Provenance: according to the information on the fly leaf the manuscript was presented to the library by Major R.G. Gayer-Anderson (Pasha) and Col. T.G. Gayer-Anderson on 19 January 1943.
The copy contains colophons at the end of each of the four sections (jild) into which the volume is divided: section 1 on f. 190r, section 2 on 332v, section 3 on 451r and 578r at the end. The date of its copying can be extracted only from the colophon on f.451r: 6 Rajab 1214/ 7 August 1799, with another date 915, which can be the date of the protograph used by the calligrapher in his work.
Both colophons (ff. 451r and 578r) also have name of the calligrapher and the place he worked: Rahim Bakhsh son of Muhammad Bakhsh son of Pir Muhammad hafiz-i Qur’an. The date of completion in the final colophon (f. 578r) is partly damaged: the month is clear, 6 rabi‘ al-awwal, but the year is illegible, and has been replaced in a later hand with the year 806 (?); it must presumably have been the year after part 3 was completed, so 6 Rabi` I, 1215 (= ). The place is Sialkot (modern Pakistan).
The calligraphy, paper and mostly paintings witness the Indian origin of the copy. The handwriting is nasta‘liq of the moderate rate, with characteristic Indian cursive elements of the end of the 18-19 cc. Text in Indian ink, headings are mostly missing, if they exist - they are in red, which is much faded.
Total foliage is 578 ff., which appears to represent the full copy, however heavily interpolated and without any prose preface. Book is divided into 4 parts.
Ff.190v-191r and 451v-452r are left empty.
Text is organized in 4 columns of 25 lines; page size: 351 x 205 mm; text size: 277 x 157 mm.
Incipit pretends to be normative (with the regular first misra only):
ba jan-i khudavand-u jan-u khirad
K-az in bar mi andisha bar naguzarad
Pasandida kardam yaqin-i pak-buy
Zi pay-u zi amr-u shudam mushk-buy
The paper is Oriental, thin, matt, creamy, of the moderate quality. The binding is very simple, of light brown leather with lilac crepe paper glued over both exterior covers.
The manuscript is in good condition, restored, partly remargined.
The copy is decorated with 4 unwans (ff.1v, 191v, 333v, 452v). The 1st is of a very simple design of floral and geometric ornament. Green ate several significant holes. Basmalla inside it crossed out! Three others are of better quality and condition with the basmalla left untouched.
There are 66 illustrations in Indian style. On the flyleaf there is an inscription by one of the owners with the notes about the amount of paintings in every chapter: “book 1 - 17 paintings; book 2 - 17 paintings; book 3 - 13 paintings; book 4 - 17 paintings; Total: 64”, while actually there are 66 of them.
Two spaces are left blank, where the miniatures with the following subjects were supposed to be entered:
f.146v – Farud battles Giv and f. 147r – Bizhan battles Farud.
The size and shape of paintings differ. Most of the miniatures are not big in size, of about one third of the page length, or even less (ff.54v, 345r, 393r), always within borders, rectangular, in most cases of stepped shape. However, 18 of them are quite large (ff.76r, 152v-311r, 553r), about a half of a page size or even bigger (ff.152v, 204r, 212r, 269r).
The average interval between miniatures is more or less constant: about 10 folios.
There were obviously at least two painters: one, with the distinct preferences to the court receptions indoors and outdoors and more or less small works; and another, whose palette was less bright pinky-orange-blue, than that of another one and whose paintings are bigger.
The first artist would prefer to depict most of the traditionally plain air and even battle or execution scenes as the indoors receptions. For example, under the title “Bahram Gur comes back from India” (Baz gashtan-i Bahram az Hind), one could expect to see the royal army on their victorious march, while it is a regular court reception with the king seated on his throne with the group of courtiers and warriors kneeling before him.
The murder of Iraj (f.31r) is also happening in the courtyard in front of the palace gates, with all other usual details preserved like the golden stool, the tool of the murder, which here has a shape of the European chair, made of a neat golden wire with embroided back. Salm is actively helping Tur, holding Iraj’s head in his hands, while Tur is striking his brother’s face with the chair; another courtier and warriors are curiously watching.
The execution of Siyavush (f.123v) is depicted in the very similar interior of the open courtyard. Afrasiyab, reclining on the big purple cushion, sits on his luxurious throne, which together with his dress and crown is richly decorated with pearls, rubies and emeralds. Siyavush is in orange long dress shaved-headed and black bearded, with his hands bound behind his back and having a golden bowl before him. There are two soldiers, executing him. One is holding his sword over his head, although another one has already cut off Siyavush’s throat, which is heavily bleeding.
The last painting in the manuscript, containing execution “Ardashir hangs Haftvad and his eldest son Shahuy” (f.393r), oddly combines the interior and exterior details: the main scene, displayed in the central right side, depicts Ardashir, reclining on the same purple cushion on the throne of the same design with blue back and pearls-rubies decoration, wearing the same dress and crown as all other kings in the book, surrounded by his courtiers. He points out with his finger two men, exhibited in a sort of a window, hung by their neck on the bar in the left part of the miniature.
Such intimate scene, like the moment of Tahmina’s delivery Rustam (f.54v) is shown as an open scene in the royal courtyard, near by the garden pavilion.
However the execution scenes are sacrificed in favour of simple receptions, like on f.62v, where instead of usual execution scene of killing Nouzar, there is the painting, called “Tus and Gustaham learn about the execution of Nauzar” (Agahi yaftan-i Tus-u Gustaham az kushta shudan-i Nouzar).
The painter uses a restricted number of clichés for his compositions, which seem to be deliberately constant. For example, 3 paintings in a row: ff. 13v, 20v and 37r are strikingly identical not only in their composition, number of figures, but in costumes of the personages, their colours and style, with some insignificant varying details.
However, the artist sometimes adds his own unique details in the paintings with the established iconography. Even the typical battle scenes and single combats have peculiar features, like a royal couple, where a lady is riding first, are indifferently passing by (f.134r) Giv and Piran fighting.
Exterior battle scenes of “classical” type tend to be symmetrical, like on f.289r – “Kay Khusrau battles Karun”, or f. 152v - Fariburz battles Piran, f.311r – “Gushtasp’s battle”, or f.212r – “Tus battles Fariburz” with the characteristic hill in the centre of the horizon, dividing the composition into two parts. This tendency can be traced even in not battle, but still exterior scenes, like on f.204r – “Rustam pulling Bizhan out of the well”, with the same blue hill in the centre of the foreground, supported by two pink hills and two groups of people, symmetrically displayed in the first plane.
Demonic creatures are not popular in the manuscript, there are only two miniatures, where the divs appear. It is on f.188v – “Div Akvan flings Rustam into the sea” and f.4r – “Siyamak battles the divs”. The “div scene number one”, having the first place in the list of Norgren-Davis-Mehran – “Rustam, killing the White div” is absent in the manuscript. However, divs, fighting with Siyamak and Akvan have their traditional demonic appearance: long tails, antropomorphic bodies and animal-like head with horns, as well as their usual costumes: short skirts, opening in front, and a lot of jewellery: bracelets, necklaces decorated with pearls and stones.