The present volume follows a first collection of articles devoted to the codicology of Arabic-script manuscripts and manuscript collections in Muslim Central Asia: Maria Szuppe & Ashirbek Muminov, eds., Patrimoine manuscrit et vie intellectuelle de l’Asie Centrale islamique, Aix-en-Provence: Edisud (Cahiers d’Asie Centrale, 3), 1999. The present volume deals with more detail with writing and its place in the Turkic and Iranian societies of Central Asia and neighbouring regions. It is divided into three different sections: (1) Documents & Sources: Discoveries and New Readings; (2) Writing and Its Use: Learning, Reception, Transmission; (3) Between Text and Image. All the fifteen contributions gathered in the present volume have endeavoured to shed light on varied aspects of the culture of writing in Central Asia in connection with the whole Turkic and Iranian world.
In the wake of the publication of a number of catalogues and inventories, the first study of the volume proposes a completed introduction of the famous ‘Khwaja Muhammad Parsa’ library in mediaeval Bukhara, with a typology of waqf seals and a tentative topographical reconstruction of the establishment itself, on the basis of archaeological data (Muminov Ashirbek K., Nekrasova Elizaveta G., Ziyodov Shovosil Ju., “La ‘Bibliothèque de Khwāja Muḥammad Pārsā’ revisitée,” 17-42, ill., fig., tab., bibliography). The contribution by sixteenth-century Sufi milieus is assessed through a detailed study of the written works writer Badr al-Din Kashmiri, a hagiographer of the powerful Juybari shaykhs of Bukhara, with particular attention for the literary practices of the time (DeWeese Devin, “The Problem of the Sirāj al-Ṣāliḥīn: Notes on Two Hagiographies by Badr al-Dīn Kashmīrī,” 43-92, bibliography). On the basis of a Turkic-language document, the following contribution casts light on the application of Sino-Manchu administrative practice to the representation of an early modern city of Xinjiang in figures (Papas Alexandre, “Une représentation textuelle de la ville: Sur un registre urbain du Turkestan chinois (1306/1888-89),” 93-110, ill., bibliography). The next article is a short introduction to the Ahkam-i huzur (Court Decrees, 1904-19), a little known collection of chancery documents from the court of Prince ‘Inayat-Allah Khan, the heir to the Afghan Throne, before its upcoming publication: Shokhumorov Saivandar, “Princely Archive of Court Decrees: A Rare Insight into the History of Afghanistan (End 19th – Beg. 20th Century),” 111-26, ill., fig., bibliography. The still very poorly studied written heritage of the Isma‘ili populations of Badakhshan is illustrated by a very short study ― one of the last published by the author before his decease in early 2010 ― which insists on the originality of thought of Badakhshani Isma‘ilis, as well as their connection with the world of Islam at large (Alimardonov Amriyazdon, “The Written Heritage of Badakhshan,” 127-43, ill., bibliography).
Opening the section on Writing and Its Use: Learning, Reception, Transmission, the following article deals with the contribution of the patronage of minor dynasties of Eastern Iran (the Farighunids, Simjurids, Muhtajids, and Shaybanids) to the production from the tenth century CE onwards of scientific texts on astrology and medicine, and of encyclopaedias, with interest in popular cosmography and astrological imagery developed from the sixteenth century onwards. The author notably insists on the necessity to study scientific activity and writings in relation to the specific cities in which they were carried out (Vesel Živa, “Textes et lieux: l’apport des dynasties mineures de l’Iran oriental à l’histoire des sciences,” 147-64, bibliography). Through the analysis of a Persian translation of the second rub‘a of the famous Ihiya ‘ulum al-Din by Ghazali on customs and good manners, Lola Dodkhudoeva evokes political and cultural life in early-fourteenth-century Herat under Kurt prince Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad (“Translating and Copying in pre-Timurid Herat: A Persian Translation of the Iḥiyā ʿUlūm al-Dīn, 725-726/1325,” 165-94, ill., bibliography). In one of the most ambitious contributions of the volume, R. D. McChesney shows the transformation it over time of one document in the ultra-famous ‘Juybari Codex’, and its implications for documents in general as sources for the history of writing and for the writing of history (“The Lives and Meanings of a Sixteenth-Century Bukharan Notarial Document,” 195-230, ill., tab., bibliography). Panegyrics in praise of manuscripts or historical works at the Safavid and Mughal courts are introduced by Sumil Sharma as celebrations of the ruler’s place in history, book production itself being tackled as an allegory of divine creation (“Celebrating Writing and Books in Safavid and Mughal Poetry,” 231-50, bibliography). Through a recently discovered Persian founding and endowment act for a madrasa in Khiva by Fazil Bay Qunghrat (1214/1799-1800), Maria Szuppe evokes the patronage activities of the Qunghrat dynasty at an early stage of its history. After location and history of the madrasa, the author analyses the waqf-nama’s data on the institution’s personnel and curriculum (“Dispositions pédagogiques et cursus scolaire à Khiva: un waqf-nāma de fondation de madrasa, 1214/1799-1800,” 251-84, ill., bibliography). On the basis of two poetic collections, Aftandil Erkinov casts light on the cultural policy led by the Khans of Kokand in the early nineteenth century for gaining recognition. The author notably insists on the historical and literary references to the Timurids as the ultimate exemplary reference (“Les Timourides, modèles de légitimité et les recueils poétiques de Kokand,” 295-330, ill., tab., bibliography). The third section, “Between Text and Image,” is opened by a study of four manuscripts ascribed to early-fifteenth-century India. The style of their miniatures is put together with the manner of those produced at the same time in Mamluk Egypt ― the author underlying the key role played by Jain artists as intermediaries between Cairo and Gujarat, and as key protagonists of the development of book painting in Sultanate India (Brac de la Perrière Eloïse, “Du Caire à Mandu: la transmission des modèles dans l’Inde des sultanats (xiiie – xvie siècles),” 333-58, ill.). On the basis on the copy of the Three Poems by Khwaju Kirmani made in Baghdad in 1396, Yves Porter stresses the introduction of the framing (jadwal) and of the ruling (mastar) in the composition of miniatures as the establishment of a radically new essential link between the poetic text and its visual illustrations, and the opening of a new period of the history of book painting in the Persian world (“The Illustrations of the Three Poems of Khwājū Kirmānī: A Turning Point in the Composition of Persian Painting,” 359-74, ill., bibliography). Through a study of the copy of the Khamsa of Khwaju Kirmani completed in 1667-8, Karin Rührdanz introduces Bukharan book painting production under Janid ruler ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Khan, notably through the development of a uniform atelier style (“Miniatures of the Bukharan Court Atelier in a Copy of Khwājū Kirmānī’s Khamsa Dated 1078/1667-68,” 375-402, ill., bibliography). The status of the signature of the artist in Persian traditional painting is examined by Francis Richard, who formulates the hypothesis this usage spread out in imitation of the practice of calligraphers, Central Asia contributing to the diffusion of this habit towards the Iranian plateau and the subcontinent (“Singer et transmettre l’image: Riżā ʿAbbāsī et ses modèles,” 403-17, ill.).
No doubt, this richly illustrated and luxuriously published volume makes a notable contribution to our knowledge of manuscript production and culture in a wide part of the Iranian and Turkic world. Written by an assembly of historians and historians of art, all leading specialists of the field, it brings to light numerous hitherto poorly accessible or unknown documents that open new tracks for research, or it renews our approaches to already identified sources or corpuses of documents. In spite of its lack of interest in the destinies of traditional Persian and Turkic writing and book culture (calligraphy, notably) in Central Asia during the long twentieth century, its reading must be recommended to all those interested in the history of learned culture in Central Asia from the beginning of the Islamic period to modern Russian and Chinese colonisation.