Provenance: The manuscript bears no indication of its previous owners, it is unknown even when and how it became a part of the collection of the Main library of the University of Cambridge.
European red leather binding, incorporating fragments of the original binding. The beginning of the manuscript was bound in the wrong order (may be during the restoraion). The volume is in quite good condition; in several places suffered from water damage; restored and remargined. Worm eaten in places. The paper is Oriental, thin matt creamy paper.
Date: the calligrapher, who mentions his name in the colophon (f.584v) as ‘Alam al-Din, does not write the date, when he finished his work. According to E.G.Browne, it was completed in the late 16th - early 17th century (catalogue, 1896, p. 290). ‘Alam al-Din was obviously a Persian trained professional, while the paper can betray the conventionally Indian origin of the manuscript.
Text status: the manuscript is incomplete in the beginning; none of the usual prefaces are present. Obviously the copy was never finished: it was prepared for the work of the painter, while the calligrapher was, probably, supposed to finish his part on the preface. Due to reasons, unknown for us, it did not happen. Text is divided into 4 daftars, being slightly interpolated. One of the interpolations contains the Barzunama.
Incipit and explicit of the poem are normative.
Manuscript has 584 folios in professional (commercial) ta‘liq script, written in Indian ink. Most of the scene headings are missing; those that exist are in red ink, often very crudely written. The text in 4 columns with 25 lines per page; page size: 293 x 194; text size: 209 x 118.
Illustrations: the copy contains 56 blank spaces left for paintings, which never were executed; one of them “Rustam Slays Ashkabus and His Horse” is actually filled in with a pen outline on f. 167v. This single sketch witnessed the very unusual composition of one of the most popular scenes for illustration. Ashkabus is much bigger that Rustam, being of the same size as his horse. Evidently they both – Ashkabus and his horse, which is lying upside down – are shot down, while he is still sitting on it. Both are covered with arrows.
There are also three empty spaces left for ‘unvans on ff. 1v, 189v (the story of Bizhan, starting section 2) and f 460v.
The selection of the subjects to be illustrated (according to the text and the nearest titles) is normative, and does not seem to offer any peculiar or unique scene for depiction. The miniatures were going to be displayed in the irregular intervals: from 1 folio (between, for example “Isfandiyar kills the wolf” (f.330r), “Isfandiyar kills the witch” (f.331v) and “Isfandiyar kills the Simurgh” (f.332r); to 48 folios, between “Tahmuras enthroned” (f. 5v) and “The birth of Rustam” (f. 53r).