A rare collection of unique, ornate books of divination consulted by shahs, sultans and Muslim laymen in 16th century Persia and Turkey are on show at Washington's Smithsonian Institution. Titled "Falnama: The Book of Omens," the exhibition includes 65 manuscripts and fortunetelling books depicting figures from the Old Testament, the Koran and a host of astrological symbols that provided insight to people's questions about their future.
"They were meant to aid the seeker in the process of making difficult decisions, from embarking on a voyage to waging war against an enemy, getting married or selling one's horse," explains the chief curator, Massumeh Farhad. "It shows a universal message: 'We all want to know what's going to happen.' The concerns that people had then are concerns that people have now."
Works from the Topkapi Palace Library in Istanbul, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre Museum and private collections from around the world feature in the new exhibition at the Sackler Gallery
in Washington DC.
Photo © AFP 2009