Persian Manuscripts

The Bodleian acquired its first Persian manuscripts in 1602, the year it opened. These included a history of Gīlān – a province in western Iran - and a poetical work. The collections of Laud and Pococke contained a small number of Persian items, but it was with the collections of John and Thomas Greaves that the first Persian manuscripts of note entered the Library. MS. Greaves 1 (binding digitized only), a copy of Jāmī’s poem Yūsuf and Zulaykhā is prized for its beautiful lacquered binding and illustrations. John Greaves also made use of his copy of the Star Tables of Ulugh Beg – MS. Greaves 5 (sample only) – to publish his own astronomical and geographical observations.

Around 50 Persian items entered the Library in 1714 with the collections of Narcissus Marsh including works on history and poetry, but it was with the acquisition of the collections of Sir William and Sir Gore Ouseley, who had travelled widely in the east and were part of a diplomatic mission to the Qajar court in Iran, that the Persian collections reached their zenith. Notable items which have been digitized include MS. Ouseley Add. 176, the Shāhnāmah (Book of Kings), completed in about 1435 in Shirāz for Ibrāhīm Sulṭan, one of the grandsons of Timur; MS. Ouseley Add. 175, a sumptuous edition of the works of 3 poets including Hāfiẓ of Shīrāz; and three further decorated manuscript copies of works by the poet Jāmī’: MS. Hyde 10, MS. Ouseley Add. 23 and MS. Elliott 254.

The South Asian collection also contains works in Persian, including several Albums of art and calligraphy compiled in Mughal India, among them the ‘Douce Album’ (MS. Douce Or. a. 1).