Lot 25
  • 25

Al-Shadili. Kitab Sifat al-Nabi wa Hizb al-Bahr, illuminated Arabic manuscript on paper, made for al-Amir Khayirbek, the governor of Egypt, copied and illuminated by Khadir bin Yusuf al-Azhari, Egypt, Ottoman, probably A.H.926/A.D.1519

15,000 - 20,000 GBP
54,500 GBP
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13 leaves, nine lines per page written in the six classical cursive scripts in black or red ink, first, fifth and ninth lines larger and occasionally written in eastern kufic and ornamental thuluth scripts, gold discs decorated with coloured dots between verses, margins ruled in gold, opening page with title and author's name written above and below an illuminated panel with dedication written in white thuluth script, the closing double-page with two panels of square kufic, contemporary blind-tooled and stamped brown morocco binding, somewhat worn, doublures of marbled paper

Catalogue Note

Al-Amir Khayirbek, for whom this copy of al-Shadili's Sifat al-Nabi and Hizb al-Bahr was made, first ruled as Governor of Aleppo (910/1504). He remained in office until the Ottoman invasion and in 923 (1517) was appointed Governor of Egypt. The present manuscript refers to him as ''al-Amir Khayirbek the commander in chief, the prince Regent of the noble land of Egypt'' and thus must have been written while Khayirbek was governor of Egypt under the Ottoman rule. The date that currently shows on the colophon of the manuscript reads 826. However, inspected under close magnification, it appears that this date has been altered from 926 (the ink defining the head of the number nine seems to have been plucked away and then re-inking transformed the original nine into an eight), a date indeed far more likely, since it fits exactly with what we know of Khayirbek's life.

The title-page mentions that the text contains Sifat al-Nabi and Hizb al-Bahr. The present text is mainly concerned with the Prophet Muhammad, his names, attributes and characteristics and thus appears to be one volume only from a larger production, part of which (Hizb al-Bahr) was possibly lot 18 sold in these rooms 14th October 1999.

This manuscript is notable for the panoply of scripts displayed throughout. It includes an opening double-page with one line in large muhaqqaq script surmounted by smaller lines written in honor of Ibn Hilal (Ibn al-Bawwab) and two panels of square Kufic - one with the Shahada in gold surrounded by the phrase Al-'Azamat li-Illah (the magnificence of God) repeated four times, the other repeating the information given within the opening page's illuminated panel. The other leaves present three different scripts per page including a playful thuluth, where letters are looped together in a vivid fashion, and a fine ornamental eastern Kufic script.

A closely related manuscript is in the Topkapi Saray Library (125 70, and 609). For an illustration of one of its pages with large muhaqqaq script and smaller lines mentioning the name of Ibn Hilal (as do folios 1 and 2 of the present manuscript) see Schimmel 1990, p.20.