The Wonders of Creation and the Oddities of Existence, a page from a manuscript


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

The archangel Gabriel is an important figure to Muslims, as to Christians. In both traditions, Gabriel brings the Annunciation to Mary that she will give birth to Jesus. In Islam, Gabriel acts as God's messenger to the Prophet Muhammad, bringing him the words of the Qur'an. Gabriel also accompanied Muhammad on his Night Journey, bringing him from Mecca to Jerusalem through Hell and Heaven, and finally to the throne of God, in the course of one night. The Wonders of Creation and the Oddities of Existence was compiled in 1270 by Zakariya Qazwini, a judge living in Wasit in Iraq. It remained popular reading for centuries. It is an illustrated compendium, which describes the many marvels of the universe. The book covers the fields of geography, astronomy, astrology and natural history, in a mixture of science and superstition. The sections on natural history were subject to fantasy, as some of its contents were based on the tall tales of travellers returning from distant regions. Qazwini divided the known universe into three spheres: the Heavens (which included stars, planets and angels), Water (consisting of the seas, fish, the distant islands and their strange inhabitants) and the Earth (composed of animal, vegetable and mineral).


  • Title: The Wonders of Creation and the Oddities of Existence, a page from a manuscript
  • Date Created: 1375/1425
  • Physical Dimensions: Width: 24.60cm (sheet); Height: 38.90cm (sheet); Width: 15.30cm (image); Height: 27.30cm (image); Width: 15.20cm (calligraphy); Height: 27.20cm (calligraphy)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted
  • Subject: musical instrument; deity
  • Registration number: 1963,0420,0.1
  • Production place: Made in Egypt. Made in Syria. Made in Baghdad
  • Period/culture: Mamluk dynasty
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Loo, C T et Cie

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