Selections From The Poetry Of Mir Ali-shir Nava'i in Turkish, Copied by 'Abd al-Rahim al-Ya'qubi, Persia, Aq-Qoyunlu
Produced under the royal patronage of the Aq Qoyunlu Sultan Ya'qub, copied and signed by the court calligrapher Abdurrahim Yaqubi (Khawarazmi), this manuscript is the earliest dated copy containing the poems of Ali-shir Nava'i, the great master of early Turkic literature. Its regal provenance is confirmed by the scribe’s reference to al-Sultani, as well as his nisba, Ya'qubi, (indicating relation or origin), signifying that he was in the service of Sultan Ya'qub, who commissioned the manuscript.
Sultan Ya’qub b. Hasan Aq Qoyonlu was the ruler of Western Persia from 1478 to 1490. As the patron of this manuscript, he is depicted in the miniature below the colophon, in line with the known tradition. Another miniature beneath the colophon which depicts the presentation of the manuscript to its patron is the Divan-i Husayni in the Topkapi Palace Museum Library (inv.no. EH 1636, f.123a). The patron is identified as Sultan Husayn Bayqara, to whom the head of the kitabkhana is presenting the manuscript, confirming this custom (published in Filiz Cagman’s article, 'The miniatures of the Divan-i Husayni and the influence of their style', Fifth International Congress of Turkish Art, ed. G. Fehér, Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, 1978, p.245.
As an Aq Qoyunlu Sultan, Ya'qub was very interested in Chaghatay poetry and is known to have also commissioned a copy of Mir Haydar Khawarazmi’s Chaghatai poem Makhzan al-Asrar ('Treasury of Secrets') completed on 25 Jumada I 883 AH/24 August 1478 AD, now in the New York Public Library (Pers. Ms.41, see S. Blair, Islamic Calligraphy, Edinburgh University, 2006, p.52).
Khawarazmi was particularly close to the Sultan and adopted the pen-name Anisi (friend), which was apparently bestowed upon him by Ya'qub himself in recognition of their friendship. He also signed as Sultani (Royal) and Yaqubi (belonging to Sultan Yaqub, see Bayani 1966-69). The son of Abdurrahman Khwarazmi, who was one of the founders of the canons of nasta'liq script, Abdurrahim was apparently born and raised in Shiraz, where he practised calligraphy from an early age as indicated by a fragment of calligraphy now in Istanbul stating that it was copied during his eleventh year.
Working as the royal scribe at court, Abdurrahim gained fame thanks to his association with Sultan Ya'qub. He also worked for two other members of the Aqqqoyonlu dynasty, Kalil b. Hasan and Rostam b. Ya'qub, as well as completed a copy of Nizami’s Khamsa, originally commissioned by the Timurid prince Abu al-Qasim Babur (r.1447-57), passing unfinished to Qaraqoyunlu Jahan Shah’s son Pir Budaq and eventually to the Aqqoyunlu ruler Kalil (now in the Topkapi Palace Museum Library, inv.no. H.782). Although after the death of Sultan Ya'qub, officials of the Aqqoyunlu state continued to patronise artists, Abdurrahim worked as a teacher for calligraphers such as Esedullah Kirmani, Muhammad Kirmani and Molla 'Ali Sultan, who served at the Ottoman Sultan Suleyman’s court.
(Mir) 'Ali-shir Nava'i, also known as Nizam-al-Din ʿAli-Shir Herawi (1441-1501), generally known under his pen-name, Nava'i ('the melodic' or 'musical'), was an important politician, mystic, linguist, painter, and poet. Born and raised in the city of Herat, he is remembered in Uzbekistan's history as one of the founding fathers of Uzbek literature and a great contributor to Chagatai works, significantly adding to the development of the Uzbek language.
Whereas the earliest recorded dated manuscript with a lacquered binding is the Divan of Sultan Husayn Bayqara, dated 1492 (Topkapi Palace Museum – Emanet Hazinesi: 1636), the present manuscript, dated 1480, predates the Topkapi manuscript, marking it out as one of the earliest surviving examples of Islamic lacquer (see J. Thompson, and S. Canby, Hunt for Paradise: Court Arts of Safavid Iran, 1501-1576, Skira, 2003, p.185).
Loose pages from this manuscript have been preserved in stately and private collections, notably in the Art and History Trust Collection (published in Soudavar 1992, p.117). Notable stylistic parallels can be drawn between this manuscript and the Divan-i Selimi (the collected poems of Sultan Selim I, r.1512–20) now in the Istanbul University Library, inv.no. F.1330, displaying its influence on Ottoman manuscript illustration (see Atil 1987, p.70).