The manuscript was among the items obtained in 1883 from the collection of Alexander Hamilton (1767-1852). According to a note on f. 1r, it had been bought in Lucknow in 1767. The copy of unusual height is bound in red leather (without flap), stamped (central medallion with pendants, corner decoration; cartouches in the border) and painted in gold.
The headings at the beginnings of preface and poem were never executed. Some rubrics (in red) are lacking near the end.
The volume contains the 'old' preface, to which tables listing the Iranian kings with their deeds, and a glossary of names and terms were added. The text of the poem ends with the story of Arjasp.
The manuscript contains 42 text illustrations. At some places, the pictorial sequence is very dense while the last third of the book has only one miniature. Characteristically, the pictures do not closely represent the text, nor are they often placed very precisely, often occurring well before or well after the scenes they are apparently illustrating. There are many marginal additions to the text. The story of Bizhan and Manizha is followed by an interpolated Barzunama, one scene of which is illustrated.
Differences between the paintings may be due to divers models and/or different hands. Many miniatures have an overall 'Iranian' appearance caused by the lack of volume in figure painting, the dress of the women and elements of men's costume, sometimes also by flat architecture or a golden hill in the background. Some details point more to Central Asian models of the early 17th century than to Safavid work of the 16th. Other miniatures seem to be influenced by Mughal painting. Generally, the prominence of yellow, combined with thinly applied dark shades of green, brown, and purple for landscape background, and a deep blue sky, details of palace architecture and the way the walls of fortresses are depicted, and most of the costumes of courtiers, support an Indian origin. An attribution to the later 17th century should not be excluded, however.
W. Pertsch, Die Handschriftenverzeichnisse der königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin, 4: Verzeichnis der persischen Handschriften, Berlin, 1888, p. 734, no. 702a.
I. Stchoukine, B. Flemming, P. Luft & H. Sohrweide, Illuminierte islamische Handschriften, Wiesbaden, 1971, 177-9, no. 65.
G. van den Berg, "The Barzunama in the Berlin Shahnama manuscripts", in press in Ch. Melville, ed. Proceedings of the second Cambridge Shahnama Round Table, November 2003.