The earliest surviving manuscripts of the Kalila wa Dimna date from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries CE, and the widespread popularity of this work is clearly attested to by references to it in other medieval literary works, including the Shahnama of Firdawsi. However, the Kalila wa Dimna was never seen as a fixed corpus of stories, and later authors and editors felt free to add to, subtract from, and otherwise alter its contents. Scholars from the nineteenth century onward have attempted to trace the complex history and origins of the Kalila wa Dimna through both literary and art historical analysis. The tradition of illustrating the tales of the Kalila wa Dimna is probably based on older, well-established traditions of illustrating the animal fables of the Pancatantra. Eighth-century frescoes found at Panjikent, near Samarkand, that include depictions of the Pancatantra tales attest to a well-established iconographic tradition that was later absorbed and adapted in the Muslim Near East.
Ibn al-Mugaffa‘ states in his introduction the four-fold purpose of the Kalila wa Dimna: (1) to engage the youth through the vehicle of animal fables; (2) to delight the hearts of princes through richly illustrated depictions of the tales; (3) to entice kings and common folk everywhere to acquire their own copies and benefit the painters and scribes; and (4) to engage the philosophers in the wisdom of its tales. Were he alive today, Ibn al-Mugaffa‘ would not have been disappointed in the least. Throughout the ages, the Kalila wa Dimna has been reworked and translated, as both prose and poetic verse, into Persian, Mongol, Malay, Ethiopian, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, French, German, and several Slavonic languages. The most famous Persian recension from the Timurid period is the Anvar-i Suhayli, which was later translated into Ottoman rhymed prose as the Humayun-nama for Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. A new version of the Timurid work entitled Iyar-i Danish was commissioned by the Mughal emperor Akbar.
Atil, Esin. Kalila wa Dimna: Fables from a Fourteenth Century Arabic Manuscript. Washington. DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. 1981
Brockelmann, C. “Kalila wa Dimna” In Encyclopedia of Islam. New Edition, vol. 4, 503-6 Leiden: E.J. Brill.
De Blois, Francois. Burzoy’s Voyage to India and the Origin of the Book of Kalilah wa Dimnah. London: Royal Asiatic Society. 1990.
Grube, Ernst J.. ed. A Mirror for Princes from India: Illustrated Versions of the Kalilah wa Dimnah. Anvar-i Suhayli, Iyar-i Danish and Humayun Nameh. Bombay: Marg Publications, 1991.
O’Kane, Bernard. Early Perisan Painting: Kalila wa Dimna Manusciprts of the Late Fourteenth Century. London and New York. I.B. Tauris, 2003.
Raby, Julian. “The Earliest Illustrations to Kalila wa Dimna.” In A Mirror for Princes from India. ed. Ernst J. Grube. 16-31.
Walzer, Sofie. “An Illustrated Leaf from a Lost Mamluk Kalilah wa Dimnah Manuscript.” Ars Orientalis 2 (1957): 503-5.