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TREASURES OF THE LIBRARY PODCAST: Moira Mackenzie describes the Bustan of Sa’di

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In the summer of 2013, the University Library set out to capture the reactions of academic and library staff when encountering their favourite items from the Special Collections Division. For this project, authors for articles for Treasures of St Andrews University Library (London, 2010) were asked to speak about the item or collection they highlighted in this publication.

Moira Mackenzie, Reader Services Manager for the Special Collections Division of the University Library, describes the Bustan of Sa’di, a magnficient late 18th-century copy of a 13th century Persian epic poem. A gift to the University from Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville in 1847, this copy of the poem was written by a scribe, Mir ‘Ali Amjad Khan as a gift to King George III.  In deference to its royal recipient, it is a work of exquisite form and beauty. It takes the form of a scroll on waver-thin, translucent paper measuring only 90mm across, but a staggering 2.85 metres long, and written in black ink with red highlights and lavishly bordered in gold. The stanzas of the poem, written in minute script readable only with a magnifying glass, take the form of delicate foliage and intricate Persian characters. Probably unique in rendering the poem in this form, it is an extraordinary item which regularly leaves observers awe-struck.

The Bustan of Sa’di, a magnficient late 18th-century copy of a 13th century Persian epic poem (St Andrews ms31(o)
The Bustan of Sa’di, a magnficient late 18th-century copy of a 13th century Persian epic poem (St Andrews ms31(o))

The article written by Moira Mackenzie about this item is to be found on pp. 80-83 of Treasures of St Andrews University Library (London, 2010). This short video is one of several which have been made based on the book. The entire set, which will be added to periodically, is available on the University of St Andrews Library YouTube channel.

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