This well-known passage from the tragic story of Laylah and Majnun is described in the third book of Persian poet Nizami's “Khamsah” or “Quintet,” a collection of five books of stories on romantic and heroic themes. His story has been passed through generations of Middle Eastern folklore, even inspiring American culture. The story is used metaphorically in the song “Layla,” by Eric Clapton. Another song, “I Am Yours,” which is on the same album as “Layla,” was so greatly inspired by Nizami’s text that Clapton gave the poet co-songwriting credit.
Stories, such as those of Nizami, were often transcribed as calligraphy, which was widely used to express religious sentiment and many other aspects of personal and cultural life. Calligraphic art developed gradually over the centuries and has been the subject of numerous studies analyzing its role in the faith, culture and art of Arabic-, Persian- and Turkish-speaking lands.
The online presentation of “Selections of Arabic, Persian and Ottoman Calligraphy” showcases stunning examples of calligraphic art, including illuminated panels, albums and poems. In addition to the individual calligraphy sheets, this presentation contains essays on Ottoman and Persian calligraphic styles, an in-depth look at Quranic calligraphic fragments and an essay discussing some of the Library's notable Arabic script calligraphy sheets and illuminations. Some 370 sheets are made available by the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division.