The narrator introduces itself as Death, though tells the reader not to be afraid because it is only an illustration. One year ago, a mysterious old man (Enishte) invited a young miniaturist to his house and asked the miniaturist to illustrate Death. Enishte gave the miniaturist the best drawing materials and said he would pay well, but the miniaturist protested that he didn’t know what to draw because he had never seen Death. The two proceeded to have a long conversation about what qualifies miniaturists to draw certain subjects and how one could draw something one has never seen. They moved to discuss stylistic differences between Venetians and Ottomans and the ethics of imitating “the artistry of infidels.” The miniaturist researched his subject by reading the Book of the Soul and the Book of the Apocalypse, and depicted Death accordingly, as both “thoughtful” and frightening. Later, the miniaturist regretted his illustration, first because it wasn’t good enough, second because he had imitated the European style, and finally because “Death is no laughing matter.” Now he walks the streets at night, afraid that he has become the thing he drew.
The superficial purpose of this chapter is to provide further information about the construction of the secret book and how the miniaturists come to illustrate in the European style under the guidance of Enishte. However, there is also a second message at play, which relates to the murder mystery. Neither the miniaturist nor the “old man” in this chapter are named, although it is obvious that the old man is Enishte. The miniaturist’s identity, meanwhile, remains a secret, as it could be any one of the three illustrators employed by Enishte to work on the book. However, when Death mentions that the miniaturist now walks the streets at night haunted by his illustration, it is clear that the miniaturist who drew Death is the murderer. Ironically, Death does not understand the true reason why the murderer is haunted.