October 5, 2010
London, United Kingdom

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Persian and Arabic manuscript on paper, 62ff. plus 4 fly-leaves, each folio with 22 to 24ll. of black flowing naskh, important phrases and words picked out in red, titles in larger red or black thuluth or naskh, the text divided in 12 chapters, each profusely illustrated with diagrams and tables in red and black, marginal notes and comments, catchwords, colophon signed and dated, the first folio a 17th century or later replacement, second and third folio a contemporary replacement, areas of waterstaining, small repairs, in fine 19th century gilt maroon morocco cover binding with flap
Folio 13¼ x 9¾in. (33.8 x 24.6cm.)

'Abd al-Qadir bin Ghaybi al-Hafiz al-Maraghi was born around the mid-14th century in Maragha in North-West Iran. According to the Encyclopedia of Islam he was 'the greatest of the Persian writers on music'(H.G. Farmer, The Encyclopedia of Islam, Leiden, 1986, vol.I, p.66-67). He died in Herat in March 1435 after having spent his life in the close entourages of the prominent rulers of the time, in the royal courts of the Jalayrids, the Timurids and the Ottomans. His eventful life perfectly illustrates the rich cultural exchanges within the Islamic world at the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century.

The son of a sufi polymath and musician, Ghiyath al-Din Ghaybi al-Maraghi was accepted at the court of Sultan Shaykh Uways (r. 1356-74) in the Jalayrid capital of Tabriz where he served his son, Sultan Jalal al-Din Husayn (r.1374-82) after him. After the death of Sultan Jalal al-Din in 1382, al-Maraghi joined Baghdad and the court of Sultan 'Ali, one of the late sultan's brothers. Sultan 'Ali was defeated by another of his brothers, Sultan Ahmad Bahadur (r.1382-1410) who installed his capital in Baghdad were al-Maraghi remained for almost ten years as a chief court minstrel. This is where he composed some of his famous works and series, including thirty intricate musical works called nawbat-I murattab. Earlier, to commemorate a temporary victory of Sultan 'Ali against his brother, al-Maraghi had invented a new musical rhythm called darb-I fath (rhythm of victory) in 1382.
In 1398, five years after Timur's capture of Baghdad, al-Maraghi was transported to Samarkand where he stayed as court musician in the close entourage of Timur. He then served Timur's son Miran Shah in Tabriz in 1399. Blamed by Timur for the erratic conduct of his patron, al-Maraghi fled to Baghdad where the Jalayrid Sultan Ahmad had temporarily re-established his rule. After Timur's death in 1405, al-Maraghi joined the court of another of Timur's sons, Shah Rukh (r.1405-1447) in Herat. It is there that he wrote the Maqasid al-Alhan between 1418 and 1421 which he dedicated to the Ottoman Sultan Murad II. He left for Bursa to present it in person to the Sultan in 1423.

The Maqasid al-Alhan is one of al-Maraghi's four major works of which only three survive. His first and most comprehensive work is a musical encyclopedia called Jami' al-Alhan composed in 1405 and revised by him ten years later. Two autograph copies dedicated to his son, 'Abd al-'Aziz, and to Shah Rukh are in the Nuruosmaniye Library in Istanbul and in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. His third and fourth works are respectively a lost treatise on music called Kanz al-Tuhaf) and a commentary on a famous Arabic treatise on music by Safi al-Din al-Urmazi called Sharh al-Adwar.

The Maqasid al-Alhan is his second major work of which fourteen copies are known. Five have been written during the author's life and can be listed as follow:

1.The 'author's copy' in the Radavi Library in Mashhad, (539) dated 1418.
2.Manuscript in the Bodleian Library in Oxford (1843) dated 21 November 1418.
3.The present copy dated Thursday 29 Safar AH 826/11 February 1423 AD
4.Manuscript in the Malik Library in Tehran (832/1.) dated 1433.
5.Manuscript in the Topkapi palace Library (R.1726) copied by Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Ilyas in 1434

Thee present manuscript is one of only two recorded copies written in the author's hand; the second is preserved in the Radavi Library in Mashhad. This manuscript is therefore of extreme importance for the knowledge of this work.

The Maqasid al-Alhan is composed in twelve chapters, with a preface (muqaddima) and a conclusion.

The preface includes hadith of the Prophet Muhammad on the beauty of voice.

Chapter 1. The Description of music and its establishments.
Chapter 2. The Division of intervals on strings and the reason for cacophony.
Chapter 3.The types of tetra-chord and penta-chord instruments.
Chapter 4. The twelve main maqams (modes) and rhythmic circles.
Chapter 5. The seven tones (awaza), commenting the earlier works of Qutb al-Din Shirazi and Safi al-Din al-Urmawi.
Chapter 6. The classification of the twenty-four mode sections.
Chapter 7. The harmony in tones.
Chapter 8. The layers of the fourth in two scales.
Chapter 9. The patterns in rhythmic circles.
Chapter 10. The rules of good manners for musicians.
Chapter 11. The comparison of the Greek and Arabic names of tones.
Chapter 12. The profession of singing

The conclusion includes the names of musical instruments, of leading musical figures and poems on musical compositions.

Al-Maraghi's work is seen as important as that of Safi al-Din al-Urmawi (d.1294) who, unlike al-Maraghi, wrote his major work Kitab al-Adwar in Arabic. Al-Maraghi based parts of his work and relied heavily on Safi al-Din's treatises (Fazli Arslan, Safi al-Din al-Urmawi and the Theory of Music, Manchester, 2007, p.2). He is seen as the last of the greatest theorists of the pre-Ottoman musical tradition. The fact that al-Maraghi composed it for the Ottoman ruler when he himself was in Herat reflects the reputation of the Ottoman court and its interest for belles-lettres and more specifically music. The translation of Safi al-Din's Kitab al-Adwar into Turkish and the work on music of al-Maraghi's son named Nakawat al-Adwar dedicated to Sultan Mehmet II, 'Abd al-'Aziz, illustrate this. Al-Maraghi's grandson Mahmud, who lived under Sultan Bayezid II, is also known to have compiled a musical treatise titled Makasid al-Adwar.

This copy of the Maqasid al-Alhan was studied by the historian of Turkish music Rauf Yekta Bey (d.1935) and his notes are visible in the margins of the manuscript. He wrote an important biography of 'Abd al-Qadir Maraghi (Hace Abdulkadir Meragi) which is the second book of a series named Esatiz-i Alhan (Masters of Music) and was partly based on his research on this manuscript.

This copy of Maqasid al-Alhan written by its author is an invaluable contribution to the history of music. The fact that some of the melodies and rhythms invented and described by 'Abd al-Qadir al-Maraghi are still studied, played and listened to today reflects the rare importance of his work.

Christie's would like to thank Philippe Bora Keskiner for his help researching this lot.

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Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds

October 5, 2010, 12:00 AM GMT

London, United Kingdom