Virtual Collection of Persian Manuscripts

Persian Manuscripts - Digital copies online

Most manuscripts of this virtual collections are from the holdings of the National Library of the Czech Republic; some other manuscripts are from the University Library of Bratislava (Slovakia), while several individual titles are also from the Museum of Western Bohemia in Pilsen (Czech Republic) and the National Library of Kazakhstan in  Almaty.

Characteristics of the collection from the National Library of the Czech Republic

The Collection of Persian manuscripts has a great variety as to contents, but the volumes containing poetry are prevalent. We can find here collections of poetry (Díwáns) by many Persian authors, both the famous ones and the less-known poets whose names cannot be found in classical overviews of Persian literature. Furthermore, it contains anthologies of Persian poetry, literary biographies (Ádhar), and papers or letters (munsha'át) by famous Persian authors. Moreover we can find here volumes containing the classical works of Sufi literature, tadhkiras (stories from the lives of poets), and prose. Several volumes also represent philosophy, logic, geography, and geomansy. There are a great number of historiographic, astronomical and medical treatises and compendia. Some volumes with religious contents are not missing as well. Under the shelf number XVIII B we can also find several manuscripts at least partially written in Turkish - these are commentaries on Persian literary works (Sa'dí), Persian-Turkish dictionaries, and Persian poetry by Turkish authors. There are also three volumes containing the poetry of Hilálí, representing the Tajik literature, and volumes containing the literary work of the minister of the Mughal emperor Akbar Abu'l-Fazl b. Shaikh Mubárak 'Allámí (two volumes of letters and Akbarnáme).

The oldest manuscript dates back to 792 A.H. (Nizámí, No. 114). As for their size we can find volumes containing from several pages to more than one thousand pages. There are many bookplates on front pages or stamps of previous possessors (they belong mainly to Ottoman collectors - for example, there is a book from the Muhammad 'Alí's library). Bindings are either original, bound in leather, painted, and decorated with gold (from the Qájár period), or there are Ottoman rebindings. Most of the books were written on the territory of the present Iran, but there are volumes originating from the Ottoman Empire, Central Asia, or India.

As for the technical and esthetical characteristics of the manuscripts, they are of great variability. The paper is of various qualities; sometimes it is coloured or it has colour spots. It is often helpful for dating the undated manuscripts and for finding out the place of their origin. Esthetical arrangement depends on the literary genre. If it is a volume containing poetry or prose, there are from 2 to 4 columns on each page, separated by vertical lines from each other and framed. However, the framing and separated columns are sometimes missing. In prosaic works (including the scientific works) the text is usually framed. In some volumes there are marginal notes added to the main text - mainly in Persian and Turkish. The first two pages are usually decorated - sometimes with few lines, sometimes with splendid and elaborated ornaments in gold. Several manuscripts (87, 88, 113, 146) contain miniatures. Their number varies from 1 to 62 miniatures (146) in one volume. As there are parts in Turkish manuscripts written in Persian, so similarly some parts of Persian manuscripts are written in Turkish and Arabic. These volumes consist mostly of several smaller volumes of various origins.

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