Digitising Rylands Persian MS 3

Abu Yahya Zakariya’ ibn Muhammad al-Qazwini was a Persian physician, astronomer, geographer and proto-science fiction writer, born in 1203.

In his work “Aja’ib al-makhluqat wa-ghara’ib al-mawjudat”, or “Marvels of Creatures and Strange Things Existing”, he spoke about the sky and everything in it, and the world and everything on it. It has been described as the most important work of cosmography in Islamic culture.

The work consists of two sections, the first dealing with the spheres of the heaven and its inhabitants (the angels), as well as details of  Islamic, Roman and Iranian calendars. The second part discusses the four elements, the spheres and what is on and within the earth. Qazwini also talks in detail about man, the faculties of his soul, his character, weaknesses and illnesses.

Rylands Persian MS 3 is a beautifully illuminated manuscript of this work, created in 1632 by the artist and calligrapher ‘Shamsa’. Throughout the manuscript there are beautiful images of fantastic animals and beasts, man and heavenly inhabitants.

We digitisied the manuscript using the larger copy stand in the Rylands studio. To get the best possible image, we photographed with the Phase One IQ180 digital back.

A full page from Persian MS 3, depicting angels in heaven

The entire manuscript will be available on LUNA in the very near future.

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