Lithographed Editions of Firdawsī's Shāhnāmah Online

Lithographed Editions of Firdawsī's Shāhnāmah Online
Lithographed Editions of Firdawsi's Shahnamah Online

A collection of extremely rare illustrated lithographed editions of Ferdowsi's famous national epic of Persia, The Book of Kings.

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The Lithographed Editions of Firdawsi’s Shahnamah is a collection of extremely rare and illustrated lithographed editions of the famous Persian epic The Book of Kings by Persian author Firdawsi. The Shahnamah was completed at the beginning of the eleventh century C.E. and it is both a monument of classical Persian literature and of Iranian national identity. Scholarly research on the work has mainly focused on the establishment of a faithful and reliable text. However, there are numerous 'Oriental' editions that have received little attention. It has never been thoroughly studied how many of these different editions exist or what the exact nature of the known editions is.

The first complete edition of the Shahnamah was printed in movable type. It was prepared by Turner Macan and published in four volumes in Calcutta, 1829. Besides this editio princeps, further nineteenth century editions in movable type were published by by Jules Mohl (Paris 1838-1878) and Johann August Vullers (Leiden 1877-1879), respectively. The vast majority of 'Oriental' editions of the Shahnamah, however, were printed by way of lithography. The first lithographed edition was published in Bombay 1262/1846, another further thirty lithographed editions of the Shahnamah followed, most of them published in Indian cities such as Bombay, Lucknow, and Cawnpore. Five large-sized lithographed editions were published in Iran by order of Husayn Pasha Khan Amir Bahadur, known as Shahnamah-yi Bahaduri (Tehran 1319-1322/1901-1904).

The lithographed Shahnamah editions have distinct characteristics that are particularly relevant to the the study of the growing appreciation of the work in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. First of all, each copy of an edition is potentially unique due to the specific circumstances of lithographic printing. Secondly, various editions might have different wording and might thus offer additional clues to the establishment of the text itself. Thirdly, all Shahnamah's lithographed editions contain illustrations adding to their popular appeal.

The present collection offers the complete text of thirteen lithographed editions of the Shahnamah. It includes the Indian Bombay editions of 1262/1846 and 1266/1849, as well as the first Iranian edition Tehran 1265-67/1851-53 and all four of the ensuing editions published in Iran and also a selection of eight Indian editions published in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Beyond their importance as historically produced texts, some editions are noteworthy for their calligraphy, such as the 1277/1855 Bombay edition prepared by Awliya' Sami', or the 1307/1889 Tehran edition prepared by Muhammad-Rida Safa "Sultan al-kuttab". Particularly the illustrations in the Iranian editions are quite appealing and have been produced by major artists of the day such as Mirza 'Ali-Qoli Khu'i (Tehran 1265-67/1851-53), Ustad Sattar (Tabriz 1275/1858), and Mustafà (Tehran 1307/1889).

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Lithographed Editions of Firdawsī's Shāhnāmah Online, advisor: U. Marzolph, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2007 <>