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The London Qazwīnī
Encyclopaedic work on cosmology by Zakarīyā ibn Muḥammad ibn Maḥmūd al-Qazwīnī

"The Wonders of Creation and the Oddities of Existing Things"
MS copied in Mosul, Iraq, c.1300 CE
British Library Or 14140


folio 19r


folio 37r


folio 44r


folio 101v


folio 102r


folio 134v lower

London Qazwini
Reference: Or 14140
Title: ‘Ajā‘ib al-makhlūqāt wa-gharā‘ib al-mawjūdāt
Qazwīnī, Zakarīyā ibn Muḥammad
Date: c 1300 (CE, Gregorian)
Extent and Format: Codex; ff. 135
Holding Institution: British Library: Oriental Manuscripts
Copyright for document: Public Domain

The London Qazwīnī. Encyclopaedic work on cosmology by Zakarīyā ibn Muḥammad ibn Maḥmūd al-Qazwīnī, d. 1283). The text is lavishly illustrated with 368 paintings.

In the undated colophon (f. 135v, lines 7-8) the anonymous scribe claims to have copied the text from an autograph copy (i.e. a copy written by the hand of the author).

Physical characteristics
Material: Paper
Dimensions: 300 x 192 mm leaf [248 x 165 mm written]
Foliation: British Museum foliation in pencil
Ruling: Misṭarah ?; 25 lines per page; vertical spacing 11 lines per 10 cm
Script: Naskh
Ink: Black ink, with rubricated headings
Decoration: Illuminated title page (f. 1r); 368 paintings
Binding: None
Condition: Many leaves damaged and repaired; each leaf individually encased in plastic sheeting, framed in card and held in eight boxes
Marginalia: Very few
Written in Arabic in Arabic script
Type Manuscript
Source: Qatar National Library



Composed in Iran during the 13th century, al-Qazwīnī’s cosmography became immensely popular as an illustrated encyclopaedia. It was copied many times throughout the Islamic world and translated into Persian and Turkish. Beginning with the world above, it describes first the heavens, stars, constellations and heavenly beings (angels). The second part is dedicated to the earth below, with a geographical account of the seas and the creatures that inhabit them, followed by descriptions of plants, animals, birds, and insects and finally a section on fantastic creatures.
One of the oldest copies is the ‘London Qazwini’ produced in Mosul at the beginning of the 14th century.
Source: British Library



The subject of this book is the so-called London Qazvini, an early 14th-century illustrated Arabic copy of al-Qazvini’s The Wonders of Creation and the Oddities of Existing Things, which was acquired by the British Library in 1983 (Or. 14140). As is commonly the case for copies of this text, the London Qazvini is lavishly illustrated, with 368 extant paintings out of the estimated original ca. 520.

Its large format, ambitious illustrative cycle and the fine quality of many of the illustrations suggest that the atelier where it was produced must have been well-established and able to attract craftsmen from different parts of the Ilkhanid area. It also suggests that its patron was wealthy and curious about scientific, encyclopedic and 'ajā’ib literature, and keen to experiment with the illustration of new texts like this work, which had been composed by the author only two or three decades earlier. The only centre that was capable of gathering such artistic influences ranging from Anatolia to Mesopotamia appears to have been Mosul.
Source: Edinburgh University Press



See also Arab Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers
Ilkhanid Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers
Index of Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers