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Farah K. Behbehani

Thames & Hudson, 2009
164 pages
Fully illustrated with colour and monochrome calligraphy.
ISBN: 9780500514627

The Conference of the Birds, written in the 12th century by the Persian poet and mystic Farid ud-Din Attar, tells of the birds of the world gathering in order to search for a mythological king, the Simorgh. Each of the birds represents a different human type - a coward, a lover - and much of the poem consists of tales told by their leader in answer to their objections to the journey or their questions about it.

Behbehani has selected English verse translations of thirteen stories from this poem as the basis for her calligraphic illustrations. The name of each bird, as well as a line of poetry from each bird story, is translated into Arabic and rendered in Jali Diwani calligraphy. This technique, which uses an ornate cursive script developed by the Ottomans and characterised by profuse embellishment, allows the calligrapher to create beautiful stylised pictures of the birds from the text of the story itself.

The graphic system used in this typography is explained calligraphically, allowing a reader to follow the flow of the text, and the book is concluded by a glossary of the Arabic alphabet in Jali Diwani script, as well as interpretations of each of the letters according to Sufi mystical values.

This sumptuous and beautifully designed volume is hard-bound and sold in a presentation case.


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