The Anvār-i Suhaylī (Lights of Canopus).

A beautiful Simurgh looks on as Phoenixes burn in their nest. This, and the images to follow, are from the beautiful Anvār-i Suhaylī or Lights of Canopus. From The Public Domain:

The Anvār-i Suhaylī or Lights of Canopus — commonly known as the Fables of Bidpai in the West — is a Persian version of an ancient Indian collection of animal fables called the Panchatantra. The tales follow the Persian physician Burzuyah on a mission to India, where he finds a book of stories collected from the animals who live there. Much like in the Arabian Nights (which actually uses several of the Panchatantra stories), the fables are inter-woven as the characters of one story recount the next, with up to three or four degrees of narrative embedding. Many of the fables offer insightful glimpses into human behaviour, and emphasise the power of teamwork and loyalty: one passage describes how a hunter catches a group of pigeons in a net, only for them to be saved by a mouse who gnaws through the rope. The version celebrated in this post hails from nineteenth-century Iran and is particularly notable for its exquisite illustrations — scenes of tortoise-riding monkeys, bird battles, conversing mice, delicate purple mountains — 123 in total. The artist behind the images is not mentioned, but the creator of the equally elegant nasta’liq style writing which they serve, is named by The Walters Art Museum (who hold the manuscript) as one Mīrzā Raḥīm.

And from The Walters Art Museum, where you can see the whole manuscript in .pdf:

Walters manuscript W.599 is an illuminated and illustrated copy of Anvar-i Suhayli (The lights of Canopus), dating to the 13th century AH/AD 19th. It is a Persian version of Kalilah wa-Dimnah (The fables of Bidpay). It was completed on 26 Jumadá I 1264 AH/AD 1847 by Mirza Rahim. The text is written in Nasta’liq script in black and red ink, revealing the influence of Shikastah script. There are 123 paintings illustrating the text. The Qajar binding is original to the manuscript.

Husayn Va’iz Kashifi (died 1504-1505) (Author)
Mirza Rahim navadah-i Mirza Amin Afshar (Scribe)

1264 AH/AD 1847 (Qajar)

Best friends?

Oh, one of my favourite stories, and one that is much older than I thought.

Another beautiful Simurgh!

Those mice, always rescuing everyone.

Yet another rescue by a mouse. They must have been adored by everyone. :D

You can see many more images at The Public Domain, or download the .pdf of the whole manuscript via The Walters Art Museum.


  1. says

    Ah, Nasta’liq. Beautiful script, but not one of the easiest to read.


    Yet another rescue by a mouse. They must have been adored by everyone.

    As a matter of fact, one popular term of endearment in Persian is moosh moosham, which basically translates to “my mousey mouse.”

  2. says

    Oh, that’s too adorable! I wonder…can I get away with naming a rat moosh moosham? There is one I have, she’s very small and gray, that has the nickname Mouse, which stuck, rather than her name.

  3. says

    Huh. Okay. I really have to work at being able to read these, makes me a little crazy to have stories in front of me I can’t read.

  4. Saad says

    As an Urdu speaker, I can see how the Nastaliq form is a challenging one to grasp. Not long ago, I decided to learn the Devanagari script as well along with my brother so I can read Hindi text too*. And I can see how the latter would be an easier script system to grasp. I find both systems have their own appeal: Nastaliq has a flowing beauty to it whereas Devanagari has a very nice ordered pattern-like look.

    *Urdu and Hindi are are mutually intelligible when spoken but entirely different when written. Really the two languages are one language called Hindustani. Because of the Mughals, Urdu is the more Persianized version with more Persian and Arabic influence whereas Hindi has more Sanskrit leaning. A little amusing fact about Pakistanis is that we can speak Hindi but can’t read it, and we can read Arabic but can’t speak it.

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