Demonology!

On this, the spookiest day of the year, we thought we’d share some images and text from books which tackle the subject of demons, devils, spirits and witches; all creatures regarded as a serious threat to body and soul in times past.

Our first tome is The hierarchie of the blessed angels, a long didactic poem by  the playwright Thomas Heywood (ca. 1570-1641) which also features Lucifer and his fallen angels, and includes many folkloric anecdotes and tales of demonic creatures engaged in spreading dread and devilment. Note the tumbling angels falling towards a demonic mouth on the right hand side of the title page below.

Keynes.C.10.01 title page

The hierarchie of the blessed angels. Their names,orders and offices. The fall of Lucifer with his angels by Thomas Heywood: London, 1635. Keynes.C.10.01

One illustration within the volume depicts the Archangel Michael standing victorious over the defeated Satan and his minions:

The Archangel Michael
Page 494 of Keynes.C.10.01

A detail from another appears to show a court of horned demons in hell:

Demons in hell. A detail from Keynes.C.10.01 page 406

Elsewhere, men of God try to ward off the forces of evil:

Detail from page 462 of Keynes.C.10.01

The poem has many evocative descriptions of various creatures up to the kind of  mischief and mayhem you might associate with Halloween:

Pugs and hob-goblins disturbing people’s sleep with their revels. Extract from page 574 of Keynes.C.10.01

Spooky inhabitants of church yards. Extract from page 505 of Keynes.C.10.01

Another passage vividly describes the marks by which evil creatures may be identified, including hooked noses and flaming eyes:

Extract from page 581 of Keynes.C.10.01

One of the anecdotes later in the text tells of a German illusionist who performed an aerial display with a woman and child in tow, only to end his life being burned at the stake as a witch:

Extract from page 613 of Keynes.C.10.01

Other works on demonology held in the Library include a late 16th-century Latin tome by a German theologian, Peter Thyraeus (1546-1601) and an 18th-century pamphlet by theologian William Whiston (1667-1752):

Title page of Daemoniaci, hoc est: De obsessis a spiritibvs daemoniorvm hominibvs by Peter Thyraeus, Cologne, 1598. D.8.5/1

Title page of An account of the daemoniacks, and of the power of casting out demons … by William Whiston: London, 1737. Keynes.F.10.14/8

The latter work describes the manner in which demons were cast out in the early years of Christianity:

Extract from page 56 of Keynes.F.10.14/8

Whatever you are doing this Halloween, stay safe out there, and watch out for things that go bump in the night!

AC

What’s in a Letter?

As we’ve seen in a previous post, illuminations in incunabula can be seen as a remnant of the manuscript tradition that persisted in the transition to the printing era. In our copy of Ognibene Bonisoli’s De octo partibus orationis (Padua, 1474), bequeathed to King’s College by Jacob Bryant (1715-1804), there are no guide letters in the spaces left blank for the illuminator, so it was up to him to choose which letter to write. On the first page is Bonisoli’s dedication to his pupil, the condottiere Federico Gonzaga (1441-84), who later became the third marquess of Mantua.

Federico Gonzaga (right) in one of Andrea Mantegna’s frescos in the Camera degli Sposi in Mantua, painted between 1465 and 1474.

Instead of inserting an “E” to give “En humanissime pri[n]ceps” (Lo, most humane leader), the illuminator added an “I”: “Inhumanissime pri[n]ceps” (Most inhumane leader):

First leaf of Ognibene Bonisoli’s De octo partibus orationis (Padua: Bartholomaeus de Valdezoccho and Martinus de Septem Arboribus, 1474; Bryant.XV.3.6). The manuscript inscription at the top indicates that the book belonged to the church of Santa Maria Incoronata in Milan, which was completed in 1460.

Though this is most likely to have been an unintentional error on the illuminator’s part, whose Latin perhaps was not up to scratch, it is tempting to imagine that it may have been a parting shot from a disgruntled employee on his final day at work…

IJ

A summer holiday in the Lakes

The ongoing project to catalogue the Library’s Bicknell Collection of books relating to the Lake District [see earlier blog post] continues to uncover fascinating items, not least among them being a small leather-bound, handwritten journal, documenting a family holiday in the Lakes in late August and early September 1877.

Cover of journal

Cover of Bicknell.148

The journal was written by one of Peter Bicknell’s uncles, Claude Lynnford Bicknell (1860-1882), who would have been 17 at the time. He travelled by train from his home in Beckenham, Kent, with his parents and his sister, Kathleen. Gentle sibling rivalry is suggested by a note on the back of the title page of Claude’s journal, which aims to dissociate it from his sister’s diary, referred to as “… the establishment round the corner.”

Note about Kathleen's diary

Bicknell.148 “N.B. I beg to state this journal has no connection with the establishment round the corner, viz. a journal edited by Miss KE Bicknell.”

The family were initially based at Cloudsdale’s Crown Hotel, in Windermere, moving after a week to the Borrowdale Hotel, Derwentwater.  Tucked into the journal are various travel ephemera, including this leaflet advertising the Crown:

Hotel promotion leaflet

Bicknell.148 Leaflet advertising Cloudsdale’s Crown Hotel

Claude has an engaging style of writing, and much of the pleasure to be derived from reading the journal is contained in his wry (albeit often rather snobbish) observations regarding the people he encounters, and his grumbles and gripes about topics such as the weather and the quality of the hotel food.

Observations on dinner in the hotel

Bicknell.148 page 2: “Dinner was so so, and the company decidedly seedy consisting of 4 old men, 4 old women; 3 young women with an old one in charge and […?] N.M’s: nearly all Yanks or Lancashires. After a very good desert, by far the best thing in the dinner, an old man got up & said a long and disjointed grace which of course sent Kathleen and myself into convulsions.”

Observations on a coach trip

Bicknell.148 page 14 “…all the rest of the seats were filled with Lancashire people, the men looking like farmers and the women like cooks … The coach is a very seedy turn out, drawn by 4 frightful screws.”

Occasionally Claude’s complaints veer into outright hyperbole, as seen most clearly in his reaction to heavy rain spoiling plans to go fishing on the first day of the holiday. With a wonderful turn of phrase he writes “Well, of all the horrid, disgusting, inhuman, blackguard days that were ever invented, to-day has been the very worst”.

Complaints about the weather

Bicknell.148 page 4. A very wet day

Better weather eventually allowed the family to make several fairly successful fishing trips, and to enjoy walks and excursions to local beauty spots. Claude took a turn rowing the boat during one fishing trip, and seems to have been very pleased with his performance:

A fishing trip

Bicknell.148 page 9: “My rowing was a very superior article and I caught a good many shell fish (crabs) & ducked every one in the boat several times.”

In typical teenager fashion however, he bemoans the decision of his mother to forbid him from going swimming:

Forbidden to bathe in the lake

Bicknell.148 page 12: “Bye the bye I wish to record here that during this day she refused to allow me to bathe in the lake. I think she imagines I shall drown in 20 or 30 feet of water because I am only accustomed to about 7.”

Illustrations in the journal are provided by engravings that Claude has repurposed from books or tourist pamphlets, and he is careful to note where artistic license has been employed:

Illustration of a hotel

Bicknell.148 page 18 “Something like only it is really much further from the lake”

The journal ends rather abruptly on Sunday the 2nd of September, with no indication as to whether this was actually the end of the holiday or simply the point at which Claude got bored with writing an account of each day. The final paragraph is slightly bizarre, featuring as it does, four alligators that apparently resided at the hotel!

Visiting the alligators

Bicknell.148 page 66 “During the day the number of people flocking to see 4 seedy little alligators which belong to the hotel was wonderful. They came in a string from morning to night.”

Claude went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, matriculating in 1879. That same year he was awarded a silver medal for political geography by the Royal Geographical Society. Sadly, he only lived a few more years, dying in 1882. It appears he was struck by a cricket ball at Fenner’s cricket ground in Cambridge. It seems likely that his untimely demise made his journal a treasured keepsake for his family, ensuring that it was preserved for posterity.

AC

 

An Astonishing Transformation

THE OBJECT

In the archives we have this somewhat intimidating collection of College records:

KCA/684: Before

Intimidating because it’s mostly 15th-century Latin, and it’s in this temporary-looking heavy straw-board folder

The old packaging

from the early 20th century which is itself falling apart, and you worry the pages will get out of place. Yet everything says it’s important: the vellum is so fine and soft that it drapes like fabric (nice to handle but it means you have to pay careful attention when turning pages), the wide margins bespeak a luxurious undertaking, and it’s one of the College’s oldest of its own documents. The first thing recorded in this volume is a detailed inventory of the College’s valuables in 1453-7.

THE TRANSFORMATION

Or at least we did have this intimidating object, until it was conserved over the winter by the Conservation Consortium and restored to what must be a very close approximation of its former glory.

During this process the Consortium carefully diagrammed all the quires, showing where blank pages had been cut out for use elsewhere:

Quire diagram

Then they flattened, under controlled humidification, and cleaned the pages,

Flattening the pages under weights

stabilising those that had the worst historic damage using Japanese paper. This is a soft tissue paper, often handmade, of consistent quality and free from impurities such as iron particles which can lead to paper degradation, rust spots, or ‘foxing’. It is transparent so that it can be glued over tears in existing pages while still allowing the text to be read, and allows for easily reversible interventions.

Based on evidence found within the book

Evidence of previous binding

and drawing from other historical contemporary book structures they recreated a late medieval-style binding. Boards were hand-carved from quarter cut planks of seasoned oak. The bookblock was carefully sewn to achieve a flat, well-supported opening,

Sewing the block

finishing it off with a quarto style alum-tawed (white) leather binding.

Claude applying glue to the leather binding

Sewing the binding to the spine of the book

Book conservator Claude Grewal-Sultze even went to the Bodleian Library to learn lessons from the conservation project on the Winchester Bible.

The result looks fabulous and now it’s hard to keep your hands off it – the smooth oak end-boards present a friendly, inviting surface.

KCA/684: After

Decorative sewing on the endband

You still have to be careful turning the soft pages of course. The document even appears smaller and lighter than it had done. Archivists will be surprised to hear that even after conservation and in its new protective box (made of archive-quality mid-weight cardboard), it fits in its old location.

The total cost of the renovation was £5000. This has been paid for by a generous donor, to whom we are very grateful.  

THE CONTENT

The volume contains more than just the inventory advertised on the cover, though it’s a magnificent inventory, befitting the holdings of a royal institution. We hope to publish a commentary on it in due course. The volume contents are:

1453-7 inventory (folios 3-12), high points of Henry VI’s charters for King’s (folios 13-26), Library books (folios 58r-65v), a list of members of the foundation (folios 70-77), and pledges (folio 81). There are blank pages between the sections, showing a consciousness that King’s was here to stay – further information would be added in due course.

Space on the page for additions

Due to the specially designed binding, the volume can be opened flat without causing damage.

The 1453-7 inventory was published by G. Williams (‘Ecclesiastical Vestments, Books, and Furniture, in the Collegiate Church of King’s College, Cambridge, in the Fifteenth Century’, three articles in The Ecclesiologist, 20 (1859), 304-15; 21 (1860), 1-7; and 24 (1863), 99-102). Williams left out additions to the inventory subsequent to the original scribe’s activity. These additions were transcribed by MR James and W St John Hope in a copy of Williams’s article (call mark Coll 2/23).

In 2018, various sections of this volume featured in an article Peter Jones wrote (‘Commemoration at a Royal College’, pages 106-122 from Commemoration in Medieval Cambridge, ed. John S. Lee and Christian Steer, in the series ‘The History of the University of Cambridge: Texts and Studies’ published by Boydell Press for Cambridge University Library).

SUBSEQUENTLY

Many of the objects listed here can be found in inventories made 50 or more years later (call mark KCA/22).

KCA/22 also left space for additions

The 1554 inventory in that book is interesting because in the intervening years the vestments had been turned into costumes – see our online exhibition about Queen Elizabeth’s 1564 visit.

Although not as elegantly presented as KCA/684, KCA/22 is still a spaciously designed book with a variety of flourished capitals and a use of display scripts. The inventories in KCA/22 were transcribed by MR James (Provost of King’s) and W St John Hope (antiquarian), and those transcriptions can be found in the archives under call marks Coll 2/23 and KCA/687. The same donation is covering the cost of conserving KCA/22. Part of the conservation will include replacement of the stiff parchment cover which has shrunk, making the pages’ leading edges vulnerable.

Peter Jones, Fellow Librarian
Patricia McGuire, Archivist

 

The Cadbury Bequest

Thanks to a generous bequest from Sir Adrian Cadbury (1929-2015), King’s College Library has been able to continue the process of cataloguing its collection of rare books. Sir Adrian was great-grandson of John Cadbury, a tea and coffee merchant in Birmingham who later manufactured cocoa powder. John’s sons developed a chocolate recipe in 1866 and went on to build the famous Bournville model village near Birmingham, introducing the Dairy Milk brand in 1905. Sir Adrian came up to King’s in 1949 to read economics. He joined the family business straight from university and became a director of Cadbury Bros in 1958. He retired from his position at Cadbury in 1989, and in his distinguished career was also a director of the Bank of England (1970-94) and of IBM (1975-94).

The Cadbury bequest has so far enabled us to catalogue over 200 incunabula, i.e. books printed before 1501. Some of these, such as a few statutes passed during the reign of King Henry VII and printed between 1496 and 1501, are not preserved in any other library. Other rare highlights include two copies of the 1470 editio princeps of Petrarch’s Canzoniere, one of the most important works in Italian literature of which only about 30 copies survive in public libraries worldwide:

“Voi ch’ascoltate in rime sparse il suono”: the opening of Petrarch’s Canzoniere, first printed in Venice by Vindelino da Spira in 1470 (Bryant.XV.2.11)

There are only three known copies of this 1495 edition of John Mirk’s Liber festivalis (Book of Festivals), a collection of homilies for the liturgical festivals as they were celebrated in Mirk’s native Shropshire at the time. The woodcut title page depicts the Annunciation and the Tree of Jesse:

Title page of John Mirk’s Liber festivalis (Rouen: James Ravynell, 1495) (Bryant.XV.3.24)

The book belonged to the noted Anglo-Saxon scholar Elizabeth Elstob (1683-1756), whose signature is visible on the right. On the title page verso is another woodcut featuring the Crucifixion and, at the foot of the page, Christ carrying the cross:

Title page verso of John Mirk’s Liber festivalis (Bryant.XV.3.24)

Happy Easter from all of us at King’s College Library and Archives; we hope you enjoy some Cadbury chocolate this Easter!

IJ

LGBT History Month in King’s Library

King’s Library and Archives were pleased to join the rest of the College in marking the start of LGBT history month by putting on an exhibition in the Library featuring items written by and relating to prominent LGBT King’s figures, including the novelist E.M. Forster and codebreaker Alan Turing, along with a display of borrowable LGBT-themed books. We are delighted to be able to share the exhibition here.

One of the earliest books about sexual practices to cover the subject of homosexuality, albeit in a negative way, was Psychopathia sexualis (1886), written by the Austro-German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840–1902). Here we see an English translation, by Kingsman Arthur Vivian Burbury (1896–1959).

Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Aberrations of sexual life (London, 1951) (Shelfmark: Store K Burb)

It was nearly thirty years later, in 1913, that novelist and Kingsman E.M. Forster (1879–1970) began his novel Maurice, which was ‘dedicated to a happier year’. He shared drafts with close friends and revised it throughout his life, taking their suggestions into account. It was published in 1971, shortly after he died. The 1987 Merchant Ivory adaptation of Maurice was partially filmed on location at King’s, and a number of Porters and Fellows appeared as extras in an early dining scene.

E.M. Forster, Carbon typescript of the 1932 version of Maurice. Penultimate page. (Reference: EMF/1/5/4)

E.M. Forster, Carbon typescript of the 1932 version of Maurice. Final page (Reference: EMF/1/5/4)

E.M. Forster, Carbon typescript of the 1932 version of Maurice. Opening (Reference: EMF/1/5/4)

Among E.M. Forster’s collection of books held in King’s College Library there is a copy of the first edition of Virginia Woolf’s fictional biography Orlando, given to him by the author herself. At the midpoint of the book the male Orlando goes to bed for several days and on awaking finds himself changed into a woman, remaining so for the rest of the book. Woolf dedicated Orlando to her great friend and lover Vita Sackville-West (1892–1962), who was the inspiration for the central character.

Virginia Woolf, Orlando: a biography (London, 1928) (Shelfmark: Forster.WOO.Orl.1928)

Some two decades later the now famous ‘Kinsey scale’ was created in order to demonstrate that sexuality does not fit into two discrete categories of homosexual and heterosexual. Instead, Alfred Kinsey (1894–1956) believed that sexuality was fluid and subject to change over time. The scale first appeared in his very influential work Sexual behaviour in the human male in 1948.

Alfred C. Kinsey [et al.], Sexual behaviour in the human male (Philadelphia, 1949) and Sexual behaviour in the human female (Philadelphia, 1953) (Shelfmarks: IKS Kin/1 and IKS Kin/2)

Famous WW2 codebreaker and Kingsman Alan Turing (1912–1954) sent this poignant letter to his friend Norman Routledge (1928-2013), also a Kingsman, shortly before his trial for gross indecency in 1952. To avoid prison Turing had to agree to hormonal treatment that amounted to chemical castration.

Letter from Alan Turing to Norman Routledge, February 1952 (Reference: AMT/D/14a)

                        Turing believes machines think
                        Turing lies with men
                        Therefore machines do not think
                                    Yours in distress

                                                                     Alan

This is E.M. Forster’s copy of a 1954 report by the Church of England issued for private circulation which advocated the legalisation of homosexual acts in private and the creation of a government commission on the subject. This appeared just two years after Turing’s tragically early death.

The problem of homosexuality: an interim report (London, 1954) (Shelfmark: Forster.CHU.Pro.1954)

In the same year Peter Wildeblood (1923–1999) was sent to prison for homosexuality along with Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and Michael Pitt-Rivers. He wrote an account of the infamous and high-profile trial and his time in prison which was published in 1955. He later gave evidence to the Wolfenden Committee. This is E.M. Forster’s copy of the book, showing Wildeblood’s description of what happened to him immediately after sentencing at the Winchester Assize Court.

Peter Wildeblood, Against the law (London, 1955) (Shelfmark: Forster.WILD.Aga.1955)

The ‘Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution’, chaired by John Wolfenden (1906–1985), first met in September 1954. Its report, published in 1957, recommended that homosexuality should be legalised, but it was not until 1967 that this became law. This is E.M. Forster’s copy.

Parliamentary debates (Hansard), House of Commons, official report, 596/22 (26 November 1958) (Shelfmark: Forster.PAR.1958)

In addition to our exhibition of rare materials we also displayed a sample of modern books from the holdings of King’s Library which can be borrowed by members of College.

On the day of the exhibition launch, King’s College, along with many other Cambridge Colleges, the University Library and the Guildhall, flew the rainbow flag which has been the symbol of LGBT pride for some four decades.

The rainbow flag being flown from the Gibbs building in King’s College.

JC

A Persian-Indian crowning jewel at King’s

In 1788 a letter of benefaction was received by the Provost and Fellows of King’s from Patna in India. A Kingsman by the name of Edward Ephraim Pote (1750-1832) was announcing that he had ‘acquired a collection of Persian Manuscripts amounting to more than five hundred and fifty volumes’ and was arranging to have them shipped to England to be divided between the colleges of King’s and Eton. This, he said, was ‘to shew my gratitude to those Foundations to whose institutions I am indebted for my education’ (King’s College Archives: KCAC/6/2/23 or LIB/10.2).

Our recent research confirms what has long been suspected, that the Pote manuscripts had formed the bulk of the collection of Colonel Antoine-Louis Polier (1741–1795). As Henry Bradshaw noted, Polier’s seal appears on a large number of the manuscripts and his autograph is on several of them. Polier was an officer and agent of the East India Company, assimilated into the Mughal Courts, and, later in his career, an orientalist, collector and patron of the arts in Lucknow. The collection is dominated by Persian manuscripts, but it also contains codices in Hindustani and Arabic.

At the invitation of Professor Jean Michel Massing and with the support of the Apelles Art History Fund we have recently catalogued the half of the Pote Collection belonging to King’s and made the records globally accessible via the union catalogue of manuscripts in British collections from the Islamicate world known as Fihrist (www.Fihrist.org.uk). The Apelles Art History Fund was established by King’s in 2016 to support original research in the history of art at the College, patrimonial acquisitions and the restoration of art works owned by the College. It commemorates Professor Massing’s contribution to the field and encourages continued exploration and discovery in the arts. In the first years, one of the priorities of the Fund is research on the College’s works of art, including the Pote Collection of Islamic manuscripts and the Keynes Art Collection.

To help raise awareness of the little-studied Pote Collection, this post introduces one of its highlights: King’s Pote MS 186. This manuscript, comprising a collection of poems, is a feast for the eyes: the lyrical verses are arranged in a calligraphic layout, penned by the famous ‘Royal Scribe’ (Kātib al-Sulṭānī) Mīr ‘Alī Haravī (flourished 915–951/1509–1544), framed by exquisitely decorated margins, and enclosed in a beautiful lacquer binding and doublures (inside bindings).

Left half of the double-page frontispiece, Dīvān of Hilālī, penned by Mīr ‘Alī Haravī, dated 938/1531-32 (King’s Pote MS 186).

Each page consists of a central text block with a narrow illuminated border, mounted within a frame (passe-partout) decorated either with drawings of flora and/or fauna in gold or with multi-coloured paintings with charming depictions of animals. Based on the artistic style and type of paper, the remounting was very probably executed in Mughal India.

Illuminated margins, floral decorations in gold (King’s Pote MS 186).

Mīr ‘Alī was an acknowledged master of calligraphy, especially prominent in a script known as nastaʿlīq. He worked in Herat and was moved to Bukhara around 935/1528–29.[1] His calligraphy was much prized in later centuries, especially at the court of Shah Jahan in India, and it is probable that the manuscript was remounted and decorated (and rebound) at the latter’s command. Although further research is required, there are signs the manuscript was once in Shah Jahan’s Royal Library: it bears an inspection note and the seal impression of ‘Abd al-Ḥaqq Amānat Khān, who might well be the calligrapher of that name (d. 1054–55/1644–45)[2] who designed the calligraphy on the Taj Mahal, and whose seal impression appears in other manuscripts from the Mughal Royal Library.

Lacquer binding showing fantastic landscape with dragon and simurgh (King’s Pote MS 186).

The manuscript has a lacquer-decorated binding depicting a hunt scene of fantastic and naturalistic animals, including a simurgh (a benevolent, mythical bird in Iranian mythology), a dragon, foxes, hares and birds of prey, all painted in glittering and bright colours on a blackground. The doublures, with a gold and ochre background, carry a diamond-shaped medallion (turanj) in black and gold, pendants in black and reddish brown, and corner pieces, all decorated with floral motifs. The ground depicts animals including a lion, a leopard, a fox, an antelope and a deer in a setting of sparse shrubs and flowers. The front and back covers and doublures are identical. The binding seems to be contemporary with the marginal illuminations and illustrations, and a product of the same Mughal royal atelier.

Lacquer doublure (inside front binding, King’s Pote MS 186).

Similar animals, in different poses, are illustrated among trees and flowers in some of the margins on both dark and light grounds. The palette used in these illustrations includes gold and a variety of vivid colours.

Illustrated margins showing flora and fauna in rich palettes on tinted paper (King’s Pote MS 186)

Illustrated margins showing flora and fauna in rich palettes on tinted paper (King’s Pote MS 186)

Illustrated margins showing flora and fauna in rich palettes on tinted paper (King’s Pote MS 186)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The textual content is a selection of lyrical poems (ghazals) by a prominent poet, Badr al-dīn Hilālī of Astarabad (d. 936/1529–30 or 939/1532–33). Hilālī had been in the literary circle of the Timurid Sultan Ḥusayn Bāyqarā (842–911/1438–1506) as a protégé of his bibliophile vizier, ‘Alīshīr Navā’ī (1441–1501), in Herat. Our manuscript, completed in 938/1531–32, is the earliest copy of Hilālī’s poetry and the closest to his time. To my knowledge, the second oldest manuscript from the same poet is dated 957/1550 (now in the Tehran Majles Library), almost two decades later than the King’s manuscript. Our manuscript was penned by the most prominent calligrapher of the time, Mīr ‘Alī Haravī, the Royal Scribe. The borders were illuminated and illustrated under the Mughals.

Although the poet’s date of death is a matter of debate, it is possible that this was copied before the poet was put to death for his religious beliefs, in which case he could have been involved in selecting his poems for this collection. Unfortunately, the first folio (right half of the double-page frontispiece), with the heading and title inscription, which could have contained some clues about the poet, has been lost and was replaced in the Mughal era (the first extant ghazal, i.e. a form of lyrical poem, begins partway through). We do not find any indication in the colophon that the poet had recently passed away. We know that the poet and the scribe were once companions at the court of the last Timurid Sultan in Herat in the late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-centuries, before both were moved to Bukhara to serve an Uzbek khan. Whether the poet was alive or not when the manuscript was penned is a question that requires further investigation. However, there is no doubt the textual content remains a significant early source for future editions of the ghazals of Hilālī’s dīvān.

Signed by the scribe, Mīr ‘Alī al-Kātib al-Sulṭānī, the Royal Scribe (King’s Pote MS 186, colophon).

There is a closely-related manuscript, which was also penned and compiled by Mīr ‘Alī Haravī, in 935/1529 in Bukhara (two to three years prior to our manuscript), and which contains a selection of poetry by eleven poets from the same courtly circle. That is MS C-860 which is housed in the Russian Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg, and comprises 56 folios with seven verses per page, arranged in a similar format to King’s Pote MS 186.[3] In that anthology, the dimensions of the text panels are smaller and the margins are not illuminated or illustrated but simply gold speckled. However, it contains two subsequently added illustrations. ‘Judging by the poem in the colophon, written by the author of the compilation [Mīr ‘Alī Haravī], the copy was intended for the Uzbek sovereign of Bukhara, the Shaibānid ‘Ubaid-Allāh Khān (died in 1533 [actually 1539]), an avid bibliophile.’[4] Based on the fact that the scribe Mīr ‘Alī Haravī was moved to Bukhara by ‘Ubayd-Allāh Khān (c. 935/1528–29) and the completion date of the King’s manuscript (938/1531–32), it is very likely that the patron of Hilālī’s dīvān was the same Shaybānid ruler ‘Ubayd-Allāh Khān. There is little doubt that the unnamed place where our manuscript was copied is again Bukhara.[5]

Poetry anthology, penned by Mīr ‘Alī Haravī, dated 935/1529 (MS C-860 in the Russian Academy of sciences, St Petersburg).

Poetry anthology, penned by Mīr ‘Alī Haravī, dated 935/1529 (MS C-860 in the Russian Academy of sciences, St Petersburg).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

King’s Pote MS 186 is the crowning jewel of the Pote collection at King’s. There is beauty in the masterful sixteenth-century penmanship from Bukhara, and in the exquisite decorated margins and binding that were probably added in a Mughal royal atelier around a century later. There is also great textual value in this early collection of verse by a noted contemporary poet. Of course, not all of Colonel Polier’s Lucknow manuscript collection was of this quality and value. But there are lesser treasures too, now in Cambridge, thanks to the efforts and generosity of Edward Pote.

Shiva Mihan

All manuscripts of the Pote Collection are on permanent loan at Cambridge University Library.

Endnotes
[1] O.F. Akimushkin listed a number of manuscripts in the hand of Mīr ‘Alī on p. 333 of his article on the Shaibānid library at Bukhara: ‘Biblioteka Shibanidov v Bukhare XVI veka’ in Bamberger Zentralasienstudien: Konferenzakten ESCAS IV, Bamberg 8-12. Oktober 1991, ed. I. Baldauf and M. Friederich (Berlin, 1994), pp. 325-41. See http://menadoc.bibliothek.uni-halle.de/iud/content/pageview/347600 .
[2] http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/amanat-khan-sirazi-abd-al-haqq
[3] For more details and reproductions of the manuscript, see Y. A. Petrosan et al. Pages of Perfection: Islamic paintings and calligraphy from the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg (Lugano, 1995), pp. 226–29.
[4] Ibid., p. 226.
[5]For information on the Shaybānids (or Abū al-Khayrids) see http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abul-khayrids-dynasty. For Bukhara see http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/bukhara-viii.