Book of the Wonders of the Age

Scope and Content

The Book of the Wonders of the Age

Part of a compilation, comprising two works in Persian, profusely illustrated throughout, front and back covers stamped with stylised sun-head, rebound in 1848:

1. (fol. 1-89b): 'Ain al-Haiyat, or The Substance of the Lives, an abbreviation in Arabic of the famous Haiyat al-Haiyawan or Lives of the Animals of Damiri. The abbreviation was written by Damamini. 'The fifth treatise of the second volume of the Book of Wonders of the Age, or an account of the conditions on land- and sea-animals, comprising a preface and 28 chapters, according to the letters of the alphabet, with the names of animals and descriptions of their peculiarities and an explanation.' The writer has left the translation unfinished or has failed to transcribe completely an earlier Persian version, as it ends with the male partridge instead of ending with the queen-bee.

2. (fol. 91-130): Extracts from the 'Seven Seas' section of 'Aja'ib al-makhluqat (Wonders of Creation) of Qazwini. Cites as authorities 'Abdarrahman ibn Harun al-Maghribi and Abu Hamid al-Andalusi. Picture book with only a line or two of text on each page.

  • f 91a: Starts with 'Among the wonders of the Western Sea'
  • f 107b: 'And the wonders of the China Sea'
  • f 114b: 'The island of Waqwaq' [East Indies]
  • f 119b: 'The island of the Casle'
  • f 130b: 'In explanation of the conditions of the Indian Sea etc'
  • The writer has left this part unfinished, some of the illustrations are sketched out but incomplete.

Administrative / Biographical History

Muhammad Ibn Musa Kamal Ad-din Ad-damiri (1341-1405) was born in Egypt at Damira near Damietta. He became a theologian and an expert in Islamic jurisprudence, as well as Arabic philology, teaching in Cairo and at the mosque of el-Azhar and producing works on Islamic law and natural history. His most famous writing was the Haiyat al-Haiyawan or Lives of the Animals, a compilation of works by many authors to give copious details on the 931 animals mentioned in the Koran, including folklore, proverbs, medical uses and meaning of names.

Damamini was an Egyptian who travelled to the Yemen and then to India, completing his work in Gujarat in AH823/AD1420.

Zakariya' ibn Muhammad al-Qazwini (d.1283), was a Persian physician from Qazvin. He travelled around the Near East serving as a legal expert and judge, including in Baghdad for the governor, 'Ata-Malik Juwayni. Qazwini's popular cosmology was dedicated to the governor. This treatise was first written in Arabic, entitled 'Aja'ib al-makhluqat wa-ghara'ib al-mawjudat (Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing). He also wrote a geographical dictionary, Athar al-bilad wa-akhbar al-'ibad (Monument of Places and History of God's Bondsmen).


Single item

Access Information

By appointment with the Keeper of Manuscripts. Access to records containing confidential information may be restricted.

Acquisition Information

From the family of AF Le Maitre, catalogued by DM Dunlop.


Call number used to be msPK6597.A1

Other Finding Aids

Individual Manuscripts and Small Collections database available as part of Manuscripts Database.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Maia Sheridan, Archives Hub project archivist, based on material from the Manuscripts Database.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Keeper of Manuscripts. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.