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Shahnama Project


I’ve laid the foundations of a lofty hall in verse
That neither wind nor rain will harm
Lifetimes will pass over this book
Whoever has wisdom will be reciting it"

Firdausi, Shahnama, ed. Dj. Khalegi-Motlagh, IV, 173-4

The Fire ordeal of Siyavush, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Ms. or. fol. 359, fol. 146r



Welcome to the Shahnama Project 

Welcome back to the Shahnama Project website, which has been under transformation for some months while being transferred to a new platform in the Cambridge Digital Library. This is the small first launch of a test run of the new site, which will remain a work in continuous progress for several months, with regular updates and refinements as data and functionality is carried across from the old site. Please remain patient! All comments welcomed.

This site brings you a massive collection of manuscripts of the Shahnama and a display of the miniature paintings in each one. It allows you to see and compare all the different depictions of a particular scene in the narrative and to explore text-image relationships across the corpus. 

Firdausi’s Shahnama (Book of Kings, or King of Books), completed in eastern Iran in around A.D. 1010, is a work of mythology, history, literature and political ethics: a living epic poem of around 50,000 verses that pervades and expresses many aspects of Persian culture. Thousands of manuscript copies of the text, the earliest dating from 1216, exist in libraries throughout the world. Many hundreds of these are illustrated with miniature paintings, some of them among the most magnificent masterpieces of the Persian arts of the book. 

In 1969, Jill Norgren and Edward Davis produced the Preliminary index of Shah-nameh illustrations, under the supervision of Oleg Grabar. This lists – but does not illustrate – almost 5,000 paintings; the true number is nearer four times this figure. Such a large body of pictures is beyond the capacity of individual scholars to study and manipulate by traditional means; this is where the internet can make an enormous contribution. The Shahnama Project has aimed to build on this preliminary work and to provide a corpus of illustrations of the Shahnama, with details of the manuscripts and the textual context within which they occur. This powerful resource opens the door to almost limitless areas of study and comparative analysis. Why did the Shahnama continue to attract such attention, which scenes did the artists and their patrons choose to depict, and which to ignore? Do the paintings conform with the text and illuminate it, or present a different message? How was the Shahnama received by later generations of writers and artists and how did it fuel the production of related works and their illustration?  

The Project was initiated with a five-year major research grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) awarded Charles Melville at the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with Robert Hillenbrand at the University of Edinburgh, to produce an electronic corpus of paintings in Shahnama manuscripts. Work started in October 1999 and the first period of research was completed in September 2004, with the launch of the Shahnama Project web site. A Resource Enhancement grant from the AHRC for the development of the website ran from March 2006 to April 2009. Funding has since been sporadic, but for a major benefaction from Bita Daryabari in 2013 that has ensured its sustainability under the auspices of the Shahnama Centre at Pembroke College.

+ Location index

Country Repository Manuscripts
Armenia Matenadaran Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, Yerevan 1
Australia National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne 1
Australia Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 1
Austria Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna 3
Belgium Library of the University of Liege, Liege 1
Canada McGill University Library, Montreal 18
Canada Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal 7
Canada Aga Khan Museum, Toronto 2
Canada Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto 10
Denmark Royal Library, Copenhagen 11
Denmark The David Collection, Copenhagen 27
destroyed Destroyed 1
destroyed ex-Schulz 1
dispersed mss Dispersed mss 10
Egypt Dar al-Kutub, Cairo 7
France Chateau de Chantilly, Chantilly 1
France Gillet Collection, Lyons 7
France Private collection, Lyons 2
France Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris 25
France Hotel Drouot, Paris 3
France Louvre, Paris 15
France Sotheby's, Paris 9
Georgia Georgian National Museum, Tbilisi 8
Georgia National Centre of Manuscripts, Tbilisi 4
Germany Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin 7
Germany Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Berlin 16
Germany Niedersaechsische Staats- und Universitaetsbib. G., Goettingen 1
Germany University and Sachsen-Anhalt Library, Halle 1
Germany Universitaetsbibliothek Heidelberg, Heidelberg 2
Germany Grassi Museum, Leipzig 1
Germany Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich 6
Germany Museum funf Kontinente, Munich 13
Germany Linden-Museum, Stuttgart 2
Greece Benaki Museum of Islamic Art, Athens 3
Hungary Museum of Ethnography, Budapest 1
Hungary Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest 4
Hungary Szeged University Library, Szeged 1
India Maulana Azad Library, Aligarh 10
India Government Museum, Alwar 3
India Kasla College, Amritsar 2
India State Archives, Chandigarh and Patiala 3
India Andhra Pradesh State Museum, Hyderabad 1
India Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art, Hyderabad, Hyderabad 1
India Telangana Government Oriental Mss Library & Res. Inst., Hyderabad 5
India The Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad 8
India City Palace Museum, Jaipur 1
India Asiatic Society of Bengal, Kolkata 1
India Indian Museum, Kolkata 5
India National Library, Kolkata 2
India Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata 2
India Lucknow Museum, Lucknow 2
India Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai 3
India Hakim Collection, Mumbai (Bombay) 1
India The K.R. Cama Oriental Institute, Mumbai (Bombay) 7
India National Archives, New Delhi 1
India National Museum, New Delhi 16
India Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna 21
India Rampur Raza Library, Rampur 10
India R.K. Tanden Collection, Secunderabad (Haydarabad) 2
India Baroda Museum, Vadoda 4
India Baroda Oriental Institute, Vadoda 1
India Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi 2
India Central Library, Benares Hindu University, Varanasi 4
Iran The Museum of Avicenna Mausoleum , Hamedan 1
Iran Central Library, University of Isfahan, Isfahan 1
Iran Astan Quds Razavi, Mashhad 1
Iran Astana Muqaddasa, Qum 1
Iran Markaz-i Ihya-yi Miras-i Islami, Qum 2
Iran Anthropology Encyclopedia Center, Tehran 1
Iran Central Library, University of Tehran, Tehran 4
Iran Gulistan Museum, Tehran 11
Iran Hunarha-yi Ta'ziini, Tehran 2
Iran Majlis Library (Parliament of IRI), Tehran 5
Iran Malik National Library & Museum, Tehran 4
Iran Melli Library (National Library of Iran), Tehran 12
Iran Museum of Contemporary Arts, Tehran 1
Iran National Museum of Iran (Iran Bastan), Tehran 10
Iran Riza Abbasi Museum, Tehran 39
Iran Sa'ad Abad, Tehran 1
Iran Sepahsalar Library (Shahid Motahhari Library), Tehran 2
Iran Tus Museum, Tus 2
Iraq Al-Maktaba al-'Abbasiyya fi'l-Basra, Basra 1
Ireland The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin 26
Ireland Trinity College Library, Dublin 3
Israel The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 15
Italy Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence 1
Italy Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence 1
Italy Villa I Tatti, Berenson Collection, Florence 2
Italy Biblioteca Universitaria, Genoa 1
Italy Biblioteca Nazionale "V.E. III", Naples 2
Italy Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Rome 1
Italy Biblioteca Casanatense, Rome 1
Italy Bibl. Armena della congregazione dei Mechitaristi, Venice 2
Italy Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice 1
Kuwait Kuwait National Museum, Kuwait 9
Kuwait Tareq Rajab Museum, Kuwait 9
Malaysia Islamic Arts Museum Malayasia, Kuala Lumpur 3
Malaysia ISTAC, Kuala Lumpur 1
Netherlands University Library, Leiden 1
Pakistan Library, Bahaulpur 1
Pakistan Ganj Bakhsh, Islamabad 5
Pakistan Hamdard Library, Karachi 2
Pakistan National Museum, Karachi 4
Pakistan National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi 4
Pakistan Faqir Khaneh, Lahore 1
Pakistan Kitabkhana al-Riaz, Lahore 1
Pakistan Lahore Museum, Lahore 7
Pakistan Punjab Public Library, Lahore 1
Pakistan Punjab University Library, Lahore 12
Pakistan Shish Mahall, Lahore 1
Pakistan Library, Multan 1
Pakistan Ajaib Gohar Museum, Peshawar 1
Pakistan Ghausiyyah Library, Sadiq Abad 2
Pakistan Khilafat, Sargodha 1
Pakistan Mir Val Library, Sheikhupoora 1
Poland Fundacja XX Czartoryskich przy Muzeum Narodowym, Krakow 1
Poland Muzeum Narodowe Krakow (The National Museum in Krakow), Krakow 1
Poland Private Collection Tadeusz Majda, Warszawa 1
Poland Private Collection Waldemar Gniadek, Warszawa 1
Poland Biblioteka Zakladu im. Ossolinskich, Wroclaw 1
Portugal Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon 1
private collections Binney Collection 5
private collections Ebrahimi Collection 1
private collections London unnamed collection 1
private collections Nasser D. Khalili Collection 11
private collections Princess Soraya 2
private collections Tehran 1
private collections Unnamed location 3
private collections Charles Melville, Cambridge 1
private collections Pembroke College, Cambridge 1
private collections Private collection, Cambridge 4
private collections Private Collection, Denver, Colorado 8
private collections Leiden, Leiden 2
private collections St. Gall, Torquay 1
private collections Lady Homayun Renwick, UK 2
Qatar Museum of Islamic Art, Doha 16
Romania Romanian Academy of Sciences Library, Bucharest 1
Russia Museum of the Orient, Moscow 5
Russia Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, St Petersburg 10
Russia National Library of Russia, St Petersburg 15
Russia Oriental Library, St Petersburg University, St Petersburg 1
Russia The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg 2
Singapore Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore 2
Spain Real Biblioteca, Madrid , Madrid 1
Sweden Uppsala universitetsbibliotek, Uppsala 2
Switzerland Bernisches Historisches Museum, Bern 4
Switzerland Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Geneva 53
Switzerland Bibliothèque publique et universitaire de Genève, Geneva 2
Switzerland Fondation Martin Bodmer, Geneva 3
Switzerland Musée d'art et d'histoire, Geneva 49
Switzerland Museum Rietberg , Zurich 18
Tajikistan Firdausi Library, Dushanbe 1
Tajikistan Institute of Oriental Studies and Written Heritage, Dushanbe 3
Turkey Beyazit Devlet Kutuphanesi, Istanbul 1
Turkey Millet Kutuphanesi, Istanbul 1
Turkey Suleymaniye Kutuphanesi, Istanbul 3
Turkey Topkapi Sarayi Muzesi Kutuphanesi, Istanbul 60
Turkey Turk ve Islam Eserleri Muzesi, Istanbul 9
Turkey University Library, Istanbul 7
UK Special Collections, Birmingham 1
UK Ancient Indian and Iran Trust, Cambridge 1
UK Cheffins, Cambridge 1
UK Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge 5
UK Shahnama Centre, Cambridge 3
UK University Library, Cambridge 10
UK Devon and Exeter Institution, Exeter 1
UK Bonhams, London 3
UK Christie's, London 54
UK Colnaghi Auction House, London 1
UK Francesca Galloway, London 4
UK Keir Collection, London 29
UK Noor Collection, London 1
UK Royal Asiatic Society, London 2
UK Sam Fogg, London 14
UK School of Oriental & African Studies, London 6
UK Simon Ray, London 1
UK Sotheby's, London 76
UK Spink, London 2
UK The British Library, London 39
UK The British Museum, London 34
UK Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding, London 19
UK John Rylands University Library of Manchester, Manchester 11
UK All Souls College, Oxford 2
UK Bodleian Library, Oxford 12
UK Merton College, Oxford 1
UK University of St Andrews Library, St Andrews 1
UK Windsor Castle, Windsor 2
unknown country Private collection 4
unknown location unknown 1
unknown location ex-Kevorkian 8
unknown location ex-Riefstahl 1
USA Bryn Mawr College , Bryn Mawr 1
USA Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor 1
USA University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor 2
USA The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore 6
USA The Lilly Library of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana University, Bloomington 2
USA Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston 2
USA Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 30
USA Olsen Foundation, Bridgeport 2
USA Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY 1
USA Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge 76
USA Houghton Library of the Harvard College Library, Cambridge 4
USA Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio 1
USA Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland 9
USA Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit 1
USA Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library, Evanston 3
USA Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston 1
USA Art and History Trust, Houston, Texas 2
USA Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas 2
USA Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles 27
USA Institute of Arts, Minneapolis 1
USA Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New Haven 13
USA Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York 15
USA Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 33
USA New York Public Library, New York 12
USA The Morgan Library and Museum, New York 2
USA Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia 11
USA Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia 6
USA Frick Fine Arts Library , Pittsburgh 1
USA University Library (Firestone), Princeton 5
USA Brown University Library, Providence 15
USA Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia 1
USA San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego 22
USA Asian Art Museum, San Francisco 14
USA Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington DC 59
USA Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 31
USA Worcester Art Museum, Worcester 4
Uzbekistan Abu Rayhan Biruni Oriental Institute, Tashkent 13


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