s 87, UL).

King’s 88: Tuzuk Jahangīrī. Completed in 1027/1617, this three-volumed work contains notes in the hand of Jahangir himself.

Illuminated sarlauh. Tuzuk Jahangīrī (King’s 88, UL), dated 1617.

King’s 135: Album of poems and illustrations. Seventy verses of the Shāhnāma of Firdausi, are framed in decorated margins along with two drawings (one has been reproduced in Hillenbrand’s Imperial Images, no. 8). In notes held in the King’s College Archive (attached to a letter dated 16.4.1951), Basil Robinson describes the two portraits as: “two exquisite drawings of a seated youth and an old man leaning on a stick, in the style of about 1600 associated with the name of Āqā Riẓā.”

Shahnāma verses (King’s 135, UL).
Two drawings (King’s 135, UL).

King’s 153: Khamsa of Amir Khusrau Dihlavi. This illuminated and illustrated manuscript contains five mathnavis by Amir Khusrau. Its seven paintings (two are reproduced in Hillenbrand’s Imperial Images, nos. 9 and 55) bear notes attributing them to the famous Safavid painter Farrukh Beg (ca. 1545-1615).

King’s 186: Dīvān of Badr al-Dīn Hilālī. Copied by Mīr ʿAlī al-Kātib al-Sulṭānī (The Royal Scribe) in elegant Nastaʿlīq script and dated 938/1531-2, probably in Bukhara. This is one of the most beautiful manuscripts of the entire collection.

Dīvān of Hilālī (King’s 186, UL). Scribe: Mira ‘Ali Haravi, 1531-32, Bukhara?

King’s 213: Zayn al-Akhbār. The Ornament of Histories was written by ‘Abd al-Hayy Gardizi in 442/1050. This copy is a very rare and valuable manuscript, which is one of the only two known extant copies. The other one is dated much later (1196/1781) and is now housed in the Bodleian Library. The Pote manuscript was used in Bosworth’s translation The Ornament of Histories in 2011 and Habibi’s edition in 1968.

Zayn al-Akhbār (King’s 213, UL). 1682.

King’s 216: Zād al-Musāfirīn of Nasir Khusrau (1004-1088). Provision for Travellers is a rare and significant religious-philosophical book. In the upper doublure there is a note in English, signed E.G. Browne (16.4.1921) stating: “This is a very rare book: the only other ms I know belonged formerly to M. Ch. Schefer, and is now in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. Of this I had a copy made for my own use.”

List of contents (ff. 3v-4r). Zād al-Musāfirīn (King’s 216, UL).

Some Browne’s top picks include MS. King’s 238 Shahnāma of Shah Isma’il (also known as Qāsimī’s Shāhnāma), and MS. King’s 219 Siyasat-nāma of Nizam al-Mulk, dated 1611.

The entire collection is now catalogued and accessible online for researchers and scholars to use.

5 thoughts on “The Pote Collection of Islamic Manuscripts: The Highlights (I)

  1. Thanks for cataloguing and introducing this little-known collection. The highlights contain some magnificent manuscripts.

    1. Hi. Yes, the collection contains some rare gems. Thanks a lot for your interest and feedback.

  2. Thank you for putting a spotlight on these rare manuscripts ! Wonderful examples with such intricate illustrations and informative descriptions by yourself.
    Thank you for dedication and effort!

    1. Thank you for your kind comment Asher! The second part will be a review of the Eton highlights.

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