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

The Pote collection of Islamic manuscripts was brought to England in 1790 and was divided between King’s College and Eton College. Both parts are now housed in the Cambridge University Library on permanent loan. The King’s part contains 256 codices and the Eton part comprises of 220 codices on various subjects, and most of which are unadorned. Both parts are accessible online via the UK-wide union catalogue of manuscripts from the Islamicate world, known as FIHRIST. In this post, I briefly mention the highlights of the Eton Pote Collection. A more detailed description of each work is available on FIHRIST and accessible from title links.

Highlights

Eton 258 (1 & 2): Shāhnāma of firdausi. Two codices containing the Persian epic of the Shahnama (Book of Kings) composed by Firdausi, in four volumes. It begins with the Baysunghuri Preface, which was first composed for Prince Baysunghur in 829/1426. Both manuscripts are decorated with illuminated sarlauhs and interlinear gilding. They were presented to the collection owner, Antoine Polier, as a gift around 1767.

Eton 265: Ṣiḥāḥ al-Jauharī. This manuscript, in naskh script, was completed on Thursday, 17 Dhū-l-Qaʿdah 1053/27 Jan 1644 in the hand of Dūst Muḥammad ibn Mullā Darvīsh Muḥammad Ḥamdānī, who had also copied an illustrated Shahnama in nasta’liq three years earlier in 1050, which is in the British Library, IO Islamic 3682, now.

Eton 266: Al-Ṣurāḥ min al-Ṣiḥāḥ. The epitome of the Ṣiḥāḥ of Jauharī containing Persian rendering of the Arabic words, carries an illuminated shamsa and a double-page illuminated opening with a colourful sarlauh.

Eton 267: Al-Ṣaḥīfat al-Kāmilah. This beautiful manuscript of prayers, copied in naskh script in Rajab 1066/May 1656, contains exquisite illuminations. A decorated frontispiece with interlinear gilding, as well as illuminated margins enclosing the gold speckled text blocks make this codex outstanding.

Eton 277: Ẓafarnāmah. A copy of Yazdi’s Book of Victory (composed c. 832/142, copied in Herat and dated 5 Shaʿbān 877/5 Jan 1473. It is probably the oldest codex in the entire Pote Collection. It bears Shirazi style illuminations on the opening sarlauh.

Eton 279: ʿAjāʾib al-Makhlūqāt. The Wonders of Creatures and the Marvels of Creation, composed by Zakarīyā ibn Muḥammad (c. 1203-1283), is a well-known encyclopaedia of natural history in Islamic culture. This Indian production includes illustrations of human figures, plants and animals.

Eton 282: 28 treatises. A richly illuminated and illustrated manuscript containing 28 treatises (some translated from Sanskrit). According to an internal colophon on f.112r the work was composed and translated by the scribe known as Nashat, who signs his name as Kshan Singh. The numerous dated colophons attest it was produced during the year 1163/1750, and probably at Antoine Polier’s library.

Eton 288: ʿAjāʾib al-Makhlūqāt. An undated copy of Wonders of Creatures with an illuminated sarlauh and numerous interesting, Indian paintings. It is a lavish copy, probably produced in the 18th century.

Eton 397: Mufradāt. A calligraphy treatise on nasta’liq, based on the instructions of the canoniser of the script Mir ‘Ali Tabrizi. The scribe signs his name as Ahmad al-Husayni, and it is dated 962/1555. Each folio contains a calligraphy specimen within illuminated frames and gold-speckled borders.

Eton 459: Rawzat al-Aḥbāb. A work of ‘Ata Allah Jamal al-Din Dashtaki Shirazi which was commissioned by Amir Alishir Nava’i and completed in 900/1494-5. The Pote copy is undated (c. 16-17 century), transcribed in naskh and decorated with an illuminated sarlauh. It bears a purchase note dated 1680.

The Eton part of the Pote Collection includes several other decorated manuscripts, most of which illuminated in Indian style.

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

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