“…the largest ostrich egg that had ever existed.” From the Book of Gifts & Rarities

Khatir al-Mulk wa Aminuhu Dhu al-Riyãsatayn Muhammad b. Sayyid al-Wuzarã’ al-Yazuri told me how, among other things, he brought out from one of the palace treasuries a large egg, the largest ostrich egg that had ever existed. It was adorned with gold. He added that al-Mustansir bi-Allãh had taken it and said to those who were present, “This is a priceless ostrich egg.” The Turks who were present ignored it, took the precious items from the treasuries and went their way. He did not concern himself about anything they had taken, even the sword of his grandfather, al-Qã’im. One khadum said to him, “Commander of the Faithful! You did not care about what was taken from the precious treasuries but you concern yourself with an ostrich egg and you have taken that”. He [al-Mustansir] answered, “You ignoramus! It is not an ostrich egg but rather the egg of a snake. It was given by a king to my grandfather al -Qã’im bi Amr-Allãh, and he preserved it in his treasuries. Later it passed on to us in succession; and this slip of paper is written in al-Qã’im bi Amr-Allãh’s handwriting, stating the name of the giver and the year in which it was presented.”

From the Book of Gifts and Rarities—Selections Compiled in the Fifteenth Century from an Eleventh-Century Manuscript on Gifts and Treasures, translated from the Arabic by Ghãda al-Hijjãwi al-Qaddumi, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1996, p.240-241.

These extracts appear as a lead-up to Materiality No. 3: Precious. Submissions for issue #3 are due on 30 September 2013. Issue #2 (Time) is due out at the end of July. To purchase previous copies ofMateriality, please visit the pinknantucket press shop.