Art And Culture

Old Manuscripts at Bonhams Auction

A page from Zakhira-i KhwarazmshahiA page from Zakhira-i Khwarazmshahi

Bonhams Auction House, one of the world’s largest and most renowned international auctioneers of fine art and antiques, motorcars and jewelry, has offered a selection of old manuscripts in its auction, including a copy from a book by royal Persian physician Zayn al-Din Gorgani (1040-1136).

Zayn al-Din Sayyed Ismail ibn Husayn Gorgani, also spelled al-Jurjani, was an Islamic physician from Gorgan who in 1110 became a court physician to Khwarazm-Shah Qutb al-Din Muhammad I (reigning 1097-1127), the governor of Khwarazm Province, a large oasis region on the Amu Darya river delta in western Central Asia.

The manuscript is among the items included in an upcoming auction organized by the London branch of Bonhams, titled ‘Islamic & Indian Art Including Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art.’

The auction starts October 23 at 2 pm at the venue of the local branch on New Bond Street. The manuscript is estimated at $9,200-$12,000, according to

Dated 1472-73, the manuscript in 102 leaves, is part of Zakhira-i Khwarazmshahi (Treasury of Khwarazmshahi), a large Persian medical book dedicated to the governor of Khwarazm.

The pages include naskh script in black. Significant sentences and words are picked out in red. Chapter headings are written in large black thuluth script. The pages have been re-margined in the late 18th or early 19th century. The spine of the book has been repaired.

The original text of Zakhira-i Khwarazmshahi was composed at some point before AD 1110 or 1111, and is generally held to be the first major medical work written in Persian, drawing on the medical literature of the period, and combining the knowledge in one work for convenience.

There is another medical manuscript from the 15th century at the auction. It is a copy of Kitab al-Hawi fi Tebb, the Comprehensive Book on Medicine written in 25 volumes by Persian polymath Razi (854-925) in Arabic.

The 465-leave manuscript is dated 1496-97 and is estimated at $26,000-40,000. It is written in elegant nastaliq script. Titles and names are picked out in red. Inner margins are ruled in blue and gold.

Also on sale is an Ottoman Turkish manuscript of Yusuf & Zuleykha, a well-known romantic poem about Joseph, an important figure in the Bible and the Quran, and Zuleykha, wife of Potiphar, a captain in the court of Egypt.

The poem is in 168 leaves. The illustrated pages are in two columns of nastaliq script. Double intercolumnar rules and inner margins are in gold. Eight miniatures in Ottoman style have probably been added at a later date. The manuscript is estimated at $2,000-2,600.

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