Mughal Exhibit Dana Kapeller-Libermann

Mughal Exhibit Dana Kapeller-Libermann

Unlike everyone else I was not able to snap a photo of this beautiful book of songs without getting scolded. Nor was I able to find the image on the web. So instead of leaving it all to written description and memory I drew out some key elements, and smaller parts that drew my attention to it. This (or what I tried to draw with my talented artistic skills) is A book of songs of Nayak Bhakshu. First its contents; it contains 1,004 dhrupad (Indian classical songs) written in Braj Bhasha (related to Hindustani). These songs were intended to royal use in the courts. One thing that is pointed out is that Shah Jahan’s name is written on every page in gold calligraphy, and the calligraphy is absolutely beautiful, unlike my squiggles to not even attempt the language. Inside this book held the most popular songs to be sung at that time and the book sure did look important.

This is not like one of our books nowadays, it is not black ink printed on white paper, with the only thing that could be unique the font and size of the letters. No, in this time books were taken differently, especially ones to be used in court. They were as much a part of the decoration and scenery as a chair, to be used but also to be seen. The book in the British Library was opened up to one page, I’m not sure if it was a random one, the best preserved, or the most beautfiul, but it is hard to believe that the rest of the pages didn’t reflect what I saw on just those two. Along the border of the page was dark blue. Then there was a gold design against it (crudely shown in my picture). Then came a black outlined box which inside held more gold and blue. The lettering was in black ink while surrounding each curves and groove was light blue. Then surrounding the blocks of text of light blue was gold. What I only saw upon closer inspection was the veins with flowers in intricate patterns both between the blocks of text and along the border. These veins were also done in gold. These two pages alone were so vibrant and beautiful I wanted to flip through the book to see the rest. The beauty of the book is important. The art of the book establishes legitimacy. Anyone can have a plain book with the same words written in it, but only the Shah has one so beautiful with his name written in gold on every page. Even a special calligrapher is hired to make the book, an artist doing his craft.


14 thoughts on “Mughal Exhibit Dana Kapeller-Libermann

  1. This is the best drawing of a book I’ve ever seen. Seriously though, I like that you paid attention to and thoroughly described the book’s appearance in reference to color and material.

  2. Thank you for your detailed description of the item (love your drawing btw). Possibly this book was written in golden characters because the words written were very important both to the writer and the reader. It takes skill, money and time to create something like this, and that is why it is so precious and why words are golden: it is trying to convey the message of its preciousness.

  3. I love how you say “to be used but also to be seen,” and “The art of the book establishes legitimacy.” I feel like these are very important statements that sum up a lot of what I really like about your post. The detailed explanation that you give of the page also reflect the vast skill of the calligrapher and the beautifying of things for the court and Emperors. I also really liked that you mentioned that it was written in Braj Bhasha, and not Persian, but it still appeared in court and I feel that this reflects the somewhat secular aspects of Mughal court.

  4. I really enjoy your drawing, kind of a modern interpretation. I also love your choice of work of art, because I too looked at this book of songs, though I didn’t choose it. Actually, I may have even taken a sneaky picture of the book, if I had known I would have sent it to you. As our professor said, it takes much time, money, and skill to create something as beautiful as the original book (though your adaptation comes pretty close). It made it easy to imagine just how long it must have taken to create the book and how highly valued it must have been.

  5. The price and dedication required in producing a book like this makes me wonder about Shah Jahan’s love of song and literature. This kind of artistic culture must have held a special place in Mughal court culture for such an expenditure of time and money to be made.

  6. I definitely feel your pain about not being about to take a picture and attempting to sketch your object. Anyway…
    The books and calligraphy on display at this exhibit were nearly overwhelming for me. I wish books still looked like this. It seems sad, in a way, that they’ll now stay behind glass on display and not be read–even though many of these were presentation copies, books are meant to be read and to be loved.

  7. I do not remember this specific book, but every text I saw was beautiful. I think it’s amazing that you had to practically put your nose against the glass to see all of the details and that it could not have been captured with the click of the camera.

  8. I like the way you paid attention to the details of the book that brought value to the book. The beauty of the book could only be held by an important person, which shows that beauty belongs to a certain group.

  9. It is so interesting that the Shah’s name was written on every single page. It’s as if someone might forget who the Shah was. It’s funny to think that if President Obama put his name on every page of the federal budget or something.

  10. You noted that “The art of the book establishes legitimacy.” I find that a fascinating notion. Does that mean that other books, without ornaments, are less legitimate? I do believe there is a difference between real books and reading them online or an a device like the kindle. Yet I’m not sure whether or not words can be more important based on illustrations.

  11. Dana, I really liked your drawing of this book because it shows your own personal interpretation of it and also illuminates important details that you noticed, such as the tiny and delicate veins with flowers.

  12. Your drawing of the book was interesting and he description was great. I also like how you talked about how the book was part of the decoration and not just something to read.

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