Ottoman Book Culture : Kalīlah va-Dimnah

Abū al-Maʻālī Naṣr Allāh ibn Muḥammad ibn Ḥamīd Munshī (fl. 12th c.)

Ottoman Book Culture

<p style='text-align: justify;'> This unillustrated Persian translation of <i>Kalīlah va Dimnah</i> (Fables of Bidpai) was originally completed by Abū al-Maʻālī Naṣr Allāh ibn Muḥammad ibn Ḥamīd Munshī Shīrāzī (fl. 12th c.) between 538–540 AH (1143–1146 CE). Since he completed it at the behest of his patron, Bahrām Shāh of Ghazna (r. 1117–1152), it is commonly known as the <i>Kalīlah va Dimnah-yi Bahrām Shāhī</i>. He based it upon an earlier Arabic version of Ibn al-Muqaffaʻ, (d. ca. 760), copies of which are also held in the John Rylands Library (see Arabic MS 2 and Arabic MS 60), which was translated in turn from a now-lost Pahlavi Middle Persian translation of the Sanskrit <i>Panchatantra</i> (Five Treatises). However, this work is no mere translation, for the stories are imaginatively recast and augmented with Arabic quotations from the <i>Qur’ān</i> and <i>Hadith</i> traditions, and aphorisms, interspersed with lines of poetry, resulting in a style that ultimately revolutionized medieval Persian literature. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'> This manuscript, completed in 616 AH (1219 CE), is one of two Persian redactions held in the John Rylands Library (the other being Persian MS 91), and is the third-earliest copy known to survive. Surprisingly, it is older than any surviving manuscript of the Arabic redaction. It was formerly held in the library of the Ottoman ruler Sultan Beyazid II (1447–1512, r. 1481–1512), then subsequently acquired by French orientalist Joseph Marie Jouannin (1783–1844) who later presented it to his friend and fellow scholar Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de Sacy (1758–1838). </p>


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