Title: Illuminated Chapter Heading from the Ann Arbor Shahnama
Creator: Shiraz and Timurid Schools
Date Created: 1455/1465
Physical Dimensions: w17.6 x h26.5 (work)
Label Copy: From the thirteenth century through early modern times, books were the most important material emblem of culture in the advanced civilizations of central Asia. Powerful emperors and warlords built great libraries of works on science (such as astronomy and astrology, herbal lore, and medical texts) as well as poetry, dynastic histories, and copies of the holy Qur'an. As paper was still a rare item and printing had not yet been invented, books were luxury items of the highest order, requiring expensive materials and skilled labor at each step in their making. This manuscript of the Shahnama, like all other books for the royal libraries of the Timurids, Mughals, and Persians, was copied out entirely by hand. It required great skill and discipline for the calligrapher to sustain the same quality, style, and scale of handwriting page after page. The language of the Shahnama is Persian, but the script used is a modified form of Arabic, which is written from right to left. The use of gold in the page design testifies to the wealth of the patron and the importance he placed on this project.