Persian Illuminated Manuscripts


The HIAA listserv has been abuzz with people seeking images of miniatures for the study of the Shahnameh and Persian MSS in general. The recommondations are listed below. There are a few I’m not sure how to categorize, but the rest fall under Shahnameh Projects, Museums, Libraries, and Subject guides.




Archivalia list of Islamic MSS online



Cambridge Shahnameh Project

Shahnameh Project at Princeton University



The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Instructions: A search under the category Islamic art brings up 12,350 items. Refining the search can be tricky “miniature” brings up 15 items “painting” brings up 313 items (most but not all from manuscripts) “manuscript” brings up 712 items (not all of them illuminated), “codices” brings up 1,169 items (most entries with scanned images of at least a few pages)

The Freer/Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian (Washington)

Fitzwilliam Museum on the Epic of Persian
King: the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi

Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Harvard Art Museums

The Walters Art Museum (Baltimore, Md.)
(scans of 58 complete Islamic manuscripts, viewable cover-to-cover &

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Asia Society
Temporary exhibition: A Prince’s Manuscript Unbound: Muhammad Juki’s Shahnamah



Princeton University Library – Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts

Harvard University Library – Islamic Heritage Project
(scans of more than 280 complete Islamic manuscripts, viewable cover-to-cover & downloadable)

University of Michigan Library – Islamic Manuscripts at Michigan

The British Library’s “Images Online” database
Instructions: search using keywords (e.g. Persian – 156 images; Nizami – 60 images; Shahnama – 45 images; etc.). Registering on the website allows access to non water-marked preview images. Images are of selected pages; no whole manuscripts.

The Institute of Ismaili Studies
Useful links

Yale University Library

The Vatican Library
Online Catalogues
Digitization project information

Bodleian Library

Bibliothèque nationale de France (B.n.F.) Mandragore, database of illuminated manuscripts of the B.n.F.
Instructions: A search under country of origin (nom de pays): Iran turns up 185 manuscripts from Iran (incl. Arabic and Armenian MSS as well as
Persian), each one represented by multiple images of illuminated pages. It may be easier to navigate through the “Classement thematique” link. Search is by shelfmark or by keyword. For searching the database, keep in mind that French romanization differs from the Anglo-American usage:
Persian: French romanization: Chamseh
English romanization: Khamsa(h)
Clicking on the option “plein ecran” allows one to see full-screen versions of the images.

Chester Beatty Library
Temporary exhibition: Heroes and Kings of the Shahnama

That is, I think the archives are born-digital, not their content. Digital Persian Archives

Tazkira of Shaykh Safi al-Din of Ardabil (Iran, Shiraz, Safavid)
Nigaristan by Ghaffari (Safavid)
Instructions: you can search by languages of documents. A new version of e-corpus will be available at the beginning of March with additions and refinements.

Details from Princeton Islamic MSS., no. 56G. Page 173:2, Rustam, Zal before Kay Khusraw. Featured image from History of Nigaristan, Illuminated Frontispiece, Walters Art Museum, Ms W.598, fol. 1b