Timurid-period Sufi manuscript

'Attar, Farid al-Din. Mantiq al-Tayr [The Concourse of the Birds].

Shiraz, Persia, [1415 CE =] 818 H.

Small 8vo (120 x 175 mm). Persian manuscript on fine, polished oriental paper on ivory paper guards. 74 leaves. 4 columns, 17 lines of fine black nasta'liq, columns separated by black and gilt rules, all within green, yellow, black, gilt and blue borders. Headings in small gilt thuluth outlined in black, pages decorated throughout with palmettes and flowers. With an illuminated, polychrome frontispiece page showing a large mandorla of tendrils and flowers within a fleuronée border; beginning of text decorated with a finely illuminated title heading. Illuminated with 6 miniatures and 3 floral decorations. Contemporary simple paper wrappers, stored within a modern, custom-made white morocco case.


An outstanding Timurid-period copy of the "Mantiq al-tair" by Farid al-Din 'Attar (ca. 1142-1220), one of the most famous poets in Sufi literature who inspired the work of many later mystical poets. In this well-known allegorical story illustrating the quest for Sufism, the birds, which symbolize individual souls, set out in search of the "simurgh", a mystical bird representing ultimate spiritual unity in the Divine.

The text, whose title is variously rendered in English as the "Language", "Conference", or "Concourse of the Birds", was particularly popular at the court of the Timurids (1405-1507). This fine manuscript can be compared to another example, illustrated with eight miniatures and dated 858 AH (1445 CE), which was sold at Sotheby's on 22 April 2015 (lot 122), as well as to another, dated 869 AH (1469 CE), sold at Christie's, 5 October 2012 (lot 186). This earlier specimen was completed immediately after the appointment of Timur's grandson Ibrahim Sultan as governor of the region. The colophon, which states the name of the scribe, Faridûn Ebn Farukhsha, as well as the year and place of production, is followed by three final pages which enumerate the lineage of the Sufi masters and give a table of contents.

Some ink corrosion to rules and ornaments with old repaired loss to the frontispiece illustration. Occasional light waterstains, mainly confined to margins, and a few scattered smudges throughout, but generally very well preserved. Old European shelfmark number (no. 39) to the upper cover.