One of the most beautiful books in our library is a 19th Century copy of Ajā’ib al-makhlūqāt or The Wonders of Creation by Zakariya al-Qazwini, born in the 13th Century, illuminated with stunning illustrations. Originally from the 4th Marquess of Bute’s collection from his home in Edinburgh this book is an important work of Cosmography. Al-Qazwini does borrow from earlier sources but this work was particularly influential due to it’s tone and style which was intended to engage readers with stories and poetry that enrich the scientific content.
The work is split into two parts covering celestial cosmography of the heavens, astronomy and the concept of time and the terrestrial, the four elements, the animal kingdom and mankind.
There are some spaces in this book that remain un-illustrated. Basil William Robinson, a specialist in Asian art and history, evaluated the Marquess’ Islamic collection for the Victoria and Albert Museum in the 1970s when the items were loaned to the National Art Library there and described the illustrations in this book as ‘many rather rough miniatures.’
You can peruse some of the illustrations here: