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Appendix IV: Textual Problems of Early Persian Dīwāns
(2,061 words)

In Volume 5: Poetry of the Pre-Mongol Period

previous chapter: Appendix III: Sharwānī’s Nuz’hat al-Majālis and the Early Persian Rubāʿī

From an early date it must have been customary to collect the shorter poems of a Persian author in a dīwān, literally a ‘register’ or ‘archive’, in the same way as was the practice with Arabic poetry. We have already cited the passage in the Safar-nāmah of Nāṣir i Khusrau in which the author speaks of how, in 438/1046, he helped Qaṭrān to study ‘the dīwān of Munjīk and the dīwān of Daqīqī’.1 It is thus clear that the poems of these celebrated authors of the Samanid period had been gathered into dīwāns before the middle of the 11th century, though both of these collections are now lost. Elsewhere Nāṣir speaks of his own two dīwāns in Persian and Arabic, put together obviously in his own lifetime.2 We have also seen that Niẓāmī3 and ʿAṭṭār4 both collected their own shorter poems, while those of Ẓahīr Fāryābī were collected by another, after his death.5 But the great majority of the three-hundred-odd poets that have been discussed in this volume are known to us only from isolated poems preserved in anthologies or histories and from the stray verses quoted in dictionaries or manuals of literary practice. Their dīwāns, in so far as they ever existed, disappeared long ago. To be sure, modern editors have published so-called dīwāns of several of these early poets, but these have all been reassembled from the scattered quotations and have no manuscript authority as original, intentional collections of the work of the poet in question.

There are, however, just over thirty Persian poets of the pre-Mongol period who are represented by manuscripts containing, or claiming to contain, the dīwān of the author in question, either as a separate book, or as part of a collection (majmūʿah) of several dīwāns. None of these manuscripts is contemporary with the author, and indeed no manuscript of a Persian dīwān has been discovered which can be dated with certainty to the pre-Mongol period.6 But there are several such codices from the second half of the 13th, or from the 14th century. Ignoring those known only from copies of uncertain date or of questionable authenticity we can propose the following as a cautious list of pre-Mongol poets with dīwāns attestable in manuscripts from the Ilkhanid period:7 Azraqī, Nāṣir i Khusrau, Anwarī, Athīr Akhsīkatī, ʿAṭṭār, Kamāl Iṣfahānī, Khāqānī, Muʿizzī, Mukhtārī, Qamar, Qiwāmī Rāzī, Rūnī, Ṣābir, Sanāʾī, Shams Ṭabasī, Ẓahīr Fāryābī.

On the other hand, there are a number of undoubtedly early poets whose dīwāns are known to us only from manuscripts of the Safavid period or later, that is to say, not before the end of the 16th century, and in many cases not before the 18th or 19th century. These include several important early poets (Farrukhī, Lāmiʿī, Manūchihrī, Qaṭrān, ʿUnṣurī), as well as some later ones (e.g. Ḥasan Ghaznawī, ʿImādī, Masʿūd i Saʿd, Raḍī Naisābūrī and others). From the point of view of textual criticism, without denying that the poems in these dīwāns are, on the whole, more or less authentic, one must emphasise that they represent a redaction of the collected poems which cannot be traced back further than the Safavid period, at the earliest.

Since completing the three chapters that make up the bulk of this volume I have had the opportunity (an opportunity culpably passed up at an earlier stage) of taking a closer look at the British Library’s copy of the first rukn of the enormous anthology Khulāṣat al-ashʿār wa zubdat al-afkār8 of Taqī al-dīn Muḥammad b. Sharaf al-dīn ʿAlī Ḥusainī Kāshānī. Taqī completed the first version of this book in 993/1585 and the enlarged second edition in 1016/1607–8. Of the well over 600 entries contained in the complete work the London manuscript has those devoted to 23 early authors, each of whom is represented by an astonishingly large number of poems. After the long introduction, the first chapter is devoted to ʿUnṣurī,9 where the author concludes his (largely worthless) biographical sketch with the statement that, after much searching, he has succeeded in finding ‘a dīwān’ of this poet, containing ‘nearly 5000 verses’, but as most of these poems were, in Taqī’s opinion, ‘boring’, he made only a small selection from them for inclusion in his anthology.10 But Taqī’s ‘selection’ is, for all practical purposes, identical with the collection of poems included in the printed editions of ʿUnṣurī’s so-called dīwān,11 and evidently also in the manuscripts on which these editions are based, the only difference being that in the printed dīwān the poems are arranged alphabetically by rhymes, while in the anthology they are not. One must consequently conclude either that Taqī’s claim that it was he who made this selection is a blatant lie, or else that all the manuscripts of ʿUnṣurī’s dīwān (or at least all the manuscripts available to the editors) derive from Taqī’s anthology. Seeing that all the recorded manuscripts of the ‘dīwān’ postdate Taqī by many years, the latter alternative is in any case chronologically plausible.

The next section of the Khulāṣat al-ashʿār is devoted to Manūchihrī. This time Taqī ends the biography with the statement that Manūchihrī’s dīwān is unknown in Iran and that consequently he has been able to find only a few of this author’s poems in old anthologies and treatises. But he promises to add the others should he ever discover a complete copy of the dīwān.12 And the selection that follows is indeed only a small sample of the poems that we read in the printed dīwān. It seems therefore that either Taqī himself, or else one of the later Safavid antiquarians, did eventually find a copy of Manūchihrī’s collected works. It is noteworthy that the oldest reported manuscripts of that dīwān are dated to the year 1010/1601–2,13 that is to say, between the time of the first and the second editions of Taqī’s anthology. Their relationship with Taqī’s selection remains to be examined.

It would be interesting to examine the other chapters in the first rukn of the Khulāṣat al-ashʿār along the same lines, but this can be left to others. For the moment it will suffice to say that at least some of the so-called dīwāns of early Persian poets are nothing more that extracts from the Khulāṣat al-ashʿār, or possibly from one of the other extant Safavid anthologies. If this is confirmed (and obviously the case of each author must be examined separately), then the methodology for the critical edition of these poets will be simplified to a considerable extent: future editors will be able to ignore all of the manuscripts of the dīwāns and concentrate first on establishing the standard text as contained in the best copies of the Safavid compendia and then confronting this with the handful of precious fragments contained in the old anthologies and dictionaries.

In the case of those poets whose collected works are found in manuscripts of the 13th and 14th centuries the primary duty of editors is naturally to retrieve and publish the Ilkhanid recension (or recensions) contained in these codices. This is a task with which scholars have until now hardly begun. Once the Ilkhanid redaction has been retrieved it will then be possible to confront this with the Safavid vulgate (here too in many cases probably represented mainly, or exclusively, by Taqī) and thus to form some objective idea of the methodology and general reliability of the Safavid editors.

Unfortunately the task of any conscientious editor is made more complicated by the fact that within the last half century or so the forgery of Islamic manuscripts has risen to an astonishing level of technical sophistication. The forgers’ workshops have acquired an excellent knowledge of the history of Persian and Arabic palaeography and orthography, often using genuine old paper and traditional techniques.14 Where they have been caught out it has mostly been not because of any physical defects of their products, but through their careless approach to the text. (The decision to copy ‘13th-century’ manuscripts of the rubāʿīyāt of ʿUmar i Khaiyām from an edition printed in Berlin in the 1920s is a striking example). It must be hoped that improved techniques for the technical analysis of (for example) ink, combined with a greater attention to basic principles of textual criticism will gradually lead to a weeding out of spurious ‘old’ manuscripts, but in the meanwhile it is unfortunately necessary to adopt a sceptical attitude to all Persian manuscripts that show up out of the blue on the international art market or that find their way into libraries without an accountable provenance.15


^ Back to text1. See above, p. 123.

^ Back to text2. See Nāṣir’s dīwān, ed. Mīnuwī/Muḥaqqiq, qaṣīdah 64 v. 46; qaṣīdah 177 v. 51.

^ Back to text3. Above, p. 279.

^ Back to text4. Above, p. 163.

^ Back to text5. Above, p. 356.

^ Back to text6. For the London Ms. of Khāqānī’s dīwān, which has a dedicatory panel with the date 594/1197–8, see above, p. 239, fn.

^ Back to text7. The order follows that in which the poets have been discussed in this volume.

^ Back to text8. London Or. 3506 (Rieu, Suppl. 105). For Taqī’s book see Sprenger pp. 13–46; pl i § 1105; Gulchīn i Maʿānī pp. 524–56 (with a list of manuscripts); ei2 s.v. ‘Taḳī ’l-Dīn Kāshī’.

^ Back to text9. The edition of ʿUnṣurī’s dīwān by M. Dabīr-Siyāqī, Tehran 1342sh./1963 (which I have now been able to consult; see above, p. 139) is based mainly on a manuscript with the title Majmaʿ al-qaṣāʾid and which the editor claims (p. ix of the introduction) was compiled by ‘Taqī al-dīn Muḥammad al-Ḥusainī’ ‘in the years 1067 and 1068’. This is in fact evidently an extract from the Khulāṣat al-ashʿār (see the passage quoted in the next footnote). It is really surprising that Dabīr-Siyāqī did not seem to realise that the name of the person who supposedly compiled the Majmaʿ al-qaṣāʾid (in 1067/1656–7) is the same as that of the man who compiled the famous Khulāṣat al-ashʿār more than 70 years earlier.

^ Back to text10. Or. 3506, fol. 32a (compare ʿUnṣurī/Dabīr-Siyāqī p. xxx, quoting the so-called Majmaʿ al-qaṣāʾid): musawwid i īn aurāq, aʿnā Taqīyu l-dīn Muḥammadu l-Ḥusainī, baʿd az tafaḥḥuṣ i bisyār dīwān-ī az ū dīd qarīb ba panj hazār bait, wa akthar i qaṣāʾid-ash muṭawwas (Dabīr-Siyāqī: muṭawwal) ast chunānkih khwāndan-ash bāʿith i malāl ast, wa li hādhā chandīn qaṣīdah az ān intikhāb namūdah dar īn khulāṣah darj namūdam.

^ Back to text11. I have compared the lithograph of 1298/1881 and the largely identical selection in Qarīb’s edition of 1323sh./1944. Dabīr-Siyāqī’s edition is, as mentioned, based mainly on the ‘Majmaʿ al-qaṣāʾid’ (i.e. unwittingly on Taqī), collated with Qarīb’s edition, with an appendix of additional verses from the lexica etc.

^ Back to text12. Fol. 54b: ammā dīwān i way dar Īrān chandān shuhrat-ī nadārad wa dar miyān i mustaʿiddān mutaʿārif nīst, līkin baʿḍ i qaṣāʾid i ū dar majmūʿah-hā i qudamāʾ wa rasāʾil i mutaqaddimīn masṭūr wa madhkūr ast wa īn chand qaṣīdah kih dar īn khulāṣah thabt shuda az al-jumlah ast. in shāʾ allāh taʿālā agar bi muṭālaʿah i tamāmī i dīwān az ū sar afrāz shawīm, bāqī i ashʿār-ash iḍāfah īn kitāb khwāhad shud.

^ Back to text13. See above, p. 103.

^ Back to text14. See R. Frye, ‘Islamic book forgeries from Iran’, in Islamwissenschaftliche Abhandlungen (Festschrift for Fritz Meier), Wiesbaden 1974, pp. 106–9. One of the pieces described and illustrated in Frye’s article, namely a copy of the spurious Arabic dīwān of the Shiʿite imam ʿAlī Zain al-ʿĀbidīn al-Sajjād, ‘dated’ 299/911, with interlinear glosses in Persian (which, if they were authentic, would make it by far the oldest dated document in Neo-Persian) has since been acquired by a London art collector and has been examined at some length by the present author. It is a masterpiece of the art of counterfaction.

^ Back to text15. I have now acquired a microfilm of Dublin Beatty 103, which has colophons with dates in 699/1300, and contains ten dīwāns, most of them already noted in this survey, namely those of Kamāl Ismāʿīl, ʿAbd al-Wāsiʿ Jabalī, Waṭwāṭ, Rūnī, Azraqī, Shams Ṭabasī, Najīb Jarbādhaqānī (see pl vi), Rafīʿ Lunbānī, Imāmī (pl vi) and Anwarī. A comparison of the selection of Azraqī’s poems with that in the 13th-century London Ms. Or. 3713 reveals the two to be disconcertingly similar. As noted already in the Beatty catalogue, the Dublin manuscript has clearly been tampered with (there are two fake miniatures, one ‘dated’ 699). Without wishing to pass judgement on the manuscript as a whole I would strongly advise scholars undertaking an edition of any of the ten dīwāns to exercise critical judgement in their use of this copy.

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“Appendix IV: Textual Problems of Early Persian Dīwāns”, in: Storey Online, Charles Ambrose Storey. Consulted online on 30 September 2023 <>
First published online: 2021

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