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Ms. or. fol. 359
Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (in index)
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© Berlin, Staatsbibliotheek zu Berlin - Preussischer Kulturbesitz - Orientabteilung
Accession Number:
Ms. or. fol. 359
Gregorian Date:
16th century (third quarter)
The seal on folio 7 carries the name Ahmad b. Muhammad (Ahmad I (1603-17) or Ahmad III (1703-30)).
Folios extant in ms.:
Columns x Rows:
4 x 25
Page Size (h x w):
490 x 215 mm
Text Size (h x w):
290 x 160 mm
Sample Page Folio:
Ms Type:
Ms Status:
Completion Status:
Ready to upload to website
Illuminations in ms:
Illustrations in ms:
41 ( 3 frontispiece(s) 32 Shahnama 2 Garshaspnama 4 other [ Samnama ] )
Illustration Records in archive:
Last updated by:
Date last updated:
0000-00-00 00:00:00
Public Notes
The manuscript entered the library in the first half of the 19th century. According to a stamp it once belonged to the Ottoman sultan Ahmad b. Muhammad, either Ahmad I (1603-17) or Ahmad III (1703-30).

It is bound in dark-brown leather, which is barely visible because of the stamped and gilded decoration on the outside. The decoration consists of a geometrically divided central area, panels above and beneath with two cartouches each, and a border with cartouches. While the central area and the border cartouches are filled with flowering tendrils and cloud ribbons, the cartouches in the panels contain verses in praise of the binding (jild) comparing it to paradise. The doublures are made of red-brown leather divided into a central area with a gilded filigree medallion, pendants and corner pieces on coloured ground, a border with stamped cartouches completely gilded, and an undecorated frame. The background of the central area shows stamped and gilded tendrils and cloud ribbons. The binding, which has lost its flap, is obviously of Shirazi origin and contemporary with the manuscript.

A double-page frontispiece miniature (ff. 2v-3r) represents Solomon and his court and Bilqis with her attendants. Finely drawn and rich of details this painting is of higher quality than the other illustrations. The miniature is surrounded by an illumination of c. 8 cm width filled with tendrils and cloud ribbons. Illumination continues on ff. 3v-4r including verses in praise of Firdausi and the beginning of the Baysunghur preface within a 20-pointed golden star. The dark-blue background and the golden ground of the larger decorative elements are again filled with flowering tendrils and cloud ribbons. Another double-page illumination on ff. 9v-10r contains the beginning of the epic, written in scalloped spaces left free by the golden ground - and on f. 9v a heading presenting the title of the work. The decorative paintings in gold on f. 1v and on the margins of openings containing illustrations are probably of a later date.

The 41 miniatures contained in the ms. were attributed by Stchoukine to at least seven painters working in the same atelier. It seems, however, unlikely that such a large number of artists belonged to a commercial workshop in Shiraz. The style and quality of all text illustrations are consistent. The panoramic pictures display a huge number of figures, usually not involved in secondary action but forming large groups of spectators, attendants or soldiers encircling the main actors from all sides.

Of the 38 miniatures illustrating the epic, 27 represent episodes of the legendary part (including an interpolation from the story of Jamshid and a scene from the Garshaspnama), and four belong to the interpolated Samnama (c. ff. 48-86). Whereas the massing of figures imposes on every scene the impression of a state occasion there is not even one picture of an enthronement, the standard presentation of royal glory. Before the start of the “historical” part of the Shahnama the Iranian kings are mostly absent from the scene. It is their paladins who fight the Turanians, demons and fabulous beasts.

(Karin Ruhrdanz)


W. Pertsch, Die Handschriftenverzeichnisse der königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin, 4: Verzeichnis der persischen Handschriften, Berlin, 1888, pp. 736-8, no. 706.

I. Stchoukine, B. Flemming, P. Luft & H. Sohrweide, Illuminierte islamische Handschriften, Wiesbaden, 1971, pp. 53-61, no. 19.

Dating Ref:
Stchoukine, I. et al. Illuminierte Islamische Handschriften. (in Orientalische Handschriften in Deutschland) 16 (1971) Franz Steiner Verlag GMBH. Wiesbaden. Germany.
Origin Ref:
Stchoukine, I. et al. Illuminierte Islamische Handschriften. (in Orientalische Handschriften in Deutschland) 16 (1971) Franz Steiner Verlag GMBH. Wiesbaden. Germany.
Illustration Ref:
Stchoukine, I. et al. Illuminierte Islamische Handschriften. (in Orientalische Handschriften in Deutschland) 16 (1971) Franz Steiner Verlag GMBH. Wiesbaden. Germany.
Illustration in archive - 41     (back to top)
sample page
f. 002v
Sulayman enthroned (frontispiece)
f. 003r
Bilqis enthroned (frontispiece)
f. 006r
Frontispiece (recto side)
f. 012v
The Div Khazarvan fights Siyamak
f. 019r
Scene from another epic
f. 025v
Scene from the Garshaspnama
f. 042r
The murder of Iraj
f. 057r
Scene from the Samnama
f. 068r
Scene from the Samnama
f. 076v
Scene from the Samnama
f. 082v
Scene from the Samnama
f. 105v
Rustam kills Zal's white elephant
f. 124v
Rustam's seventh labour: he kills the White Div
f. 130r
Kay Kavus airborne
f. 146r
The fire ordeal of Siyavush
f. 155v
Siyavush plays polo before Afrasiyab
f. 165v
Guruy executes Siyavush
f. 190r
Piran attacks the Iranian camp at night
f. 198r
Human fights Tus
f. 210r
Rustam captures and kills Kamus
f. 224v
Rustam pulls the Khaqan of Chin from his elephant by lasso
f. 233v
Akvan Div flings Rustam into the sea
f. 237r
Manizha entertains Bizhan in the meadows
f. 239v
Piran stays the execution of Bizhan
f. 249v
Rustam rescues Bizhan from the pit
f. 271r
The sixth combat: Bizhan kills Ruyin
f. 285v
Kay Khusrau kills Shida
f. 304v
The execution of Afrasiyab
f. 319r
Gushtasp kills a dragon in Rum
f. 345v
Isfandiyar's fifth labour: he kills the Simurgh
f. 374r
Rustam shoots Isfandiyar in the eyes with a double-pointed arrow
f. 381v
Rustam kills Shaghad before dying
f. 385v
The execution of Faramarz
f. 409r
Khizr at the Fountain of Life
f. 421v
Ardashir is defeated by Haftvad
f. 436r
Ta'ir beheaded before Shapur
f. 451r
Bahram Gur fights two lions to win the throne
f. 470r
Bahram Gur wrestles before Shangul
f. 485r
Anushirvan executes Mazdak and his followers
f. 529r
Bahram Chubina kills the fleeing Sava Shah
f. 576r
Shirin greets Khusrau Parviz on his way to the hunt