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Wajid 'Ali Shah, King of Oudh (reg. 1847-1856)

Ishqnamah. 1849-50

RCIN 1005035

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Brown calf binding with gilt ornamental panels with floral designs, and silvered doublures. A label inscribed with a Persian title on front cover reads: nazm-i 'ishqnamah-yi hindi ba taswirat (Indian poem of the 'Ishqnamah [Book of Love], with pictures)

The 'Ishq-nama ('Chronicle of Love') is a long narrative poem (masnavi) composed by Wajid Ali Shah, the last king of the independent state of Awadh (Oudh) in India (r.1847-56). A renowned poet and playwright, he was still a young man when he composed the poem in urdu describing his life and loves at the Lucknow court (the capital of Awadh). This volume of the work was produced for the king himself with numerous painted illustrations and richly-illuminated borders. The illustrations show palace rooms filled with European paintings and furniture and garden entertainments with lively musicians and dancers. The depictions of ladies at Wajid 'Ali Shah's court are particularly enlightening and demonstrate his fondness for women of African descent. The king had one of the earliest photographic studios in India and many of the portraits of women in this manuscript are based on their real photograph portraits.

The manuscript was taken from the Royal Library at Lucknow by Sikh soldiers when the palace was stormed in 1858. They gave it to Sir John Lawrence (later Governor-General and Viceroy of India) who presented it to Queen Victoria in 1859.