I gladly comply with the request of my friend and sometime pupil, Dr. Muḥammad Niẓámu’d-Dín, now Professor of Persian in the Osmania University, Hyderabad, that I should write a few lines of introduction to the present work, with which, as Trustee-in-charge, I have had exceptional opportunities of making myself acquainted. Yet the pleasure I feel in performing this task is shadowed with regret. I cannot but recall that the work was initiated, directed, and supervised by one who is no longer with us, and that the resolution to publish it was adopted on his recommendation at a meeting of the Trustees held on November 1st, 1924, the last over which he was destined to preside.

While Professor Browne was by no means blind to ‘Awfí’s demerits, he appreciated the value and importance both of the Lubábu’l-Albáb, which his own edition has rendered accessible to students, and the Jawámi‘u’l-Ḥikáyát. Had he been spared to write a Foreword to this volume, he might have enriched it with many observations drawn from his incomparable knowledge of Persian literary history. For me it is easier to call attention, as I am sure he also would have done, to the principal results achieved by the author’s learning, industry, and enthusiasm.

First, the anecdotes comprised in a hundred chapters and exceeding two thousand in number have been classified, catalogued, and either provided with descriptive titles or summarised, so that with little trouble readers can obtain a systematic view of every part of the immense and hitherto uncharted Persian “Ocean of Story”.

Second, the sources whence ‘Awfí derived the materials for his work have been thoroughly explored and, so far as possible, established. This chapter (pp. 33—103), and indeed the whole of Dr. Niẓámu’d-Dín’s book, displays a critical ability and range of erudition not unworthy of the eminent scholar whom he has taken as his model, Mírzá Muḥammad of Qazwín. ‘Awfí must have had at his command a very large miscellaneous library, including many precious works now lost, and fortunately for us he followed “the good old rule” of appropriating whatever suited his purpose. Judged by the standard of his day, he seems to have been passably honest: here and there he acknowledges a debt, and if he is apt to abridge and popularise his authorities, he does not wilfully garble them.

Third, much new light has been thrown upon the details of ‘Awfí’s life and literary career. From the evidence adduced it appears certain that ‘Awfí’s Persian translation of Tanúkhí’s Faraj ba‘da ’sh-Shidda preceded that of Ḥusayn ibn As‘ad ad-Dihistání, which Ethé supposed to have been the earlier.

Fourth, by personal examination and comparison of more than twenty MSS. and especially of seven belonging to the 14th century the way has been paved for a complete edition of the Jawámi‘u’l-Ḥikáyát. Apart from the interest of its contents, the text is a monument of classical Persian prose. Great as are the difficulties of publishing it there is reason to hope that they will be overcome.

Subsequent writers made free use of the almost inexhaustible fund of information preserved in the Jawámi‘. As the numerous examples given by Dr. Niẓámu’d-Dín are all, I think, cited from historians or collectors of anecdotes who wrote in prose, I should like to add that probably some of the oldest traces of ‘Awfí’s influence are to be found in the Mathnawí of Jalálu’d-Dín Rúmí. Of course it does not follow that whenever both relate the same story the latter has borrowed it from the former, but several instances suggest that Jalálu’d-Dín may have dipped into the Jawámi‘ with profit to himself and his readers. Anecdote 1192 in ‘Awfí, the original version of the Story of the Arab and his Wife (Mathnawí, Bk I, v. 2244 sqq.), shows how masterfully the genius of the poet could deal with any material presented to it. The wife, who plays such a conspicuous part in the tale, is not mentioned by ‘Awfí; she has been created for the sake of the allegory, in which she typifies the flesh at war with the spirit. I must not dwell on this subject and will only remark that Jalálu’d-Dín’s methods of adaptation are further illustrated by Anecdote 1180 in the Jawámi‘, corresponding to the Story of the Gardener and the Three Friends (Mathnawí, Bk II, v. 2167 sqq.).

Perhaps what has been said is enough to indicate the quality and extent of the author’s researches and the value of his work to students of the history and literature of Islam.