Javāher Nāme-Ye Neẓāmi

Share this:

Iraj Afshar

Article contents:
The title of the work
The author
The period which the author flourished
The dedicatee
The manuscripts in order of their importance
The contents
The novelty of Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi
Plagiarised Javāher Nāmes
Iraj Afshar

In this paper, I will introduce the Persian text Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi written by Neyshābūrī in 592 AH. This is an important text because it is the earliest work in Persian that remains unpublished and also because it is based on an author’s experiences and findings who was both a lapidary and a goldsmith. My editing of the text is based on five manuscripts. Neyshābūrī’s text, which is considered to be of minor importance compared to the Arabic al-Jamāhir fī Marifat al-Jawāhir by Abū al-Ryḥān al-Bīrūnī (d. 440/1048), which is the first known Persian work on gems and jewellery, metals and alloys (mamzūjāt), and talāvīḥāt (enamels -minā- and those substances that can be heated and applied to other surfaces).

Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi is of great importance because the author, his father and his son were all jowhari (lapidaries), polishers of gems and goldsmiths. The author recorded a great account of his personal experiences as well as information he had gathered from gem-dealers and jewellers. For example, under the entry on bijaīde - a red ruby similar to a balas ruby he wrote: ‘One of the sādāt [descendants of the Holy Prophet] from Badakhshān district, related that yeki ʾaz sādāt-e navāḥi-ye Badakhshān ḥekāayat kard’. Original quotations like this one render the text quite valuable. The other two Persian authors writing on gemmary after Neyshābūrī also quoted these details, but provided no similar source (See the section below on plagiarised Javāher Nāmes). Whenever he described his own experiences and findings, Neyshābūrī began with the complimentary phrases ʿan ẓaʿīf (this humblest) or bande-ye ẓaʿīf (the humble servant).

Before my attempt to study, introduce and edit the manuscript1, there were two sources to be examined that referred to Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi. The first was an article ‘al-Almās’, published by Muhammad ʿAlī Tarbiyat in 1316/1937 in which he quoted directly from the work, but referred to it as Jowhar Nāme. Tarbiyat added that: ‘It was written in 592 and there is a manuscript of it2’. The second source was a brief work’s description by Shaykh Aghā Bozorg Ṭehrānī in al-Ḍarīʿah ilā Taṣānīf al-Shīʿah (1323/1944)3, under the entry Javāher Nāme (which is mentioned in note 1 below), without the nisbah of Neẓāmi which is specified in four of the five existing manuscripts4. The information included in Storey's Persian Literature about Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi was taken from this source.5

After examining these two sources, I saw a copy of the work in the Malek Library, in Tehran, whose manuscripts I was cataloguing. At the time I was editing ʿArāyes al-Javāher va Nafāyes al-Aṭāyeb for publication, a text written in 700 AH by Abū al-Qāsim al-Kāshānī6. I noticed an astounding similarity in both the subject and wording of the two texts. Moreover, it became clear to me that the content of Tansukh Nāme by Khāje Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī7 was taken Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi. When it was shown that the main source of these two famous authors was Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi, I wrote an article about such a plagiarism8.

At that time only the Malek Library manuscript9 was available to me. This is a badly bound, incomplete and water-stained manuscript, with the author’s name missing. Its title is recorded as Jowhar Nāme rather than Javāher Nāme. Later on, I found four other manuscripts, each of which had different defects and lacunae, making it possible to edit the text. New valuable information on the five manuscripts is, thus, now presented below.

The title of the work

The titles of three of the manuscripts - those from Turkey, Qum and Tashkent respectively - are Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi, while the title of that in Tehran’s Malek Library is mistakenly written as Jowhar Nāme-ye Neẓāmi. This is so, apparently, because the manuscript has been water-stained and copied incorrectly. The Lahore manuscript bears no title. It should be noted that the nisbah ‘Neẓāmi’ refers to the name of the vizier to whom the book was dedicated.

The author

The name of the author in the Turkish and Tashkentish manuscripts, both of which contain introductions, is recorded as Farīd al-Millah wa al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Abū al-Barakāt al-Jowharī al-Neyshābūrī.10 Al-Ḍarīʿah records the same name. The Malek manuscript contains some complimentary titles which refer to the author directly but his actual name is missing.

It should be noted that the jeweller’s name is mentioned in two sources. The first is in ʿArāyes al-Javāher va Nafāyes al-Aṭāyeb by Abū al-Qāsim al-Kāshānī, written in 700 AH. An anecdote about Neyshābūrī appears in the section on morvārid (pearls) but the author did not, however, specify that he was talking about Muḥammad ibn Abū al-Barakāt al-Jowharī, Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi’s author, which was clearly Kāshānī’s major source in writing his work.11

The second source is Gharāyeb al-Dunyā, a book of verses by Shaykh Āzarī al-Esfarāyenī (died 866 AH). In it, al-Esfarāyenī writes

Dar Ketāb-e Javāher Barakāt

Mi-konad naql az ʿodūl-o thiqāt

Ke dar aqṣā-ye Hend-o sarḥadd-e Cin

Vādi-yi hast dar maghāk-e zamin...

Con be mashreq rasid ʾEskandar

Yāft zān maʿdan-o maqām khbar...

Barakåt, in his book Javåher, quotes that in the farthest reaches of India and on the Chinese frontier there is a desert in the abyss of the earth ...When Alexander reached the East, he was informed about the mine and its location...

Muhammad ʿAlī Tarbiyat, who quoted this verse,12 identified Barakāt as a physician belonging to the court of Caliph al-Mustanjid bi-Allāh, namely Abū al-Barakāt Hibbat Allāh ibn ʿAlī ibn Malik al-Balad, Failasūf al-ʿIrāqayn who died in 560 AH.13 No work on gemmary, however, has been attributed to this man. There is no doubt that the person Shaykh Āzarī meant by Javāher Barakāt was Neyshābūrī and his work Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi: first, the whole content of the verse was found in the Almās (diamond) section of Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi, and secondly, it is certain that Muḥammad ibn Abū al Barakāt wrote a book on gemmary. Giving the name of the father, instead the son’s, was a common practice at that time. For instance, identifying Manṣūr al-Ḥallāj as al-Ḥosayn ibn Manṣūr al-Ḥallāj, or Jarīr al-Ṭabarī as Muḥammad ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī. Alternatively, giving only the kunya of the author's father taken from the author’s complete name and nisbah could be a form of poetic licence, providing cadence and rythm to the verses.

The period which the author flourished

There are six dates in the text of Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi that can shed light on the author’s lifetime. These are listed below in chronological order:

  1. 555 AH. In this year a merchant in Kirmān provided the author with an anecdote about a crystal decanter (mentioned in the section on bolur, or crystals.)
  2. 566 AH. The author writes, ‘ʾin ẓaʿif dar shohūr-e sanat-e setta va settin va khamsameʾat dar dast-e khāje-i az jomle-yetojjārshakl-ekeshti-y ṭūlāni-ye jazʿ’ (mentioned in the jazʿ section).
  3. 588 AH. The author was taken by ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn  Takish to Sarakhs in order to change the motives on a reyhānī (emerald), of a man and a bird, into the phrase lā ʾilāha ʾilla Allāh (mentioned in the zomorrod, (emerald), section).
  4. 588 AH. The Ghurid sultan, Muḥammad ibn Sām ordered him to carve his name on a ruby signet (mentioned in the section on rubies).
  5. 592 AH. According to the introduction, this is the year the book was written.
  6. 593 AH. In the text, the author writes that  ‘dar shohur-e senat-e thalāth a tesʿin moʿtamed-i ʾaz jomele-ye tojjār ḥekāyet kard’ (‘in the months of [5]93 a trusty friend of mine who was a merchant narrated that ...’). Considering the situation and the context, the word khamsumeʾat might have been omitted (it is, however, mentioned in the zomorrod, (emerald section).

The author must have been at least 20 years old at the time of the first date, 555 AH, in order to able to enter into negotiations with a merchant. He must, therefore, have been born about 530 AH and been more than 60 years old when he wrote the book.

The Jowharī (author) was a contemporary ruler to whom he referred at various instances throughout the text:

  1. The Saljuqid king, Sanjar ibn Malik Shāh (511-558 AH).
  2. The Ghurid king, Muḥammad ibn Sām (558-599 AH). The author mentions him on three occasions, twice as Muḥammad ibn Sām and once as Sulṭān-e ghur, the Ghurid king.
  3. ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn Takiṣh Kharazmshāhi (568-596 AH). As mentioned earlier, this king ordered him to go to Sarakhs.
  4. Muʾayyad Aybih, one of Sulṭān Sanjar’s commanders who conquered Neyshābūr and its suburbs in 548 AH and who was defeated and killed by Takish in 596 AH. Malik Muʾayyad was in Kirmān in 558 AH.
  5. Ṭoghān Shāh, the son of Malik Muʾayyad.
  6. Malike Khātūn, the mother of Sulṭān Shāh, one of the rulers of Kharazum, who had come to Jowharī’s home town.

Little is known about Neyshābūrī’s travels and adventures. We can be sure that he went to Sarakhs invited by ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn Takish, since he referred to this. He made another trip to Kirmān where he probably met ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn  Takish who was there in 558 AH. Furthermore, as was stated earlier, Jowhari (the author) mentioned meeting a merchant in Kirmān in 558 AH.

The author also visited the districts of Kish, Baḥrayn, and especially Shilav (Sīrāf). The detailed, specific information he gave about pearls and isues related to pearls, demonstrates that he spent some time there. He recorded information about pearls’ prices and the currently used special technical terms there that he had obtained from local inhabitants. Judging by what he wrote, he might also have travelled to Muscat.

The dedicatee

The work was dedicated to Ṣadr al-Dīn Abū al-Fatḥ Masʿūd ibn Bahāʾ al-Dīn ʿAlī ibn Abū al-Qāsim al-Abharī, ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn Takish’s vizier. This vizier was the Ismailid s archenemy and was assassinated by them14. The honary Mongol titles of ʾInānj Qotlogh Belka ʾOlogh given in the introduction mean ‘the fortunate trusted man, the great prudent manager’.

The manuscripts in order of their importance

The Qom manuscript in the Marʿashī Library, 150 ff. When I first saw a photographed copy of this manuscript, it belonged to Bāqir Taraqqī (Raqqat), a book collector in Tehran15. It is now the property of the Āyat al-Allāh Marʿashī Library. The manuscript was transcribed in taʿlīq-like handwriting, probably in the seventh/thirteenth century, and contains relatively few mistakes. There are, however, lacunae at the beginning, in the middle and at the end. It is badly bound and the last lacuna is in the section on minā (enamels). This formed the basic manuscript for my editorial endeavours.

The Turkish manuscript in the Bāyazīd Library, no. 1944/1, 194 ff. The handwriting is in eighth/fourteenth century naskh16. The many lacunae to be found were completed in the handwriting style of the ninth-tenth/fifteenth-sixteenth centuries. The last lacuna is in the section on khatū, a term meaning both the horn of a cow’s breed from western China and the cow itself.17

The Tehran manuscript in the Malek National Library, no. 3609, 156 ff. The handwriting is in eighth/fourteenth century naskh. It is badly water stained and those words which are smudged and blurred have been rewritten. The manuscript abounds in misreading's and errors because of the amender's lack of knowledge on the subject matter and its terminology, as well as his inability to read the blurred parts. It is, in fact, a misleading manuscript. If it had not been damaged like that, it could have been chosen as the base manuscript for editing. I based my above-mentioned article on this copy, because it was the first one I encountered, though I did identify its defects. The last lacuna is in the talāviḥāt section. One of the advantages of this manuscript is that it contains an illustration of the dūd dādan process, i.e. making enamels and their similar by smouldering in a furnace. The other manuscripts lack this illustration. Seals on ff. 11v, 20v, 32v, 43v, 58v, 72v, 75v, 90r, 101v, 102v, 134v, and 150v, have all unfortunately been obliterated18.

The Tashkent manuscript in the Library of the Manuscript Institute, no. 1423, 165ff. This is in eleventh/sixteenth century nastaʿlīq, abrupted in khatū and contains numerous misreading and misspellings. As the middle parts are complete, it could be useful to collate this with other incomplete manuscripts.19

The Lahore manuscript in Maḥmūd Shīrānī's collection, no. 4107/1656, given to Punjab University, 195ff. The copy was transcribed in the eleventh/sixteenth century. There are lacunae at the beginning (in the first part of the introduction) and in the middle. It finishes in the section on ziʾbaq (mercury). The blessing formula contained at the end – tammat al-kitāb [biʿawn] al-mālik al-wahhāb (the book finished with the divine help of the benevolent Lord) – signifies that it was transcribed from a copy ending at this section20.

Muhammad ʿAlī Tarbiyat's manuscript. In his article ‘Almās’, Tarbiyat provided no information about the quality of his manuscript, and gave only a short quotation from Javāher Nāme about diamonds. We know nothing about the manuscript’s whereabouts. In his commentaries on Shesh Faṣl (chapter six), Muḥammad Amīn Riyāḥī conjectured that it might be the Malek manuscript. On collating Tarbiyat's quotation with the Malek manuscript, it became obvious that the difference is a matter of interpretation. Tarbiyat's manuscript is therefore different from Malek’s and the owner of the former is still unknown21.

The al-Ḍarīʿah manuscript. This is a copy that was reviewed by Shykh Āghā Bozorg Ṭehrānī in his great bibliographic work, al-Ḍarīʿah ilā Taṣānīf al-Shīʿah. He briefly describes the book, but fails to inform us where he saw the manuscript22.

The contents

Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi begins with generalities about living creatures, their types, and the nature of their birth and survival. Next, in the introduction, comes the reason for writing the book and its dedication to the vizier identified above. Neyshābūrī then explains how he compiled and composed the book:

There was no deserving service [to the vizier] but a scientific one that its utility could be honoured and esteemed, that it would be worth presenting to His Highness, and this humblest one could afford to do as much as I could. Considering what I have explained above, I attempted to compose a scientific work ... When this humblest one noticed the eagerness of His Highness; it became a duty for me to compile a compendium of preceding scholars’ findings on gemmary, together with what I had gained through my personal experience in jewellery and lapidary, and adding anecdotes heard from reliable sources and merchants.

The composition was therefore based first on the findings of preceding scholars, secondly on the author's personal experiences in gemmary and lapidary, and thirdly on what he had heard from reliable sources and merchants.

What Neyshābūrī meant by ‘preceding scholars’ was quotations generally taken and translated from al-Jamāhir by al-Bīrūnī who, in turn, had often mentioned the names of Jābir ibn Ḥayyān, Yaʿqūb al-Kindī and Naṣr al-Jawāhirī as sources of information. From the content and structure of Javāher Nāme it seems certain that Neyshābūrī took and translated a great deal of al-Jamāhir: Indeed, it is probable that one-third of the contents of Javāher Name was retold. When translating and quoting material, the author states in many cases, what it was explained by ‘Ustād Abū al-Reyḥān’. He also mentioned al-Jamāhir on three occasions. It must be acknowledged, however, that Jowharī Neyshābūrī greatly rearranged al-Bīrūnī’s chapters and sections according to his own taste and direct observation, and probably according to the degree of the subject matter’s importance . Furthermore, he added to his quotations from al-Jamāhir a variety of information and hearsay.

Javāher Nāme is divided into four maqāle, parts, as follows:

  1. Maqāle-ye ʾavval: This part describes the properties of mineral elements, in four faṣls.
  2. Maqāle-ye dovvom: This part describes gems and jewels and their similars, as well as their prices, information and anecdotes about them. Al-Bīrūnī introduced 32 precious stones (as well as a short description of enamel) in his system; Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi, however, identifies 52 gems, with two chapters at the end dealing with the properties of precious stones quoted from Arisṭūṭālis (Aristotle), and introducing gems with special diagnostic values. The author also quotes some details from al-Jamāhir fī al-Javāhir, incorporating them into his own findings.
  3. Maqāle-ye sevvom: This part is divided into ten sections on metals: such as kibrīt or gugerd (sulphur), ziʾbaq (mercury), zar (gold), noqre (silver), noḥās (copper), raṣāṣ (tin), ʾosrob (lead), ʾāhan (iron), khārṣini (one of the alloys of the Seven Metals = Haft Jūsh), and ʾahān-e ṣīnī (china iron, an alloy used for making mirrors). Kebrīt and ʾahān-e ṣīnī were missing from al-Bīrūnī s work. In this section, Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi discusses maʿmūlāt and mamzūjt, two processes of alloying, and mentions the alloys ʾesfidury (of copper and tin), botruy (of copper and lead) and ṭāliqun (a mixture of all major metals). These had already been discussed by al-Bīrūnī in his al-Maqālah al-Thālithah. Javāher Nāme added shabah (black coral or jet) although al-Bīrūnī grouped this in his first maqāle under al-sababah (jet). It is worth mentioning that the author of Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi wrote the title of this part, maqāle, in Arabic as ‘al-maqālah fī sharḥ al-felezzāt’.
  4. Maqāle-ye cahārom: This part examines the different types of minā (enamel) and the composition and manufacture of each of them. A description of talāviḥat takes up most of this maqāle. Al-Bīrūnī s description on al-minā va fī ẓekr al-qiṣāʿ al-ṣīniyyah comprises a total of four pages, but the corresponding section in Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi is no shorter than ten pages in each of the available manuscripts.

The novelty of Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi

As mentioned above, Neyshābūrī discussed in four maqāles what al-Bīrūnī discussed in three, and he also changed the contents’ order of each section, according to his own preference. See Appendix 3 where I compare the headings of the subject matter in the two works. In some instances, Neyshābūrī omitted whole topics and in others he abridged them. For example, no verses or literary comments quoted by al-Bīrūnī were included in Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi. The author even left out two lines of Persian poetry relating to yāqūt (the ruby) which were included by al-Bīrūnī. Indeed, he discarded literary and inconsequential topics unless they were directly related to the definition of gems and the mines in which they were found. He considered instead scientific discussions that were directly associated with gemmary, but nothing else.

Neyshābūrī 's work is, however, replete with new and unique information. He introduced his own knowledge by the phrase ʿan ẓaʿīf (this humblest one), which is stated in about 20 occasions throughout the book. Such details are provided by his personal experience and the knowledge he acquired during his travels. For example, details about morvārid (pearls) and their prices, which he learned while in Kish and Qologhtu. There was no mention in al-Bīrūnī 's work of pearls from these two places. Al-Bīrūnī’s writing on loʾloʾ (morvārid in Javāher Nāme) takes up about 50 pages in the Krenkov edition, while the corresponding subject in Neyshābūrī 's work, amounts to nearly 90 pages.

An example of Neyshābūrī’s thoroughness on this subject is his enumeration of 40 types of pearls. He commented on the varieties, sizes and weights of pearls, and he gave more information on their prices, than al-Bīrūnī. Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi is consequently rich in Persian terms relating to pearls. Neyshābūrī explained the different ways in which pearls are perforated, ending with:

Now perforating and stringing hārāt (strings of pearls) is usually carried out in Baghdad though it used to be done in Khuzestān and Silāf. In the old days the merchants bought pearls in Kish and Baḥrayn, brought them to those cities [of Khuzestān and Silāf] and ordered the pearls to be made into strings and other pieces of jewellery, making any necessary modifications. There were no thaqqābs (pearl-perforaters) and naẓẓāms (pearl-stringers) mentioned in the ancient histories of Kish and Baḥrayn.

There are many such historical and technical details in Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi and it will therefore be worth comparing it to al-Jamāhir once it has been published. There is no doubt that this Persian text will be of invaluable help to any new editor of al-Jamāhir. More particularly, it constitutes a reliable source on the Persian terminology used by al-Bīrūnī.

Some of the Persian terminology, used in Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi, consists of vernacular words from the region of Neyshåbur and the cities of Khorāsān, for example, dash (furnace), dāshkhāl (clinker) and koshte (dried pieces of fruit). In discussing dāshkhāl, the author referred to the manufacture of pitchers for foqāʿ (beer). Such historical details are useful for those interested in history and manufacturing processes. Neyshābūrī wrote:

If clay is baked at a high temperature, it will change into a piece of pottery; if it is baked at a very high temperature, it will change into a very hard piece of  pottery, as hard as a stone. This is called dāshkhāl (clinker) in Neyshābur and is used as foqāʿ -pitchers.

One of the most important sections of Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi is, in my opinion, that on pearls and firūze (turquoise). Neyshābūrī was able to gather a large amount of information from the people involved in diving, perforating, stringing, and trading pearls in Sirāf, Kish, Khārk and Baḥrayn, assessing it all with the eye of a competent gemmologist. Neyshābur – the most important supplier of turquoise, with numerous mines – was the author's birthplace, so he could give the name of each turquoise mine, explaining the differences between turquoises from Neyshābur and those from other places, such as Khojand, and listing their prices in detail. Neyshābūrī was a jeweller and a lapidary, who enabled him to master the science of gems, as is evident from the contents of his book. He was very well versed in the jewels of each region, even those from Turkistan, Sistān, India and Ceylon, but he is more aware of those from Khorāsān (specially Neyshābur), Kirmān and Sirāf. In this text, he mentions Khorāsān on nearly 50 occasions, either quoting al-Bīrūnī or providing information of his own.

Plagiarised Javāher Nāmes

As I mentioned above, two Persian books on gemmary, written some time after Javāher Nāme-ye Neẓāmi, were based on Neyshābūrī's work, but made no reference to it nor acknowledged its author. I have already discussed this subject, in detail, in an article (see note 2 above). The first book is Tansukh Nāme-ye ʾIllkāni by Khāje Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsī (663 AH), and the second ʿArāyes al-Javāher va Nafāyes al-Aṭāyeb written by the famous historian,  Abū al-Qāsim al-Kāshāni in 700 AH. Both of these works have been edited: the first text was published by Modarres-e Raẓavi, while I published the second. It is obvious that the content of Neyshābūrī 's work influenced later texts on gemmary either directly or via these two books. Its impact on subsequent scholars is not, however, the subject of this article.

Source note:
This was published in:
The Earth and its Sciences in Islamic Manuscripts: proceedings of the fifth conference of Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation – English version, 2011, Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, London, UK., p 233-260.

Please note that some of the images used in this online version of this article might not be part of the published version of this article within the respective book.

Related Articles

Back to Top