Jaimee Comstock-Skipp (Leiden University)
The Netherlands Institute in Turkey awarded me the first fellowship of my PhD tenure. Only months into beginning my program at Leiden University, I spent five weeks waiting fruitlessly for permission to examine 16th-century Persian manuscripts of the Shāhnāma epic at the Topkapi Palace but my time was far from wasted! When asked by Fokke Gerritsen and Güher Gürmen whether I would like to give a presentation to the public about my project, I eagerly accepted this opportunity to focus on the aims of my dissertation and come up with a lecture that I will use as a chapter to it. This composition will be based on my talk titled “The Proof is in the Picture: Manuscripts of Ferdowsi’s Shāhnāma and Şehnâme-i Türkî Translations from Ottoman and Shaybanid (Uzbek) Centers.” Preparing the talk compelled me to compile the primary and secondary sources I had accumulated over the last three years while finishing my MA thesis from The Courtauld Institute of Art, and while researching visual material from the Shāhnāma epic in pre-Islamic to late-16th century museum and archive objects in Tajikistan.
I continued supplementing these primary and secondary sources with textual sources from the Süleymaniye and Boğaziçi University libraries. Able to work in the ANAMED and NIT libraries late into the night then dragging myself back to my comfortable scholar’s residence within seconds, I benefited from chance discoveries of obscure offprints and publications by Turkish scholars that I plucked from the shelves. Accompanying Machiel Kiel and Hedda Reindl-Kiel one day to the Ottoman Archives near the Golden Horn, I found several folios to the manuscripts I had wanted to see in the Topkapi Palace reprinted as good-quality color illustrations in a book on Ottoman art.
In sum, although I never saw a physical manuscript from my list of Shāhnāma manuscripts I had hoped to consult while an NIT Fellow, I found expositions of a few complete manuscripts and image reproductions to some of them which will sustain my research until I revisit Istanbul.