Guide to Readers

“A picture leads to the form it represents and this [leads] to the meaning, just as the shape of a line leads one to letters and words, and from there the sense can be found out. Although in general they make pictures of material resemblances, the European masters express with rare forms many meanings of the created world and [thus] they lead those who see only the outside of things to the place of real truth. However, lines [khatt, writing, calligraphy] provide us with the experiences of the ancients and thus become a means to intellectual progress.” [1]

So wrote Abul Fazl (d. 1602), the great chronicler in Emperor Akbar’s court, reflecting on the relationship between word and image, between the line (khatt) and picture (tasvir), and inter alia, about meaning-making in Europe and Hindustan (India). The art of calligraphy was held in high esteem across the Islamicate world, more so than painting (which was viewed with some unease and ambivalence, the artist perceived as someone who appropriated God’s creativity). While the status accorded to visual artists improved from the sixteenth century onward, for much of the seventeenth century (from when many of the paintings I have assembled in my digital album date), words and especially the sacred art of calligraphy frequently trumped the value placed on art and images in Mughal India. [2]

Yet, one of the goals of my project is to explore the promise and potentiality of image-driven historical analysis. My digital album is indeed powered by the force of the picture. You, gentle reader, will therefore have to seek out the explanatory words and texts that accompany each image, from the opening cover of my album to the closing page. I do not make an argument for the sovereignty of the image. On the contrary, the surface of many a Mughal painting was often interrupted by words and writing, and it might well be appropriate to see these as “image-texts.” This also suggests that viewers of these fine works were expected to shuttle back and forth between word and image. I have proposed elsewhere that such an act of ranging between the sayable and the seeable constitutes the essence of doing pictorial history. My album uses digital technology to bring image and word into a complex dialectical relationship with one other, in order to recreate some semblance of this act of shuttling. [3]

My digital album is powered by Turning the Pages™ software about which you can learn more at

Those who want to explore for themselves the various features of my digital album, can skip the section below and go directly to my muraqqa. For others who wish a preview, I provide a brief guide to help you navigate your way through the album.


Index View: This view splits the book into its constituent pages. Clicking on a page will take you straight there. You can also go back to viewing the book by clicking Book View (the Index View button toggles to Book View).

Reset: If you have got the book into a position where it is difficult to view you may wish to get back to the starting position of the book. Click reset to achieve this.

Rotate: Clicking this option rotates the book by 90 degree increments, so you can click through to 90, 180 and 270 degrees. If you use this tool, you may want to click on Reset if it’s easier to get back to a standard view that way.

Zoom In/Out: Clicking on these options will zoom in or out, including Deep Zoom, which will allow you to explore the image in considerable detail. Occasionally there might be a very brief pause before you go into Deep Zoom. Please note that you can scroll around the two open pages in Deep Zoom mode. However, you cannot turn the page in Deep Zoom mode; you have to Zoom Out or Reset.

Move: If you click the move option, the move facility will be activated. By clicking and holding down on the book you will be able to move it around your virtual desktop. When you have it in the position you want, click on the move tool again to deselect it.


This will bring up a text panel that contains text relevant to the pages. You can resize the text using the options in the Settings panel. You can leave it up as you navigate through a book and the text will automatically refresh.


This offers the ability to search the library. It will search all text associated with a book and offer the option to open a book that matches your search term, or, if possible, open a book directly at an opening that matches your search term.


This offers the ability to change text size throughout the application and alter the way the page turns. The default page turn allows you to drag a page from a corner to turn it, or to click outside of that corner to turn a page. On a slower computer or touch device, you may find it easier to disable the “Drag to turn” option.


[1] Quoted in Koch 2010, 277.
[2] I have benefitted here from my reading of Wright 2008 and Rice 2009.
[3] Ramaswamy 2010, 233. For the notion of “image-text,” see Mitchell 1994.

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