Dastan-ɘ Bæhram ba Kɘshavarz داستان بهرام با کشاورز


Victoria, B.C., University of Victoria Libraries, MS Victoria 1998-034

Remarks by the Editor

Description completed by student in Adrienne Williams Boyarin's manuscript studies course (University of Victoria, Summer 2022). Among contributions with the tag "Manuscript Studes at UVic 2022."

General Information

Title Shahnameh
Shelfmarks MS Victoria 1998-034
Material Paper
Place of Origin Iran (Persia)
Date of Origin 1551–1650
Script, Hands

Nasta'liq Calligraphy, Old Style

The letter commonly used today for the sound “g” is گ, a derivation of the primitive form of the Arabic letter ک (for the sound “k”) and is exclusive to Persian writing. In the current fragment, all “g” sounds are written as ک. We can speculate about the reason this letter is written as ک and not گ. In comparison with many other texts written in Nasta’liq, the letter form گ does not seem to be in use at least until the beginning of the 18th century. In the introduction of a full collection of “Ghazaliat” of “Asir-e Shahrestani”, the editor mentions that the earliest manuscript of that text that includes the letter form گ is from 1696. The derivative form گ was not devised (or at least was not in use) until the late 17th and early 18th century. This fact gives us a clue for more precise dating of this fragment than originally assumed by University of Victoria and Witkam. Since it does not use the letter form گ , it was likely written before the first half of the 18th century. Further, the fragment is visibly using the “old style” of Nasta’liq which can be best seen in the thickness of forms, the way downward and upward letters are connected, and the pen movement in orbicular letters. This information alone guarantees that the fragment predates the beginning of the 19th century when the “new style” was created. Adding the discussion about the letter form گ to this brings the date to before the middle of the 18th century. As Meidani says, moreover, “[d]uring the [14th century C.E.], three types of calligraphy appeared among the Islamic calligraphies that must be considered specifically as Iranian. Although they were derived from the Arabic alphabet, their shape and composition differ from Arabic calligraphy and, according to scholars such as Salouti (2003), their composition and circulation of letters are very similar to ancient Persian types of writing, such as Avestan and Pahlavi. These three types of calligraphy are Taliq, Nastaliq, and Shekasteh” (5). Mir Emad was one of the greatest Nasta’liq masters of the “old style”; he lived in the second half of the 16th century and the first few years of 17th century, and his style is very distinct, specifically in connections and integrations. He revolutionised this calligraphy form and mentored many students. For example, one of Mir Emad's innovations was in the connection of the letter م to other letters, or a new form of writing the letter ی in Nasta’liq (“Ganjoor”). The current document lacks most of the revolutionary innovations that Mir Emad brought to the tradition (although it has a couple of cases of them in an immature way), and, considering Mir Emad’s influential role, we can speculate that this fragment was written either contemporaneous with the life of Mir Emad and his students or just a few years after that. This restricts the dating again, to before the middle of the 17th century. While I can say with a good amount of certainty that this manuscript was written before the middle of the 17th century, the precise dating is pure speculation. However, by comparing the fragment with many different Nasta’liq writings from different dates, and investigating the letter forms, spacing, connections and other attributes, my guess would be that it is written in the second half of 16th century, or in the first half of the 17th century. The documents consulted for this speculation were found in the databases of “Ganjoor”; British Library; “HathiTrust”; and “Library of Congress”.

General Remarks

The writing support is indigenous Persian paper, containing 98 couplets (the standard measure in Persian classical poetry) of Fɘrdo:si´s Shahnamɘ. A single leaf, 345 × 222 mm, with writing on both sides in four columns, 25 lines each, written in vertical (portrait) orientation. The script is “Nasta’liq,” an exclusively Iranian form of calligraphy. The fragment contains a part of the story of Bæhram-ɘ Gur and specifically the segment of “Dastan-ɘ Bæhram ba Kɘshaværz.” Jan Just Witkam contends that the text corresponds to the Moscow edition of Shahnamɘ, but a simple comparison between the texts shows a myriad of differences.

Original Condition

Page Height 345 mm
Page Width 222 mm
Height of Written Area 257 mm
Width of Written Area 116 mm
Number of Columns 4
Width of Columns 25 mm
Number of Lines 25
Line Height 10 mm
More about the Condition

Two marginal notes on the verso suggest circumstances of the original manuscript. The first one is جنی خوانی , on the right side of the verso. It is a correction by the scribe or corrector, suggesting we should replace the word جنی (jɘni) with the word خوانی (khvani). This replacement fits the meaning of the text, and matches existing editions. The second note, at the bottom of the page, says بدینگونه (bɘdingunɘ) and does not correspond to any of the words in the last line of the verso. It is likely a catchword, implying that this fragment had been the last page of a gathering.

Current Condition

Extent 1 leaf
Dimensions 345 × 222 mm
More about the Current Condition

In good condition, with just one small (hardly visible) hole in the middle.

On the recto side is an ex-libris label from University of Victoria Libraries. Also on that page is a sticker with typewritten text: ‘(sc) PK6456 A2’, a call number with the designation SC (Special Collections).

Book Decoration and Musical Notation


The columns are set within a composite frame of blue, dark red, black, gold, green and red outlines. The title of the story is written as a chapter heading on the recto in illuminated gold in a panel with a floral design of brown-red ink.


  • Content Item
    • Persons
    • Text Language Persian
    • Title Dastan-ɘ Bæhram ba Kɘshavarz
    • Content Description

      The content shows nighty-eight couplets of Shahname from before the beginning of “Dastan-ɘ Bæhram ba Kɘshavarz” (Story of Bahram and the Farmer) to about halfway into the story.

    • Recto



The use of indigenous Iranian paper and the western style of Nasta'liq script, suggests that the fragment must have been created in the western part of Persia, around the same area as today's country of Iran.


Univeristy of Victoria has no account of the provenance of the fragment, except that it was acquired by the University of Victoria in 1998. The fragment was initially dated to the 18th century (likely by a bookseller) and from a place in Persia (Iran).