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Folio from a <em>Shahnama</em> by Firdawsi

Folio from a Shahnama by Firdawsi

Before the emergence of the nasta‘liq script around 1400, most Persian texts, whether in prose or verse, were copied in a round cursive script called naskh. This folio, from a copy of the Shahnama (Book of kings) by the Persian poet Firdawsi (died 1020), exemplifies the naskh style.

One of the so-called six codified scripts (aqlam al-sitte), naskh is characterized by a strong sense of horizontality, with words, singled-out letters, and syllables placed on the baseline. In fourteenth-century Iran, scribes adapted naskh for the transcription of Persian, most notably by increasing downward slopes from right to left. This feature, combined with the ease of executing the script, later became essential elements of the nasta‘liq style.

Folio from a Shahnama by Firdawsi
Signed by Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Ali al-Husayni
Iran, Shiraz, Inju period, dated 1341 (741 AH)
Ink and gold on paper
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery S1986.109