Wonderful new blog from the British Library featuring our very own Laur Chanda manuscript (Hindustani MS 1).
Please join us for our second seminar of the semester, featuring two twenty-minute presentations and discussion. All welcome!
Correspondence, Provenance, and the Ethics of Collecting
Wednesday 6th March 2019, 3-4:30pm
A112 Samuel Alexander Building
Ethical challenges in early Twentieth Century Samaritan Manuscript Collecting
Dr Katharina E Keim (Centre for Religions and Theology, Lund University, and Centre for Jewish Studies, Manchester)
Historically, the collecting of Samaritan manuscripts was a challenging endeavour. The Samaritans, who regard themselves to be descendants of ancient Biblical Israelites, were for centuries a relatively insular group that closely guarded their traditions from outsiders. Western scholars and orientalists began acquiring Samaritan manuscripts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the Samaritan Pentateuch played an important role in debates between Protestant and Catholic biblical textual critics. Samaritan manuscripts arrived in Europe in fits and starts until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century when the trickle became a flood…
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Free afternoon workshop at the Rylands on Networks and Archival Absences with keynote from Anne Welsh.
The workshop will take place Tuesday 18th September 2018, 13.00-17.00, Christie Room, The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester.
The deadline for abstracts for this workshop at the John Rylands Library has now been extended until August 19th, 2018.
(Dis)connections: Networks and Archival Absences – Call for Papers
18th September 2018, 13.00-17.00, Christie Room, The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester
This Student Run Research Network proposes to consider the use of archives and collections as sources for the exploration of past intellectual and professional networks. A series of half-day workshops will discuss the production and circulation of knowledge within and outside traditional cultural circuits, and the development of aesthetic trends in the modern age (19th and 20th centuries). They aim to bring together PhD students and early career researchers sharing material-based methodologies, as well as scholars and professionals in cultural heritage institutions.
@netmat_nw welcomes paper proposals for the first half-day workshop, to be held at The John Rylands Library (The University of Manchester) on the 18th September 2018. This event will introduce the network themes, engaging theoretically and pragmatically with the use of archives and collections. Specifically…
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The Reformation exhibition at the John Rylands Library marks 500 years since Luther declared his famous 95 theses (see Renegade, rogue, radical). Today we celebrate a more recent anniversary, that of the formal opening of the John Rylands Library on 6 October 1899, which itself marked twenty four years since the marriage of John and Enriqueta Rylands. On the same day, the City of Manchester gave Enriqueta the Freedom of the City.
This beautifully illuminated scroll given to Rylands to mark the occasion includes a number of symbolic images, from the Lancashire red rose and the Manchester bee, to coats of arms and feather pens. Near the top right hand corner of the scroll is a lit oil lamp.
This is not the lamp Aladdin rubbed to call up the genie, but a symbol of enlightenment. A lit lamp, or candle, has often been used as a symbol for education and learning. This is certainly appropriate for the John Rylands Library, especially as it now forms part of The University of Manchester. However, the lamp also symbolises the Reformation. Indeed, the symbol of the lit oil lamp appears in the first object displayed in our Reformation exhibition. In this engraving, based on a portrait painted during his lifetime, Luther is shown sitting at a table holding a book. The scene is lit by an oil lamp on the table.
The statues ranged along the walls of the Library’s historic Reading Room represent a Nonconformist perspective on ‘the history of human thought.’ Enriqueta Rylands chose Calvin and Luther to represent the Protestant Reformation. She wanted the statues to be as historically accurate as possible and sent a copy of this engraving to the sculptors – the face of the resulting statue is quite recognisable. However, the statue in the Reading Room (see image) leaves out the objects on the table. These are more important than they might first appear; the oil lamp does not simply give Luther light to read by. The lit lamp became a Protestant symbol for the enlightenment gained by reading the Bible. Luther was closely associated with the symbol because of his efforts to make the Bible available for people to read in their own language.
The lamp on the Freedom scroll represents Enriqueta Rylands’s contribution to education and enlightenment through the founding of the John Rylands Library, and to Protestant Nonconformity through her provision of access to the Bible in both the vernacular (local) and ‘original’ languages. The autumn exhibition shines a light on the Library’s exceptional Reformation collections and the enduring legacy of Enriqueta Rylands.
Finally, the little Manchester bee seen buzzing below the lamp in the scroll has recently appeared at Longford Park – where John and Enriqueta Rylands lived. A Manchester bee and a lit candle together form the subject of a poignant tree sculpture carved by Keith Macauley in remembrance of the Manchester Arena attack on 22 May.
James White writes
Over the past weeks, I have been cataloguing some of the Persian literary manuscripts in the University of Manchester Library, on a John Rylands Research Institute project sponsored by the Soudavar Foundation.
The Library houses around a thousand Persian manuscripts that came to Manchester after circulating in Iran and India. Some of these are rare works, such as the only substantially complete copy known of ʿAwfī’s Lubāb al-albāb (Persian MS 308), the earliest extant biographical compendium of poets in Persian. Then there is the first volume of ʿAlī Ibrāhīm Khān’s Khulāṣat al-kalām (Persian MS 318), an autograph copy of an anthology of narrative poetry, selected and compiled by a judge who lived in Varanasi in the late eighteenth century. Other manuscripts are significant because they date from the life of the compiler, or just after, like the copies of Tuḥfa-yi Sāmī (Persian MS 317) and Taẕkira-yi Naṣrābādī (Persian MS 315).
I have made some discoveries. Some of the manuscripts had not been identified previously, or had been misidentified. Persian MS 328 (below) turns out to be an anthology compiled by the poet Bāsiṭī (fl.c. 1160/1747) Although anthologies often arrange poems by author, this one is more of a handbook of images. Each chapter takes a different idea, such as ‘On Expectation’, or ‘On Remembering and Forgetting’, and selects lines that engage with the overarching theme. Curiously, Bāsiṭī still refers to this work as a taẕkira (biography) in his preface, a habit that he continued in his other collections of poetry that are not biographical in their genre.
Another previously misidentified work in the collection is Persian MS 648, entitled ʿĀshiq ū maʿshūq: Hamīsha Bahār. It was previously thought that this was a copy of the anthology compiled by Ikhlāṣ Chand, but the text is a narrative that follows the adventures of a prince, as he travels through Kashmir in search of the meaning of love. The final line of the work gives the name of the author as Fānī, and the text is dated elsewhere in the manuscript as having been written in 1051/1641-2. On the basis of the name, the date, and the thematic link to Kashmir, the work can be ascribed to the poet Fānī Kashmīrī (d.1081/1671-2). A third previously misidentified work is Persian MS 457, which turns out to be an encyclopaedia compiled for the Quṭb Shāh Abū l-Manṣūr Abū l-Naṣr al-Muẓaffar Sultān ʿAbdallāh.
Apart from the texts themselves, the manuscripts have been full of intriguing surprises that provide a glimpse into the lives of their former owners. For example, loose in the pages of Persian MS 918, a copy of Luṭf ʿAlī Bayg’s Ātashkada, is a small leaf with two portraits sketched on it in pencil. One side depicts a man in Qajar dress (see top of page), while the other consists of a drawings that represents a young woman when held from one end, and an elderly woman when held from the other (left).
Descriptions for the twenty-four manuscripts included in the project have been uploaded to Fihrist, alongside briefer records for the whole collection which were created with support from the British Institute for Persian Studies and the Iran Heritage Foundation. Images of selected Persian manuscripts are available via our online Image Collections.
Guest blog by Niki Pantazidou.
As a book and paper conservator I had the great opportunity to work at the University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library since March 2016. The Library has an important collection of more than 3000 papyri covering different periods, languages and origins. Papyrus, which was made from the plant Cyperous Papyrus, was first used as a writing material around 3000 BC in Egypt. The plant used to grow on the banks of the River Nile. Most inks used for writing on papyrus were black (carbon ink) and red (iron oxide-usually from natural minerals) (Danzing, 2010).
The Greek Papyrus collection in John Rylands Library provides important insights into early Christianity and important documents referring to medicine, taxation, etc. It also includes some fragments written on parchment – animal skin.
In August 2016, with funding from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust, the methodical papyri rehousing project was able to commence. The aim was a storage method which allows researchers to handle them safely and more easily. The idea behind the rehousing project came from our conservator, Tim Higson. Many fragments were very fragile, and at risk from a range of issues, including adhesive tapes, creases, folds, dust and dirt deposits.
The majority of the fragments were kept in polyester “wallets”, which are unsuitable because of the risks caused by static. Some of the fragments need to be stabilized with “bridges” which are Japanese tissue coated with SCMC. This type of glue is activated with deionized water.We decided to remove fragments from polyester wallets, and place them in archival folders.
During the process of the project, we had to leave some of the papyri fragments in their polyester “wallets” due to their fragile condition.
“The regimen I adopt shall be for the respect and the benefit of my monuments according to my ability and judgement, and not for their hurt or for any wrong. I will give no deadly treatment to any, though it be asked of me, nor will I counsel such, and especially I will not aid to demolish whatever monument I enter. There I will go for its benefit and the benefit of society, refraining from all wrong doing and corruption, and especially from any act of seduction. And I will document and publish every step that I take.”
(Conservator’s vow, “The Venice Charter”, 1964).
Conservators work with archaeologists, curators, papyrologists, chemists and other professionals cooperate to unite the past with the future and bring to light valuable knowledge and information about customs, traditions, and history. I would like to thank the University of Manchester and the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust for giving me the opportunity to work on this unique collection of Greek Papyri, and to thank Tim Higson and Dr Roberta Mazza for their support and guidance. Finally, I wish to acknowledge the help and the warm support provided by all my colleagues. It was an exceptional working environment and I feel very grateful about that.
Danzing, R. (2010, September 22). Pigments and Inks Typically used on Papyrus. Retrieved November 29, 2016, from BKM TECH: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/community/blogosphere/2010/09/22/pigments-and-inks-typically-used-on-papyrus/
Hindustani MS 1 has been digitised and is now available to view online in the Rylands Collection.
This sixteenth-century copy of the Laur-Chand by Maulana Daud is one of the Library’s most beautiful and important manuscripts.
Dr Jacqueline Suthren Hirst has kindly provided an introduction to the story and to our manuscript.
Maulana Daud, a Sufi poet from Dalmau (modern Uttar Pradesh, India), composed his narrative of the hero, Laurak, and his beloved, Chanda, around 1377-78 A.D. Drawing on a popular north Indian regional folktale, which still circulates in vibrant performative traditions today, Daud used the language of Avadhi (or Hindavi) to compose the first surviving Indian Sufi romance, a model for later poets. Avadhi was both a courtly literary language and a vernacular; Daud used Persian masnavi conventions, such as opening verses in praise of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad and his four Companions, his patron and his own pir (Sufi teacher), alongside Indian images and settings, to create an Indo-Islamic story with wide appeal.The story tells of the mutual love of Laur (Lorik/Laurak), already married to Maina, and the beautiful Chand (or Chanda), separated from an unsuccessful childhood marriage. Brought together through the mediation of Chanda’s nanny, they run away together and face many trials, including Chanda’s near-fatal snakebites, the result of a curse. Eventually, they return to Maina, but the end of the story is unknown, none of the five surviving manuscripts being complete. Chanda’s beauty draws Laurak, the Sufi seeker, to God’s beauty; his ‘death’ to nafs, the ego-self, as she ‘dies’ at the second bite, hints at fana’, the annihilation of the seeker in God’s being alone.
Laurak has just scaled the wall to Chanda’s bedchamber, before they have actually met. He gazes on her beauty as she sleeps, her female companions failing to wake and guard her as they should. The verses opposite describe the gorgeous wall-hangings: the ten-headed demon Ravana, the capture of Sita, Rama preparing for battle, from the epic of Rama and Sita; the story of the Pandavas, from the Mahabharata, the other great Indian epic; lions and deer – all delicately etched on the walls ‘the colour of aloewood’, gold-leafed in the painting. In a moment, Laurak will wake Chanda, and the passion of their romance will begin…
The Manchester Chandayan is the most extensive extant manuscript, despite lacking beginning, end and some middle pages. A clever use of picture series draws readers into the story, immersing them in an experience which hints at emotions and unfolding action, creates suspense and engages them at the pace of the narrated tale. While previously the Manchester manuscript was seen as an inferior version of a common lost original better reproduced by the Mumbai Chandayan (Losty), Adamjee has now convincingly argued for its subtle independent narrative strategies intertwining paint and word. The 286 minatures are characteristed by a pastel palette, minimal underdrawing, infilling patterns drawn from fabric design, and extensive gold leaf. The text pages show a Persian section-caption in red ink, above five verses in chaupai rhyming couplets in two columns, with the final verse of each section, in longer doha metre, at the bottom of the page, all written in naskh script.
Origin: India (North Deccan workshop, or possibly court of Malwa), 16th century (possibly c.1570 A.D).
Physical description: 239 x 148mm, 636 paper pages, nineteenth-century leather flap binding.
Manuscript history: Formerly part of the collection of the Persian scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803-1865). Bland’s oriental manuscripts were sold through Bernard Quaritch in 1866 to Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford. The Crawford manuscript collection was purchased in 1901 by Enriqueta Rylands, founder of the John Rylands Library.
Adamjee, Qamar, ‘Strategies For Visual Narration in the Illustrated Chandayan Manuscripts’, unpublished doctoral thesis, (New York University: Institute of Fine Arts, 2011).
Hines, Naseem, Maulana Daud’s Cāndāyan: A Critical Study (New Delhi: Manohar, 2009).
Losty, Jeremiah, The Art of the Book in India (London: British Library Reference Division Publications, 1982).
Pandey, Shyam Manohar, The Hindi Oral Epic Loriki (Allahabad: Sahitya Bhawan, 1979).
___ The Hindi Oral Epic Canaini (Allahabad: Sahitya Bhawan, 1982).
___ ‘Love Symbolism in Candayan’, in Monika Thiel-Horstmann (ed.), Bhakti in Current Research 1979-1982 (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1983), pp. 269-93.
Suthren Hirst, Jacqueline, ‘An Indian Sufi romance’, in John Hodgson (ed.), Riches of the Rylands (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015), p.211.
There is a proverb in the Veneto region of Italy, which says that if your right eye has a spasm (actually it says ‘dances’) then you will have troubles in love. If the left eye does the same, you will be heartbroken. Knowing it or not, Veneto-Italians are continuing an ancient divination technique called ‘palmomancy’, the interpretation of the involuntary spasms or twitching of the human body. In the Graeco-Roman world, professional diviners and magicians gave body-based predictions of the future to their clients on the basis of manuals and centuries of experience. This field of knowledge is hard to be defined according to modern categories of religion, magic and medicine, since it often shares features with each of them.
Not many manuals of palmomancy have survived from antiquity, but we do have a fine one in Manchester: P. Ryl. I 28. The Rylands treatise occupies a very special position…
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