« Capsid Bug | Main | Large Red Damselfly »
Thursday
May142009

Book Production in 16th Century Asia

As imagined by Orhan Pamuk in My Name is Red (translation by Erda─č M. Göknar):

Miraculously, however, Sultan Ibrahim Mirza's marvelous volume did not remain unfinished, for in his service he had a devoted librarian.  This man would travel on horseback all the way to Shiraz where the best master gilders lived; then he'd take a couple of pages to Isfahan seeking the most elegant calligraphers of Nestalik script; afterwards he'd cross great mountains till he'd made it all the way to Bukhara where he'd arrange the picture's composition and have the figures drawn by the great master painter who worked under the Uzbek Khan; next he'd go down to Herat to commission one of it's half-blind old masters to paint from memory the sinuous curves of plants and leaves; visiting another calligrapher in Herat, he'd direct him to inscribe, in gold Rika script, the sign above a door within the picture; finally, he'd be off again to the south, to Kain, where displaying the half-page he had finished during his six months of travelling, he'd receive the praises of Sultan Ibrahim Mirza.

At this pace, it was clear that the book would never be completed, so mounted Tartar couriers were hired.  In addition to the manuscript leaf, which was to receive the artwork and scripted text, each horseman was given a letter describing the desired work in question to the artist.  Thus, messengers carrying manuscript pages passed over the roads of Persia, Khorasan, the Uzbek territory and Transoxania.  At times, on a snowy night, page 59 and 162, for example, would cross paths in a caravansary wherein the howlings of wolves could be heard, and as they struck up a friendly conversation, they'd discover that they were working on the same book project and would try to determine between themselves where and in which fable the prospective pages, retrieved from their rooms for this purpose, actually belonged.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.