This manuscript, which had been in the possession of the Ottoman sultan 'Abd al-Majid (1839-61), entered the library in 1941. Completed on 19 Rajab 894 (18 June 1489) by Shams al-Din 'Ali b. Muhammad b. al-Husain al-Fakhr-Din al-Fushtaqi al-Kirmani, the volume is in many ways a typical product of the Shirazi workshops in the Turkman period. It is bound in dark-brown leather, decorated on the outside with stamped medallion, pendants and corner pieces filled with tendrils and birds and painted in gold. The doublures are made of light-brown leather with gilded filigree medallion, pendants and corner pieces over a blue ground. On both sides of the flap the corresponding sector of the decoration is exactly repeated.
The dominant blue background of the heading of the 'old' preface (f. 1v) and the double-page frontispiece (ff. 5v-6r) as well as their golden cartouches are filled with finely executed, sparsely coloured arabesques and flowers. Rubrics are written in gold directly on the paper and surrounded by the same kind of tendrils. The miniatures regularly spreading over the width of the four middle columns are most probably all by one artist, a well-versed representative of Turkman commercial painting.
What gives a special quality to the manuscript is its model. It makes itself felt in various respects. According to Khaleghi-Motlagh, the calligrapher must have had at his disposal an old and well preserved text of the poem. How closely he followed it one can also learn from the style of writing, the arrangement of the text in six columns, and the number of illustrations. With 87 miniatures, Ms. or. fol. 4255 is so far the most densely illustrated Turkman Shahnama. The proportion of illustrations (about one third) assigned to the 'historical' part of the epic is in accordance with Shirazi production of the Inju period, and the depiction of all 12 rukhs also points to the earlier model. However, the selection of subjects is obviously also under the impact of Shirazi Shahnama illustration since the 1440s.
Although the Turkman style with its simple arrangements, stock figures and faces, and stereotype landscape backgrounds is not a fertile ground for amazing compositions, some visual ideas are quite unusual (20v, 85v, 169r, 181r, 248v). Much emphasis is placed on details of the man-made environment, like the coloured turbans of men, the striped garment of women and their painted hands, the figures on blue-and-white porcelain, and the tile-work of palace architecture. The golden decoration on clothes always contains the same Chinese-looking but not clearly defined ornament. Combined with the strong but balanced colours this creates the impression of highly decorative paintings.
The fact that the overall execution of the manuscript ranks above the average quality of Shirazi Turkman work may be the result of a special commission. In the colophon (f. 317v) the (so far not identified) owner of the Shahnama is called shahryar Khwaja Karim al-Daula ... Hasan b. Khwaja 'Ala al-Daula wa'l-Dunya Muhammad al-Fakhrabadi al-Ramjirdi.
I. Stchoukine, B. Flemming, P. Luft & H. Sohrweide, Illuminierte islamische Handschriften, Wiesbaden, 1971, pp. 39-46, no. 10.
J. Khaliqi-Mutlaq, "Mu’arrifi va arz-yabi-yi barkhi az dastnavishta-yi Shahnama", Irannama 3 (1364/1985), p. 405, no. 29.
The manuscript contains three Ottoman seal types, one of which (f. 8r) is that of Sultan Ahmad III 1703-30).