This is an Arabic translation of the Shahnama. A gift of William Fane, nephew of the 1st Earl of Westmorland, on 20 November 1675.Flyleaf Ir-v contains some inscriptions and faded seals; f. 1v contains the Merton College book plate and some more inscriptions.
The text is identified as "put into Arabic by Nasir al-Din Tusi" (from the Arabic inscription on flyleaf Iv), and called Nasihat al-muluk; with the story carried down to the Umayyad caliphs (!). See Catalogus codicum mss. Collegii Mertonensis, p. 132.
The second part of the ms.contains a history of the Ottomans by the same hand. There is one more part added later by a different hand but started on the last folio of the Shahnama+ Ottoman History. All three works are in Arabic. The first and the last ones are incomplete. The first several folios are missing. The text starts on f. 1r, in a small neat hand. Heavily illustrated with pictures that have been horribly retouched or repainted.
Colophon on f. 75r: 9 Rabi’ I 901/ Friday, 5-6 December 1495, Calligrapher: Ja‘far al-Jabbul from Aleppo.
The ms contains three parts:
1. Ff. 1r-65v prose Arabic translation of Firdausi’s (?) Shahnama. The detailed narrative with illustrations finishes in the reign of Kisra (or before: the execution of two princes), after which (from f. 59r Saltanat Kisra...) the reigns are sometimes only mentioned with a short paragraph. Exception: the reign of Shapur.
There is no beginning; the text starts with the story of Tarimurth b. Ushanj (?), on the page with the illustration of the battle of humans with the divs (2r).
2. Ff. 66r-75r – A history of the Ottomans (Khalafat Hadrat ‘Uthman) until the reign of Mu‘tasir. In Arabic.
3. Ff. 74v-103r – another history of the Ottoman sultans, unfinished. Seemingly by another hand. In Arabic.
Binding (front cover 279x195) is rather simple of brown leather on cardboard, European, imitating oriental decorative layout: rectangular ornamented frame in the middle with palmettes in the end of each corner. Threaded spine (5 parts).
Paper partly Oriental, thick and rather glossy, creamy, partly thinner with vergers and pontusots, either matt, or even glossier, could be European. NB some pages are coloured (dark blue, green, orange, terracotta, some have marbled pattern, even those with illustrations, i.e. ff. 27r and 35r). From f. 54 – paper is much thicker, with vivid watermarks. The last part of the third work was certainly written on European paper, which is whiter and thinner than the rest. Ff. 87 and 98 have a watermark of trefoil on a long stem (upper corner) and probably V and S.
Handwriting varies. It is Arabic calligraphic Naskh with some cursive elements. The hand changes several times, i.e. f. 81v.
Material: main text in Indian ink, headings in red paint, or in blak ink with gold, or in black with gold contour (f. 31v). The red of headings varies: in the first two parts – tomato red, sometimes replaced by ink with gold additions (f. 38v), sometimes with orange which oxidized (f.48v). It seems that at least two scribes were contributing to the Shahnama part. The first two were parts of the same project. The third could be added later, although the scribe started to write his part on the verso side of the last folio of the previous work. The calligrapher makes serious mistakes like not being able to squeeze the title into a title box (f. 33r).
Illuminations in gold floral arabesque are generally very delicate, i.e. ff. 22r, 28v, 48v, colophon. Text of two first parts in gold, black and blue frames. The gold frames give a nice effect on tinted paper, like dark green on f. 28v (with illustration). Last part – no decoration.
(Detailed inspection by FA).