Exceptional Timurid manuscript: the only illuminated copy, with the earliest appearance of illustrations by Bihzad

Maragha'i, Rukn al-din Awhadi [known as Awhad al- din Isfahani]. Jam'i Jam [The Cup of Jamshid].

Timurid Herat, [1459/60 CE =] 863 H.

Folio. Illuminated Persian manuscript on paper. 48 ff. Black nasta'liq, titles in red and gold thuluth. 4 full-page illustrations, all leaves remargined with gold-speckled card in various colours. Bound in finely painted Safavid lacquered boards, painted and stamped decoupé morocco with central medallion and corner-pieces.


Princely Timurid manuscript: the only recorded copy of this rare text to be illustrated with miniatures, containing four full-page illustrations ascribed to Kamal al-Din Bihzad and signed by the master scribe Shir' Ali.

This rarely illustrated text is the "Jam'i Jam", or the "Cup of Jamshid", by Awhadi Maragha'i (1274/75-1338 CE). Both a mystical poem and a treatise on social topics such as ethics and education whose title evokes the Persian King Jamshid, it was composed in dedication to the last Ilkhanid Sultan, Abu Sa'id Bahadur Khan. It is an expansive text written in 'mathnavi' form, akin to the Khamsa of Nizami, and although there is evidence to suggest its popularity with readers contemporary to the author, it was seldom read or reproduced by the end of the 15th century.

One section of the poem recounts the story of a ruler's slave drunk in a tavern somewhere in the countryside, who had to be dragged from the premises: illustrations of such scenes are highly unusual and seldom appear in manuscripts of such sophistication, particularly from the Timurid period. Although this manuscript does not bear the name of a patron, both the scribe and artist were working in Herat during the mid to late 15th centuries, and the style of production and the distinct coffee-toned paper are in keeping with craftsmanship from this geographical area. Under the patronage of Sultan Abu Sa'id, a new "Kitabkhana" (library) was established in the Timurid capital of Herat simultaneous to the production of this book, so there is a strong possibility that Sultan Abu Sa'id was indeed the commissioner of this text. Another volume from this library, the "Nahj al-Fardis" (produced ca. 1466, only six years after this manuscript), has illustrations that are very suggestive of the hand of Bihzad, so this "Jam'i Jam" stands among other manuscripts illustrated at the bequest of the Sultan.

Bihzad was being trained by Ustrad Mirak in the 1450s and 1460s and would have been young, only 19 years old, at the time of production of this book. With this in mind, there is a strong possibility that as part of the revival of the Timurid "Kitabkhana", Awhad's "Jam'i Jam" was selected as a 'project' on which the experienced calligrapher Shir 'ali might collaborate with the promising young pupil Bihzad to illustrate the text - in the typical style of Timurid manuscript production from the 1420s onwards. The same pair later collaborated on the famous "Zafarnama" produced for Sultan Husayn in 1467/68, following their successful partnership on this codex. There are no attributions to Bihzad that pre-date the present manuscript, making this an exceptionally important witness to the early work of one of the most celebrated classical Persian painters of the 15th and 16th centuries.


From the Imperial Mughal Library of Shah Jahan, with the Imperial Mughal seal to to first leaf and inscription dated Rabi I of the 20th regional year of Shah Jahan (being the spring of 1647 CE), identifying the scribe and attributing the illustrations to Bihzad. Later in the collection of the renowned English art dealer Oliver Hoare (1945-2018): indeed, this manuscript was the highlight of his collection offered by Christie's London on 25 October 2019, with an upper estimate of £1,500,000.


Folio (193 x 305 mm). Illuminated Farsi manuscript on paper. 48 ff., plus 4 flyleaves (complete). Text in 4 columns, 25 lines. Refined scribal black nasta'liq, titles in red and gold thuluth within illuminated cartouches across two central columns, opening two leaves with two facing full-page illustrations, two further full-page illustrations on folios 27r and 30v, many early seal impressions to the reverse of first leaf, colophon signed and dated. All leaves remargined with gold-speckled card in various colours (probably from the late 16th or 17th century Safavid Persia); later endpapers. Housed in finely painted Safavid lacquered boards, depicting hunting scenes and animals amongst intricately painted flora, doubleurs in gilt, painted and stamped decoupé morocco with central medallion and corner-pieces.


Outer edges of binding heavily repaired, rebacked.


Dr Eleanor Sims, Awhadi's Jam-i Jam of 864/1459. An Unknown Timurid Manuscript With Four Illustrations by the Youthful Kamal al-Din Bihzad (The Oliver Hoare Collection, Jam-i Jam catalogue). Christie's, 25 October 2019, lot 80.