Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi
Manuscript B

A dispersed manuscript of high quality characterized by its marginal text being written on a diagonal. Most of the known illustrations are signed by Moʿin Moṣavver. Currently there are eleven, perhaps twelve, Shahnama illustrations plus two frontispiece paintings known; the total number of illustrations originally in the manuscript is not known. Page and Written surface dimensions.

Dispersed at various locations including the British Museum, Sackler Museum at Harvard, Israel Museum, and unknown locations.

The recto of the frontispiece illustration of a youth, which was the end of the first half of the Shahnama, is a colophon containing the date 2 Ẕuʾl-Qaʿda 1058/18 November 1648. This, undoubtedly, refers to the completion of the text to that juncture. An inscription on 2-172 contains the date Ramażān 1059/September 1649, which is the date that painting was completed.

This manuscript has apparently been confused by some historians with other manuscripts of the Shahnama (ms.D and ms.E) which also have paintings signed by Moʿin.

Binyon, Wilkinson, and Gray can be credited with the earliest publication of any of the paintings, when they cataloged two of them (3-030 and 3-344) then in the Dawud Collection at the Burlington House exhibition (BWG_1933, no.37), and stated they were from the same manuscript as another painting in the British Museum (2-172). Schroeder (Fogg_1941, no. xxvii and xxviii) several years later, published two additional paintings (3-230 and 4-306) and stated that they were from the same manuscript as paintings in the Dawud, Beatty, and British Museum Collections. He was correct with regard to the British Museum and the Dawud Collections, but incorrect in citing the Beatty Collection. As reference for the Beatty paintings Schroeder cited Kühnel (Survey_1939, pls. 922 and 923), which are in actuality paintings from another bound Shahnama, also illustrated by Moʿin, that is dated 1066/1655 (ms.D).

Grube (MMP_1962, #113), apparently deriving his information from Schroeder, cited the same references to the Beatty Library, the Dawud and British Museum Collections, and added two new references to the Hyatt Mayor and Bullock Collections. The Hyatt Mayor painting is in actuality a page from a dispersed History of Shah Esmāʿil (ms.N, JK-463). The Bullock painting, now in the Worcester Art Museum (#1962.182), is from a Shahnama, but not from any being considered here, nor is it the style of Moʿin. Stchoukine (SA_1964, pp.64-65) mentioned five paintings from the manuscript, in the British Museum, Fogg, and Dawud Collections, without reference to any further paintings.

Anthony Welch (SA_1973, #50) published a painting of “Esfandiyār Trapping the Simorgh” in a private collection and stated that it was from a dispersed Shahnama, the leaves of which are in the British Museum, Fogg, Worcester Art Museum, A. Hyatt Mayor Collection, and Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Collection. The combination of collections named leaves little room to doubt that Welch was referring to the same manuscript as being considered here, but the text is written in vertical columns rather than diagonally as in the other folios, and the page proportions are quite different. Thus it is apparent that the painting illustrated by Welch derives from another manuscript.

Robinson (Colnaghi_1976, p.78) subsequently published four other paintings from the manuscript (the two frontispieces, 4-318, and 5-133). Robinson further indicated that the colophon on the reverse of one of the folios records the date of 1058/1648, and that Grube’s dating of 1049/1649 (obviously intending 1059/1649) was doubtless taken from the colophon at the end of the manuxript. In actuality it was derived from the inscription on the British Museum painting (2-172). Milstein (Israel_1984, pp.86-89) catalogs four paintings (2-320, 3-030 3-276 and 3-344) formerly in the Dawud Collection, of which two had previously been cited by BWG, all of which are now in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Three other paintings (2-059, 6-052, and 6-158) have been sold at auction at Sotheby's over the years.

Robert Eng
Last Updated: May 19,2012. | Originally published: March 22, 2011.

ms.B, no. 2-172

ms.B, no. 2-320

ms.B, no. 3-030
ms.B, no. 3-230

ms.B, no. 3-276

ms.B, no. 3-344

ms.B, no. 4-306

European Youth

Girl, standing


Esfandiyār Slays the Simorḡ
ms.B, no. 4-318

ms.B, no. 5-133
ms.B, no. 6-052
ms.B, no. 6-158
ms.B, no. 2-059