A lengthy poetic work of almost 60,000 couplets, the Shahnama (Book of kings) was the life's work of the poet Abuʾl Qasim, known as Firdausi.
Completed in 1010, it recounts the entire history of humanity, with Iran as its focus from the time of creation up until the pivotal moment of the Muslim Arab conquest of the Persian empire in the mid 7th century AD. The narrative of kings and heroes, love and betrayal, the inevitability of death and the eternal quest for the meaning of existence is widely acknowledged as the national epic of Iran.
Its playful romantic tales, interspersed with episodes of royal justice and injustice, struggle and sadness, have been credited with helping create and maintain Persian identity through centuries of rule by outsiders. Many stories from the Shahnama that are drawn from mythology and Iran’s ancient history are still recounted throughout the Persian-speaking world.
Timurid rulers’ accession to power in most of Iran and Central Asia during the 15th century saw unprecedented patronage of Persian book production, which continued under the Safavid Dynasty during the 16th and 17th centuries. Increasingly lavish copies of the Shahnama became essential to princely libraries. Some royal patrons inserted themselves into the copies they commissioned by having illustrations of themselves added that would aggrandise their image.
Love & devotion in the UK
The Bodleian Libraries is showing its own presentation of the Love and devotion exhibition at the Exhibition Room, Bodleian Library, in Oxford, England, between 29 November 2012 and 28 April 2013.
Learn more about how you can visit this exhibition on the Bodleian Libraries website.
Love and devotion: Persian Cultural Crossroads
This two-day conference held in April 2012 featured distinguished international guests and Australian specialists exploring cultural convergences in literature, the arts and architecture, history and philosophy within Persia's cultural sphere and Europe, from the 11th century to the present day.
For information on keynote speakers & topics discussed, visit our conference page
Visit the exhibition
The Love and devotion exhibition took place from 9 March to 1 July 2012. In-depth information about the exhibits and themes can be found on this website.
State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston Street,
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Tel +61 3 8664 7000