[This is an autobiographical memoir of the Emperor Tímúr, written in the Chaghatáí Turkí language, translated into Persian by Abú Tálib Husainí, and dedicated to the Emperor Sháh Jahán, who began to reign in A.D. 1628.
In the brief preface to his translation, Abú Tálib states that he found the original Turkí work in the library of Ja'far, Hákim of Yaman,* and that it consisted of a history of Tímúr, from the seventh to the seventy-fourth year of his age. The reticence of Abú Tálib as to the authenticity of the original work, and the strangeness of the place for the discovery of a MS. in a Turkí language, have given rise to the suspicion that there was no such work, and that Abú Tálib made the statement to give greater authority to a production of his own. Major Davy, who first brought the work to notice, argued against this supposition, grounding his opinion on the internal evidence of the work itself, and on the improbability of an author resorting to “an artifice which could tend only to diminish his fame and his profit.” The probability is that Abú Tálib knew nothing more of the work than what he learned from its own pages, and that when he had turned these into Persian he had nothing to add. Tímúr's descendants seem to have had a partiality for writing their own memoirs, as in the instances of Bábar and Jahángír; and others, who did not profess to be their own biographers, provided for a record of their lives and actions being written. This family predilection is of itself something in favour of the authenticity of the work.
The fact of its being a genuine work, produced under the supervision of Tímúr himself, can however be proved upon more certain evidence. Only thirty years after Tímúr's death, Sharafu-d dín Yazdí wrote his celebrated Zafar-náma, or Book of Victory, to commemorate the exploits of Tímúr, and in his preface he details the sources from which his work was drawn, and the auspices under which it was written. To establish the veracity and authority of his history, he first describes, in the following words, the way in which a record of the events of Tímúr's reign was kept at the Court of that Emperor.
“The third recommendation (of this my work, named Zafar-
Sharafu-d dín then goes on to relate how his own royal patron Ibráhím, grandson of Tímúr, took the greatest interest in the composition of the Zafar-náma how he procured from all parts of his dominions copies of the works relating to the life of Tímúr, in prose and verse, in Turkí and in Persian; how he supplied him with men learned in Persian and Turkí as assistants; how reference was made to surviving actors in the events recorded; how he wrote letters in all directions to settle discrepancies in the MSS., and how he had the work read to him in the rough draft and in the finished state.*
So the basis of Sharafu-d dín's history was a work or works written under the direction or with the approval of Tímúr, and a comparison of the Zafar-náma with the Malfúzát proves the one to be a mere reproduction of the other. The events recorded and their succession are identical,* and leave no doubt upon the mind that Sharafu-d dín translated or wrote over again in an ornate style that history which had been compiled under Tímúr's direction. Like Oriental writers in general, he half conceals the true origin of his book, and so exaggerates the magnitude and importance of his own labours, but the only difference observable in the two works is, that one is the production of a skilful and accomplished writer, the other the work of a plain, laborious, and minute chronicler of events. With all the rhetoric and flourishes of the Zafar-náma, the narrative is shorter than that of the detailed and verbose biography.
The Tuzúkát or Institutes were translated into English by Major Davy, and published under the editorship of Professor White, at Oxford, in 1783, and this work was turned into French by M. Langlès, and published in 1787.
The Malfúzát or Memoirs, as far as the forty-first year of Tímúr's age, were translated into English by Major Stewart, and were published by the Oriental Translation Fund in 1830.
The MS. used by Major Davy and Major Stewart was imperfect, ending abruptly with the forty-first year of Tímúr's age. This MS. is now in the library of the Royal Asiatic Society, which library also possesses another imperfect copy. There is a similar defective copy in the library of the East India Office; Sir H. Elliot also procured a defective copy in India, and there are several in the British Museum. These, in all probability, were derived directly or indirectly from one MS. But the British Museum has lately secured a perfect copy from the library of the late General Hamilton, which bears the marks of having once belonged to the Royal Library at Lucknow.
Besides the Version of Abú Tálib, there is another, the work of Muhammad Afzal Bukhárí. The author of this later version tells us in his preface that when Amír Abú Tálib's translation had been read by the Emperor Shah Jahán, it was found to contain errors and mistakes. Its statements occasionally differed from those of the Zafar-náma and other histories; and while omitting events recorded in the Zafar-náma, it added others of which no notice had been taken in that work. For these reasons he goes on to say:—“In the year 1047 of the Hijra, and tenth of his Majesty Sháh Jahán's reign (A.D. 1637),* the royal orders were issued to me, the meanest of the servants of the Imperial Court (Muhammad Afzal Bukhárí), to read and revise this book from beginning to end, and to assimilate it with the Zafar-náma, of the correctness of which no intelligent person can have a doubt, and compare it with some other trustworthy histories; to omit some things which the translator had inserted, and to insert some occurrences which he had omitted; also to translate the Turkí and Arabic sentences into Persian, and to correct several dates, which do not agree with the Zafar-náma. * * * (The author) has exerted himself as much as possible in revising and correcting the said translation, and has thrown out all the unauthenticated passages which Abú Tálib had inserted. He has inserted several passages that have been omitted by that translator, and he has thereby made the book conform with the Zafar-náma.” Major Stewart observes that “It appears in Dow's History of Hindustán that Muhammad Afzal was the name of the Emperor Sháh Jahán's preceptor, and so he was probably the person employed to revise this work, but he has not complied with his promise of translating all the Turkí passages, although a native of Bukhárá, where that language was well understood.”