The palaeographer Gottfried Herrmann has become a world-famous personality for having edited and translated archive documents of an extremely difficult access. In this dense and invaluable volume he offers us the edition and commented translation of twenty-eight thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century documents. In his introduction he explains at length the origin of this project, viz. the discovery in 1975 of a set of documents and coins in the mausoleum of the early Safavid shaykhs in Ardabil. Parts of these documents had previously been published by G. Doerfer (“Mongolica aus Ardabil,” Zentralasiatische Studien 9 (1975): 187-263), M. Gronke (Arabische und persische Privaturkunden des 12. und 13. Jahrhunderts aus Ardabil, Berlin, 1982) and G. Herrmann himself (cf. bibliography: 190). The present work usefully complements these previous publications.
The book is divided into two parts: 1) Zum Urkundenwesen der Mongolenzeit (5-45); 2) Texte, Übersetzung, Erläuterungen (43-186). In the first part the author depicts the documents’ external aspect, before analysing their structure before putting them back in their cultural context. The “Protocol” is divided into three parts: invocation, intitulatio and promulgatio. G. Herrmann shows how these documents’ intitulatio must be resituated in the continuity of practices dating back to the Saljuq period, though they have integrated many Mongol elements—e.g., the utilisation of the formula “yarli manu” or “üge manu (Our Saying).” It should be remarked here that this kind of formula in the letters asking for submission addressed by the great qans to the Latin West, of which some Latin translations have been preserved (besides the Persian translation from the Mongol original of a letter by Güyük to Pope Innocent iv). In these documents can also be found sentences admixing Persian, Turkic and Mongol terms. The book’s part on the study of seals (33-42) is particularly interesting from the cultural viewpoint. The author in particular sheds light on the impact of Chinese influence in the utilisation for rulers (Herrscher-Urkunden) of large square seals in red ink called altamgha, whence the seals used in the administration (Diwan-Urkunden) were smaller, of a circular shape, and in golden colour (hence their denomination as altun tamgha-yi kuchak).
The book’s second part, by far the larger one, is devoted to the edition, translation and comment of the twenty-eight documents. The latter are grouped into three categories: royal documents (for the most part decrees and ordinances issued by Jalayrid and Chupanid rulers), financial documents, and documents issued by the administration. It would show interesting to compare the documents edited in the present work with those transmitted by narrative sources like Rashid al-Din’s Jami‘ al-tawarikh. Such a comparison would permit us to better assess the reliability of those “archive documents” transmitted by chronicles.