One Thousand and One Ways to Sell — Marketing Decorated Books and Album Paintings from Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian Lands in Europe and America c. 1850-1950

One Thousand and One Ways to Sell — Marketing Decorated Books and Album Paintings from Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian Lands in Europe and America c. 1850-1950
3 November 2020, 4.00pm - 5.30pm
Conference / Symposium

Worth more ; Islamic and Persian manuscripts in the Collection of R.E. Hart

Cynthia Johnston, Lecturer in History of the Book, IES, SAS, University of London

Over a lifetime of collecting, Blackburn ropemaker Robert Edward Hart (1878-1946) amassed two internationally significant collections; one of manuscripts and rare books, and another of ancient coins. Most of the material in both collections is from Greco-Roman and western European Christian culture. Hart s collections certainly display some intellectual ambitions. His collection of Roman Imperial coins is complete, and only equalled by that held by the British Museum; his collection of 50 incunables includes examples from every major printing centre in Europe, and his medieval manuscripts contain work from some of the most prominent manuscript illuminators of the later Middle Ages including the Master of Edward IV, and the workshop of Hermann Scheere. But beyond his tightly focused collecting goals, Hart also purchased material for both collections beyond a Euro-centric agenda. Hart s Islamic and Persian material includes a 15th century copy of Nizami Ganjavi s Khamsa, unbound pages from the Shahnameh, a 17th century Qur an and three 18th century copies of Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Jazuli s Dala il al-khayrat (Guide to Goodness). Amongst Hart s private papers is a handlist of his acquisitions. Next to his list of ‘oriental’ material is an estimate of the total price he paid for these items, and the note, Worth more . In this paper, I will discuss Hart s ambitions as a collector for this material, and examine his sense of the cultural capital of his Islamic and Persian purchases with regard to enhancing the cultural breadth of his collection, as well as its monetary value.

Indian Manuscripts on the London Market c. 1900-1920 

Laura Cleaver, Senior Lecturer in Manuscript Studies, IES, SAS, University of London

On his death in 1958, Charles William Dyson Perrins bequeathed two manuscripts to the British Museum. One was the fourteenth-century Gorleston Psalter, made in England. The other was a sixteenth-century volume, Nizami: The Khamsah , that had been described in 1912 as the most wonderful Indian manuscript in Europe . Perrins acquired both manuscripts through London dealers in the first decade of the twentieth century and both were included in the catalogue of his collection published in 1920. In that catalogue, the Khamsah was one of just four manuscripts categorised as oriental . In the early twentieth century, it was not unusual for British collectors of European premodern books to acquire a small number of manuscripts from further afield. Similarly, material described as Persian and Indo-Persian was included in auctions of Illuminated & other Manuscripts dominated by European books. This paper will examine the descriptions of oriental manuscripts in catalogues of diverse material together with the prices paid for them to analyse how these objects were positioned within the trade in valuable and rare books in London in the first two decades of the twentieth century.

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