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Wednesday, August 20, 2014


A Thousand Years of the Persian Book

Published 24 April 2014

A new exhibition at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., offers a glimpse into the rich literary tradition of the Persian language. Titled "A Thousand Years of The Persian Book," the exhibit showcases a unique Persian collection, one of the most important outside of Iran. It includes editions of the 10th-century epic poem "The Shahnameh" -- or "Book of Kings" -- as well as contemporary novels from Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. The head curator, Hirad Dinavari, told RFE/RL that the goal of the exhibition is to introduce the Persian language to a Western audience, and to help give Persian speakers a better understanding of their own heritage.

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The exhibition looks at the Persian language, its early writing system, its modern script, and fields including history, religion, literature, poetry, works by women writers, and children's literature.

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A visitor looks at the books displayed in the religion section of the exhibition.

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A new edition of the epic poem "The Shahnameh," published in 2013, with illustrations by Hamid Rahmanian and a translation by Ahmad Sadri

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Young visitors take cell phone pictures of the exhibit.

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Curator Hirad Dinavari explains that Persian used to be the language of the elite in a vast area stretching from from the Moghul Empire in India to the Ottoman Empire. "It didn't necessarily tie in to a narrow ethnicity like it does today," he said. Dinavari said the exhibit is intended to showcase the diversity of Persian tradition across different faiths and ethnicities.

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A 1565 manuscript titled "Marvels of Creatures and Oddities of Beings," by Zakariya ibn Muhammad ibn Mahmud Abu Yahya Qazvīnī

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"The Book of Licit Magic," by Muḥammad Ahlī Shīrāzī, from 1545

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"The Book of the King," by Muḥammad Amīn ibn Abī al-Ḥusayn Qazvīnī, from India, 1825

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"The Gift of the Kings and Their Practices," from Tabriz, Iran, 1856–1857

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Among the collection of women writers is "The Collected Poems of Āyisha Durrānī," from Kabul, published in 1881.

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"The Hymns of The Holy Gathas," from Bombay, 1927

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An embossed leather book cover from the 19th century

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"The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam," a collection of 11th-century poetry, published in 1946 with a translation by Edward FitzGerald and illustrations by Arthur Szyk

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"Shahnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings," in a new 2013 edition illustrated by Hamid Rahmanian and translated by Ahmad Sadri