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Selections of Classical Persian Poetry. Iran, late eighteenth–early nineteenth century. Manuscript. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (045.00.00)

Modern nation states and distinct national identities emerged in the Persian-speaking region during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During this transitional period, as Persian speakers came into contact with the West, a number of intellectual and social movements paved the way for changes to traditional structures of writing literature and bookmaking. Literary trends in Europe particularly affected the use of the Persian language and its development in Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Turkestan (Central Asia). As lithographic Persian book printing became widespread, book publishing centers developed in Bombay, Tiblisi, Istanbul, Cairo, Tabriz, Tehran, Herat, Kabul, Samarkand, and Bukhara. Persian classics were reprinted during this period and new prose genres such as short stories, novels, satire, and humor were introduced to regional mass audiences. The theme of nationalism in literature also gained prominence.

Persian Book Bindings

Ornate book bindings and cover art have been central to the manuscript and bookmaking traditions in the Persian-speaking world in the last millennium. Although some regional characteristics are unique, most of the designs are shared throughout the Islamic world. This elaborate cover with brightly enameled flowers is typical of Persian lacquer book bindings from the Qajar period (1785–1925).

Lacquer book cover. Nineteenth-century Qajar Era. Cover 2. Kirkor Minassian Collection, Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (036.00.00, 036.01.00)

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The Anthology of Ṭarzī’s

Born in Kandahar to a ruling Pashtun family, Sardar Ghulām Muḥammad Khān Ṭarzī (1830–1900) was a soldier, poet, and a leader in the intellectual circles of nineteenth-century Afghanistan. He was a great admirer of the Khurasani Persian poetic tradition. Along with a number of progressive men and women of his era in the Islamic world, he has come to represent a movement towards education and modernity. This modern manuscript is created from marbled Western paper, inlaid with pages of Ṭarzī’s Persian poetry. Ṭarzī was a great admirer of the Khurasani Persian poetic tradition.

Ghulām Muḥammad Ṭarzī. ديوان طرزى (The Anthology of Ṭarzī). ‘Abd al-Laṭīf Khān, scribe. Kabul, 1914. Manuscript. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (038.00.00)

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The Poems of Ghalib

Starting in the sixteenth century, a number of Persian works were written in India and are referred to as the “Indian Style” of Persian (Sabk-i Hindi). Many of these volumes were published in the nineteenth century. Among the most highly regarded authors of the Indian style is the poet Ghalib (1797–1869), born Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan in the city of Agra. This recent Indian reprint of the collected Persian-language poems by this gifted poet from the Mughal court is a testament to the ongoing interest of Persian literature in India.

Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib. قصائد و مثنويات غالب (The Persian Poems of Ghalib). Delhi, India: Aligarh Muslim University, 1969. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (037.00.00)

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Iqbāl’s Persian Psalms

Sir Muḥammad Iqbāl (1877–1938), known by Persian speakers as Iqbāl-i Lāhurī, was a poet and politician in nineteenth-century British India and an activist for the creation of a Pakistani nation. Iqbāl’s Persian works are a continuation of the Indian style of Persian, in which he combined ideas inspired by classical Sufi thinkers such as Farid al-Dīn ‘Attar (1145–1221) and Ibn ‘Arabī (1165–1240) with ideas from Western writers such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) and Dante Alighieri (ca. 1265–1321). This is the Library’s oldest copy of Iqbāl’s famous Persian book of poetry Zabūr-i ʻAjam (Persian Psalms), in which the author explores issues of the past, present, and future, while emphasizing love, enthusiasm, and energy to fulfill the ideal life.

Sir Muḥammad Iqbāl. زبور عجم (Persian Psalms) Lucknow, India: Lucknow Central Publishing House, 1944. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (039.00.00)

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Īraj Mīrzā

Īraj Mīrzā (1874–1926) was a nineteenth-century Iranian poet and satirist who revolutionized Persian poetry. Using what is known as “the journalistic style,” Mīrzā blends intimate, conversational language with colloquial, metaphoric idioms. Through simple verses packed with sarcasm and scathing criticism, Mīrzā drew attention to the social and political conditions of Iranian society in the aftermath of the Constitutional Revolution (1905–1907). Among his important works are Tasvir-i-Zan (Women’s Image) and Dastan-i-Zuhrih va Manuchihr (The Tale of Zuhrih and Manuchihr), based on Shakespeare’s poem “Venus and Adonis.” The book on view is a survey of Mīrzā’s works by ‘Alī Dihbāshī, the editor of Bukhara, a Persian literary journal.

‘Alī Dihbāshī. سیری در آثارو زندگی ایرج میرزا (A Look at the Life and Writings of Īraj Mīrzā). Tehran: Nashr-i Akhtaran, 2008. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (040.00.00)

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Sadriddin Aĭnī

A leading figure of Soviet literature in Tajikistan, Sadriddin Aĭnī (1878–1954), a late nineteenth-century Tajik poet, novelist, and intellectual, is referred to as the father of modern Tajik-Persian literature. His early works focused on Persian poetry, but later in his career he also wrote about standardization of the Tajik alphabet, the education of women and youth, and the formation of a Tajik identity. During the Soviet period (1924–1991) he wrote prose, producing a number of noteworthy novels. His first successful short novel, Odina, was originally published in 1924. In his subsequent novels Aĭnī drew upon historical Persian and Central Asian heroes.

Sadriddin Aĭnī. آدینه (Odina). Dushanbe, Tajikstan: Tajik National Publishing House, 1960. (Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (041.00.00)

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The Poems of Nima Yushij

In the late-nineteenth century Nima Yushij (1896–1960) was at the forefront of the modernizing trends in Persian literature. Referred to as the father of Persian free verse, Yushij radically transformed Persian poetry with a new style of poetry influenced by the French Romantics and Symbolists. His use of symbolic language without the classical rhyme schemes was also influenced by his native language of Tabari, a Caspian dialect of Persian. His style of poetry became a model for many contemporary Persian poets. The book on display is a collection of Yushij’s best-known poems.

Muhammad Huquqi, ed. شعر نیما از آغاز تا امروز (The Poems of Nima Yushij from Their Beginning to the Present). Tehran: Nigah Publisher, 2012. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (042.00.00)

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The Letters of Jamālzādah

Muḥammad ‘Alī Jamālzādah (1892–1997), born in the late nineteenth century in Isfahān, Iran, is known for his unique style of humor and his contributions to prose, specifically the Persian short story. Jamālzādah’s writing career began in Berlin, where he wrote for the Persian periodical Kāvah. His short story Yakī būd yakī nabūd (Once Upon a Time) laid the foundation for modern Persian prose in its use of modern diction and colloquial Persian written in a witty, satirical tone. This is a publication of his collection of letters and papers, which he gave to the Tehran University Library.

Sūsan Aṣīlī Nāmah, ed. نامه های جمالزاده در کتابخانه مرکزی تهران (The Letters of Jamālzādah in the Central Tehran University Library). Tehran: Gulrang-i Yikta, 2008. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (043.00.00)

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Khalīl-Allāh Khalīlī

The modern Afghan poet Khalīl-Allāh Khalīlī (1907–1987), born in Kabul, was a scholar, historian, and diplomat. He is the most important twentieth-century Persian poet of Afghanistan and the first to introduce free verse Persian poetry there. Khalīlī also has a following in Iran where his poems are published. He has produced thirty-five volumes of poetry, including Ashkhā va Khūnhā (Tears and Blood) that chronicles the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and Injuman-i Parvanah (An Assembly of Moths), which has been translated into English.

Muḥammad Hāshim Umīdvār Harātī, ed. دیوان خلیلی : قصايد، غزليات، مثنويات، ‏رباعيات (The Anthology of Khalīlī). Tehran, 1962. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (044.00.00)

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Selections of Classical Persian Poetry

The Library’s rare Persian manuscripts include works that record the aesthetics and calligraphic styles of various periods from Iran, Central Asia, and India. The Iranian manuscript on display is one of the finest illustrated examples from the eighteenth-century Qajar Era. It is written in the Shikastah calligraphic style and bound in an intricate lacquer cover. The manuscript includes the most beloved poems of the Persian poets Sa‘di, Hāfiz, and Jāmī, along with miniature paintings depicting the works of the poet Niẓāmī. The works of later poets such as Aghā Muhammad ‘Āshiq from the Qajar Era are also included in this compilation of classic traditional poetry.

Selections of Classical Persian Poetry. Iran, late eighteenth–early nineteenth century. Manuscript. Page 2. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (045.00.00)

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