Muḥammad Ahlī Shīrāzī. کتاب سحر حلال (Licit Magic). Manuscript. Persia, 1545. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (033.00.00)

Persian gained prominence as a literary language and a lingua franca—a common cultural languageabout a thousand years ago. In the past millennium, a rich and varied written and spoken heritage has developed in the Persian language, elevating the visibility of Persian civilization among world intellectual traditions. That tradition is particularly strong in the fields of storytelling, poetry, folklore, and literature, with additional important contributions in historiography, science, religion, and philosophy.

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.