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The Wonders of Creation and the Singularities of Painting

A Study of the Ilkhanid London Qazvīnī

Stefano Carboni


A beautifully illustrated study of Al-Qazwini's 'Wonders of Creation' and the first-ever translations of the text into English

The subject of this book is the so-called London Qazvīnī, an early 14th-century illustrated Arabic copy of al-Qazvīnī’s The Wonders of Creation and the Oddities of Existing Things, which was acquired by the British Library in 1983 (Or. 14140). As is commonly the case for copies of this text, the London Qazvīnī is lavishly illustrated, with 368 extant paintings out of the estimated original ca. 520.

Its large format, ambitious illustrative cycle and the fine quality of many of the illustrations suggest that the atelier where it was produced must have been well-established and able to attract craftsmen from different parts of the Ilkhanid area. It also suggests that its patron was wealthy and curious about scientific, encyclopedic and 'ajā’ib literature, and keen to experiment with the illustration of new texts like this work, which had been composed by the author only two or three decades earlier. The only centre that was capable of gathering such artistic influences ranging from Anatolia to Mesopotamia appears to have been Mosul.

The London Qazvīnī is an important newly surfaced document for the study of early illustrated Arabic copies of this text, representing the second earliest known surviving manuscript, as well as for the study of Ilkhanid painting. In a single and unique manuscript are gathered earlier Mesopotamian painting traditions, North Jaziran-Seljuq elements, Anatolian inspirations, the latest changes brought about after the advent of the Mongols, and a number of illustrations of extraordinary subjects which escape a proper classification.

Key Features

  • Offers a stylistic analysis and discussion of the manuscript's miniatures
  • Includes the first ever translations of sections of the 'Wonders of Creation' into English
  • Beautifully illustrated with over 400 colour images


Preface with Acknowledgements
Note to the Reader
Part One
1. Al-Qazvīnī’s Text between Scientific and Narrative ‘Wonder’ Literature
2. The Illustrations of the London Qazvīnī: General Description
3. Selected Illustrations from the London Qazvīnī
4. The London Qazvīnī in Relation to the Edinburgh al-Bīrūnī and the New York Bestiary
5. The Illustrations of the London Qazvīnī and Related cAja’ib al-makhluqat Manuscripts
Part Two
6. Description of the London Qazvīnī by Folio
7. Catalogue of the Illustrations of the London Qazvīnī
List of Illustrations
List of Other Illustrations
General Index.

About the Author

Stefano Carboni is the Director and CEO of the Art Gallery of Western Australia and Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Australia. He is author and editor of several books including Glass from Islamic Lands. The Al-Sabah Collection (2001) and Venice and the Islamic World 828-1797 (2007).

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