Very early manuscript copy of an important biographical dictionary

Dawlatshah ibn 'Ala al-Dawla Bakhtishah. Tadhkirat al-shu'ara [Lives of the Ancient Persian Poets].

Safavid Iran, [1533/34 CE =] 940 H.

Large 4to (195 x 399 mm). Persian manuscript on polished oriental paper. 50 leaves. 25 lines of black and occasional red Nasta'liq within gilt, black and blue rules. Beginning of the text decorated with a coloured Safavid illustration cut from another manuscript and inserted within an illuminated medallion. Bound in Qajar-age full brown morocco with ornamental designs stamped in blind to both covers.


A very early manuscript copy of the well-known "Tadhkiratu' sh-shu'ara" of Dawlatshah b. 'Al' al-Dawla Bakhtishah al-Ghazi al-Samarqandi (d. 1507), an important biographical dictionary of Persian poets. Completed in 1487, the work was dedicated to Mir 'Ali Shir, the famous vizier at the court of Sultan Husayn Bayqara of Herat (ruled 1469-1506). It became a much-used source for many later biographers, and Hammer-Purgstall's translation from 1818 exerted great influence on early 19th century German studies of Persian literature.

Some staining, soiling and wrinkling to first and last leaves, otherwise very clean and finely written. Manuscript ownership dated AH 1274 (1857 CE) on prefixed ruled blank leaf. The colophon, dated AH 940 and signed by the scribe Muhammad (Mihr?) 'Ali, was supplied in the 19th century on an appended ruled leaf. Two 18th century copies are held by the Morgan Library (MS M.1185) and the British Library (IO Islamic 3777); the catalogue of the Buhar Library in Burdwan records a manuscript dated AH 980 (1572 CE), which is singled out for being a "very old and exceedingly valuable copy" (no. 90). The present manuscript, copied only 26 years after the author's death, must thus be considered of particular importance.

Provenance: 20th century Parisian private collection, kept in the family for several generations and dispersed in 2022.