This work is a translation and study of a ninth- through fifteenth-century manuscript, a selection from a medieval book, Kitāb al-Hadāyā wa al-Tuḥaf (Book of Gifts and Rarities), edited by Muhammad Hamidullah. The manuscript furnishes a wealth of varied information offering insights into the period immediately preceding Islam and extending through the first four centuries of Islamic rule. The book provides valuable information on “gifts” exchanged on various occasions between Islamic rulers and their foreign counterparts. “Rarities” form a part of the gifts; some of them are marvels, others are mythical.
The manuscript is an invaluable source of information in many fields. It abounds with technical references and details in various areas of Islamic art, which renders it unique as a reference. The extensive detailed treatment, in the context of the overall material culture, provides a particularly rich source of information for those working both in the specific field of Islamic art and in that of Islamic culture as a whole.