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Manuchihr's Globe

 

Sonja Brentjes

 

The re-surfacing of a splendid specimen of a celestial globe made for the Safavid gvernor Manuchihr Khan (d. 1636) is a marvellous gift to all who are seriously interested in intellectual history of post-Mongol Islamicate societies and in particular of the Safavid dynasty (1502-1736). It illustrates that education, politics, art patronage, artisanal and artistic excellence had formed a strong bond. This unification of a broad range of cultural activities in the courtly spheres of the Ilkhanids (1256-1335), Timurids (1370-1507), Mughals (1526-1707), Ottomans (about 1300-1922), Safavids and other Muslim dynasties provided the context for the creation of a scholarly tradition of the mathematical sciences, astrology, philosophy, medicine and the so-called occult sciences that thrived as a program of elite education, luxurious display of power and wealth and as a culture of gift-giving and political rivalry. Claims to scientific excellence in this cultural function of the sciences serve for binding the sciences to the other mentioned expressions of excellence, but do not necessarily literally reflect a culture of scientific research practice as stated in the preface of Hasan b. Sa'd Qa'ini's (fl. 1630) Persian translation of 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi's (903-986) work on star constellations.

 

Both the globe and the two preciously illustrated manuscript copies of Qa'ini's translation encourage us, however, to spend more time with them and investigate their claims, mastership and affiliations to earlier Ilkhanid and Timurid works of the same genre. They also invite us to rethink the history of the sciences in the Safavid period and to dedicate the same kind of careful study to such specimens of scholarly knowledge and cultural practice as we have done so successfully in the last decades with regard to prime specimens of scientific innovation and excellence created in Islamicate societies of the classical period between India and the Iberian Peninsula. It would be wonderful if the private owners of such impressive pieces reflecting the rich cultural past of the sciences in Islamicate societies would support us in this task and share their collections generously with the academic world and the public.

 

Gemini. Safavid copy from about 1630-33 made for the Georgian governor of Mashhad Manuchihr Khan (d. 1636) as part of the Persian translation of 'And al-Rahman al-Sufi's (903-986) Book of Star Constellations by Hasan al-Qaini (fl. 1630).Gemini. Safavid copy from about 1630-33 made for the Georgian governor of Mashhad Manuchihr Khan (d. 1636) as part of the Persian translation of 'And al-Rahman al-Sufi's (903-986) Book of Star Constellations by Hasan al-Qaini (fl. 1630).

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