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A pinnacle of early Persian art and historiography.
This important work by the Persian polymath Al-Biruni was written originally in circa 390 A.H. (1000 A.D.). The manuscript has a distinct multi-ethnic and multi-confessional flavour. Al-Biruni, who calculated on the basis of measurements he took in the Punjab plain that the world was round, describes the systems of calculating time used by the known races of the world, and their associated festivals. Its text and 26 illustrations (painted in 1307 A.D.) breathe a spirit of tolerance and open-eyed curiosity about the world at large. Here, Christian scenes (the Baptism and the Annunciation) complement Islamic images, as well as others of Zoroastrian, pre-Islamic Arabian, Jewish and Hindu origin, and even one of the birth of Julius Caesar. The manuscript was donated by Robert Munro Blair Binning (1814-1891) of the Madras Civil Service, in 1877.