“An oriental Samuel Pepys”. The phrase has been lodged in my mind for the several decades during which I have been working, on and off, on this early Persian historian Bayhaqī. I am pretty certain that I read it originally in that monument of mid-Victorian Anglo-Indian scholarship, The History of India as told by its own Historians. The Muhammadan period, by Sir Henry Elliott and John Dowson. This multi-volume work consists of translated extracts, many quite lengthy, from texts illustrating the history of the Indian subcontinent, the greater part of them dealing with what was then some eleven centuries of Muslim rule there. In Volume II, the compilers presented several passages from Bayhaqī's work, The History of Sultan Maʿsūd of Ghazna, which had just appeared in a printed edition at Calcutta in the Bibliotheca Indica series, edited by the person who had in fact produced the pioneer catalogue of the Royal Asiatic Society's Arabic and Persian manuscripts, William H. Morley. Elliott made many translations himself, but sometimes employed local munshis, not always with happy results. Although Persian culture was still very much alive in India in the mid-nineteenth century, these munshis were far from being au fait with the early eleventh-century Persian style of Bayhaqī and were at times flummoxed by his idiomatic usages. One of my favourites here is the Persian saying ṭablī zīr-i gilīm mīzadand, translated literally and ludicrously in its context as “they were beating a drum under a carpet”. Why anyone should crawl under a carpet and beat a drum, in the midst of a high-level discussion between Sultan Maʿsūd and his administrators, the equivalent of a cabinet meeting, is rather baffling; the idiom, already used by Firdawsī in the national epic, the Shāh-nāma, means of course “to spread rumours clandestinely”.