March 27, 2014–September 20, 2014

Persian gained prominence as a literary language and a lingua franca—a common cultural languageabout a thousand years ago.  A Thousand Years of the Persian Book explores a millennium of  Persia’s rich literary tradition with materials ranging from illuminated manuscripts to contemporary publications. The seventy-five items in the exhibition are selected primarily from the outstanding Persian collection in the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division and will bring attention to the literary achievements of Iran and the greater Persian-speaking regions of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Central and South Asia and the Caucasus.

From the tenth-century seminal Shahnameh (Book of Kings) by Ferdowsi to the works of contemporary writers, the Persian language has changed very little in the last millenium. A Thousand Years of the Persian Book examines the richness and variety of the Persian book and its literary tradition. It showcases the Library’s unique collections, which are among the most important in the world today outside of Iran. The exhibition focuses on Iran but also includes items from the greater Persian-speaking lands of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, as well as from Central and South Asia and the Caucasus, illustrating the international nature of the Persian language. In addition to examining the diversity of literary styles, the exhibition demonstrates the continuity of the written word as a unifying cultural force in Persian-speaking lands.

Exhibition curator Hirad Dinavari gives a guided tour of the exhibition.

The exhibition was made possible through the generous support of Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans and Ambassador Hushang Ansary.

Public programming for the exhibition is cosponsored by Roshan Institute for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland with the generous support of the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute based in Hawaii.