Name of Object:

Zubdat al-Tawarikh (‘Cream of Histories’)


Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Holding Museum:

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

About Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Sultanahmet

Original Owner:

Sultan Murad III (r. AH 982–1003 / AD 1574–95)

Date of Object:

Hegira 993 / AD 1583

Artist(s) / Craftsperson(s):

Calligrapher: Sayyid Loqman Aşuri; painters: al-Sayyid Lutfi, Molla Kasım (Mulla Qasim) and Ustad Osman and their workshop.

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Delicate finished (aharlı) paper, ink, watercolour, gilding, the binding lacquered (Edirnekari technique).


Height 64.7 cm, width 41.3 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Istanbul, Turkey.


The work is written in Turkish with large naskhi script in black ink on 90 leaves of delicate finished (aharlı) paper. Within are 55 miniatures depicting subjects in the text, some of them one to a page and some two. On pages 1b–2a two round medallions carry an inscription stating the work's subject and saying that it was prepared for the Treasury of Sultan Murad III (r. AH 982–1003 / AD 1574–95). The text is written 37 lines to a page; the titles and chapter headings are gilded. Their illumination features floral compositions with arabesques (rumi) and Chinese-inspired motifs (hatayi-style), while that of the first two pages' medallions includes large floral motifs (halkar-style).

The work's dark-green cover is lacquered using a technique known as Edirnekari. The outer covers are richly decorated with gold and silver in floral compositions, while the inner covers feature medallions, pendants and corner-pieces. The binding is not original.

The work, which was written by the court panegyrist (Şehnameci) Sayyid Loqman Aşuri, consists of two main sections. The first begins with the universe and the signs of the zodiac and continues with stories taken from the Torah, the New Testament, and the Qur'an which tell of the lives of prophets and those who rendered service to the faith. These are illustrated with paintings. The first part ends with genealogical trees of the Prophet Muhammad, the Four Orthodox Caliphs, and the sultans and high officials of Muslim dynasties such as the Umayyads, the 'Abbasids, the early Islamic period, the Ghaznawids, the Ilkhanids, the Seljuqs and the Timurids. The second part opens with Sultan Osman, the founder of the Ottoman dynasty, and goes up to Sultan Murad III, with 12 portraits of Ottoman sultans. It ends with descriptions of the political events of these sultans' reigns.

This work was made for the Treasury of Sultan Murad III, and the quality of its paintings, its binding and its calligraphy make it one of the greatest works of Ottoman art created for a sultan.

View Short Description

This manuscript includes stories of the prophets, the birth of Islam and histories of Muslim states. It was written on the order of Sultan Murad III by the historian Sayyid Lokman and illuminated by famous naqqash (painters) Molla Kasım and Ustad Osman. It is a unique work of Ottoman art.

How date and origin were established:

It is stated on the work that it was prepared for the Treasury of Sultan Murad III (r. 982–1003 / 1574–95) in 993 (1583).

How Object was obtained:

Transferred to the Museum in 1915 from the Library of the complex in Aksaray (Istanbul) founded by the wife of Sultan Mahmud II and mother of Sultan Abdülaziz ('Abd al-'Aziz) I, Pertevniyal Valide Sultan (d. 1300 / 1883; queen mother from 1277–92 / AD 1861–76).

How provenance was established:

The work was almost certainly written in Istanbul by order of the Sultan.

Selected bibliography:

Aksoy, Ş., “Zübdetü't Tevarih, Sultan III. Murad için Hazırlanan bir Şehname”, P. Art, Culture, Antique, 3, 1996, pp.17–37.

ölçer, N. et al, In Pursuit of Excellence: The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul, 1993, p.42, pl. 19A–E; pp.52–6.

ölçer, N. et al, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul, 2002, pp.272–5.

Renda, G., “New Light on the Painters of the Zubdat at Tawarikh in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul”, Fourth International Congress of Turkish Art, University of Provence, 1976, pp.183–207.

Citation of this web page:

Sevgi Kutluay "Zubdat al-Tawarikh (‘Cream of Histories’)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024.;ISL;tr;Mus01;35;en

Prepared by: Sevgi KutluaySevgi Kutluay

Sevgi Kutluay is the Head of the Calligraphy and Manuscripts Section at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul. She graduated from the Department of Archaeology and Art History at Hacettepe University, Ankara, in 1985 with the thesis “The Complexes of Kayseri Huand Hatun and Afşin Eshab-ı Kehf and the Development of Complexes in the Anatolian Seljuq Period”. She completed her Master's at the same department with a thesis entitled “Divriği Great Mosque and Its Decorative Programme” in 1989. She started working at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 1988 and has worked as an expert at various museums and departments of the ministry. She quit her Ph.D. entitled “The Diwan of Hüseyin Baykara and the 15th Century Manuscripts of Herat”. She participated in restoration projects on the wall paintings of Göreme Dark Church and Sumela Monastery in Trabzon and in the display designs of various museums.

Translation by: Barry WoodBarry Wood

Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.
, İnci Türkoğluİnci Türkoğlu

İnci Türkoğlu has been working as a tourist guide and freelance consultant in tourism and publishing since 1993. She was born in Alaşehir, Turkey, in 1967. She graduated from the English Department of Bornova Anatolian High School in 1985 and lived in the USA for a year as an exchange student. She graduated from the Department of Electronic Engineering of the Faculty of Architecture and Engineering, Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, and the professional tourist guide courses of the Ministry of Tourism in 1991. She worked as an engineer for a while. She graduated from the Department of Art History, Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir, in 1997 with an undergraduate thesis entitled “Byzantine House Architecture in Western Anatolia”. She completed her Master's at the Byzantine Art branch of the same department in 2001 with a thesis entitled “Synagogue Architecture in Turkey from Antiquity to the Present”. She has published on art history and tourism.

Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: TR 64


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