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THE AFTERLIFE OF A ROYAL GIFT: THE OTTOMAN INSERTS OF THE SHĀHNĀMA-I SHĀHĪ

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This article analyzes a group of Ottoman inserts added to the Shāhnāma-i Shāhī, the famous copy of Firdawsi’s Book of Kings made for the Safavid shah Tahmasp I. It is well known that this manuscript was given by Tahmasp to the Ottoman sultan Selim II in 1568 and remained in Istanbul for over three centuries, and yet almost no attention has been paid to this period of ownership. This neglect is all the more remarkable given the Ottomans’ own intense engagement with the book, for in 1800–1801, Selim II’s namesake successor, Selim III, commissioned his chief gunkeeper, Mehmed ʿArif, to provide all 258 of the manuscript’s paintings with Ottoman-inscribed inserts. Most of these inserts were lost with Arthur Houghton’s dismemberment of the book, but forty of them are preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. While ostensibly intended as a Turkish abridgement of the Persian text, the inserts also provide an important record of how the Shāhnāma-i Shāhī was received in its late Ottoman context. This in turn yields invaluable information on how illustrated manuscripts, as well as Firdawsi’s epic, were more generally viewed and understood in the Islamic world.

10.1163/22118993-90000416
/content/journals/10.1163/22118993-90000416
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/content/journals/10.1163/22118993-90000416
2012-03-27
2018-04-20

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