he 14th-century Persian poet Hafez, known for a collection of philosophical and mystical verse titled the Divan, is one of Iran’s most celebrated literary figures. Born in Shiraz in approximately 1325, the poet is revered for his mastery of the ghazal, a form of Arabic verse centered on love and loss. Today, his tomb is a popular destination for modern-day fans seeking to pay their respects.
Come next month, a luxurious manuscript of Hafez’s seminal work will head to auction at Sotheby’s, bringing an end to the dramatic story of the text’s theft and rediscovery.
The manuscript up for sale is an especially important edition of the Divan. Dated to 1462, it is one of the earliest known copies of the poetry collection, reports Alison Flood for the Guardian. The text is dedicated to a leading patron of 15th-century Asian book art: Pir Budaq, a prince of the Kara Koyunlu federation who is credited with transforming Baghdad into a major cultural center. What’s more, the manuscript is beautiful in and of itself, filled with elaborate gilded designs and illustrations.
This unique text previously belonged to Jafar Ghazi, a Munich-based collector of Islamic art. When Ghazi died in 2007, his family began sorting through his collection, only to realize that many of his manuscripts, including the gold-embellished Divan, were missing.
According to the Telegraph’s Henry Samuel, authorities recovered 174 of the stolen works during a 2011 “raid on the home of another Iranian pensioner who had befriended [Ghazi].” But the Divan—arguably the most precious of the missing manuscripts—was nowhere to be found.
Read more: smithsonian