Treasures of Herat

Treasures of Herat


Two Manuscripts of the Khamsah of Nizami in the British Library

by Barbara Brend
Translation and commentary of seals and inscriptions  by  Ursula Sims-Williams

Format: Hardback 240×293
Published: April 2022
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 137 colour images


Barbara Brend has devoted decades of forensic labour to the task of unravelling the complexities of these  two fifteenth-century manuscripts of Nizami’s Khamsah in the British Library. In  clear and elegant prose she explains  what makes them great and how text and image illuminate each other. Her insights are by turns surprising, stimulating and compelling, and they are consistently fresh and original. Quite simply, this book is a treasure, and it takes the study of Timurid painting to new levels of sophistication.

Robert Hillenbrand, Emeritus Professor in Islamic Art History at the University of Edinburgh and Honorary Professorial Fellow at the University of St Andrews.


With this book, Barbara Brend provides thorough consideration of two celebrated Persian manuscripts housed in the British Library. These two copies of the Khamsah (Quintet) –a set of five narrative poems by Nizami Ganjavi, a master of allegorical poetry in Persian literature– were produced in Herat in the fifteenth century, one of the greatest periods of Persian painting. 

Although well known, the manuscripts have never before been written about in relation to each other. Brend tells the story of each poem and the painting that illustrates it, and she formally analyses the images, placing them in their historical and artistic context. The images from both highly-prized manuscripts are beautifully reproduced in colour, and the collected history of one of the manuscripts—recorded in the form of seal impressions and inscriptions—is also included. Ursula Sims-Williams provides a translation and commentary of these important marks of ownership which identify the Mughal rulers Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb. 

Barbara Brend is a specialist in the field of Persian and Mughal painting. Her most recent books include Perspectives on Persian Painting: Illustrations to Amir Khusrau’s Khamsah and Muhammad Juki’s Shahnamah of Firdausi. 

Additional information


Art, History, Literature & Poetry, Visual Art