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 <em>Gulistan</em> by Sa&lsquo;di

Gulistan by Sa‘di

To increase the prestige of their libraries, later Safavid, Mughal, and Ottoman connoisseurs collected manuscripts that had been copied in nasta‘liq by master calligraphers. Chief among them were works by Sultan Ali Mashhadi. Not only was he one of the most illustrious calligraphers of his day, but he was also closely associated with the Timurid court, which set the standard for cultural sophistication for later rulers. This copy of the Gulistan (Rose garden), an anthology of poems by the Persian poet Sa‘di (died 1292), is acknowledged as one of the finest manuscripts Sultan Ali Mashhadi ever produced.

The calligrapher’s carefully penned signature appears in the triangular colophon. Later owners and librarians added their names and comments, more or less elegantly, in various styles of nasta‘liq. One somewhat clumsy example is located to the right of the triangle. Written by the Mughal ruler Jahangir (reigned 1605–27), the inscription maintains: “This is one of my earliest books. I read it constantly. Written by Nur al-Din Jahangir, son of King Akbar.”

Gulistan by Sa‘di
Signed by Sultan Ali Mashhadi (d. 1520)
Historic Iran, present-day Afghanistan, Herat, Timurid period, dated 1486 (891 AH)
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Lent by the Art and History Collection LTS1995.2.30 folios 78v–79r