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Text and Transmission: Persian Manuscripts


Admission requirements


This course is a weekly seminar on various aspects of text and text-transmission in Persian cultural areas. Various modes of transmissions and physical aspects of the manuscript will be analysed. A large part of this course will be devoted to reading manuscripts, teaching students how to decipher various orthographies and handwritten texts. The main objective of this course is to familiarize the students with the variety of the rich manuscript tradition. Each session consists of two hours. For each seminar, students are required to read in advance selections from secondary literature and to prepare several passages from a manuscript. Students are expected to give two presentations on a specific topic from the overview. For the final assignment of this course students are required to transcribe and prepare a critical text edition of one folio from a given title.

Course objectives


For the most recent update of the timetable please click here.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Paper and presentations.



Reading list

The programme is provisional and subject to change.

1. Orality and written culture in the Iranian areas

  • Bruijn, J.T.P. de, ‘Poets and Minstrels in Early Persian Literature’, in Transition Periods in Iranian History: Actes du Symposium de Fribourg-en-Brisgau (22-24 mai 1985) Studia Iranica Cahier 5, Paris 1987, pp. 15-23.

  • Lewis, F., ‘The Modes of Literary Production: Remarks on the Composition, Revision and “Publication” of Persian Texts in the Medieval Period” in Persica: Annual of the Dutch-Iranian Society, XVII, 2001, pp. 69-83.

  • Richard, F., Le livre persan, Paris 2003.

  • Yamamoto, K., The Oral Background of Persian Epics, Leiden/Boston 2003.

2. Physical aspects of Persian manuscripts; Orthography, palaeography and types of handwriting

  • J.J. Witkam, in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, under Nuskha.

  • W.l. Hanaway; B. Spooner, Reading Nasta’aliq: Persian and Urdu hands from 1500 to the present, Costa Mesa: Mazda Publishers, 1995.

3. Reading manuscripts I: Sana’i’s Seyr al-`ebad

  • J.T.P. de Bruijn, _Of Piety and Poetry. The Interaction of Religion and Literature in the Life and Works of Hakim Sanâ’i of Ghazna. _Brill, Leiden 1983.

  • Manuscripts of different periods will be introduced and analysed.

4. Reading manuscripts II: Sana’i’s Seyr al-`ebad

  • For secondary literature see seminar 3 above.

  • Manuscripts of different periods will be introduced and analysed.

5. Reading manuscripts III: Fayzi’s Markaz al-advar

  • M. Rahman in the Encyclopaedia Iranica, under fayzi, Abu’l-Fayz.

  • Manuscripts of different periods will be introduced and analysed.

6. Reading manuscripts IV: Fayzi’s Markaz al-advar

  • For secondary literature see seminar 5 above.

  • Manuscripts of different periods will be introduced and analysed.

7. Reading manuscripts V: the transmission of Ferdowsi’s Shah-nama

  • Davis, D., “Interpolations to the Text of the Shahnameh: An Introductory Typology” in Persica: Annual of the Dutch-Iranian Society, XVII, 2001, pp. 35-49.

  • Davis, D., “The Problem of Ferdowsi’s sources” in Journal of the American Oriental Society, 116.1, 1996, pp. 48-57.

  • Yamamoto, K., The Oral Background of Persian Epics, Leiden/Boston 2003.

8. Persian miscellanies: the Safina of Tabriz

  • Afshar, “Nuskha-yi bargardan-i ‘Safina-yi Tabriz’” in Nameh-ye Baharestan, vol. iii, No. 2, Autumn-Winter 2002-03, p. 529;

  • N. Pourjavady, “Erfan-e asil-e Irani dar ‘Safina-ye Tabriz’” in Nama-yi baharistan, 1379/2000, vol. i, no. 2, pp. 59-84.

9. Reading manuscripts VI: various medieval treatises

  • J.T.P. de Bruijn in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, under Mukhtarat, 2. in Persian literature.

  • A.A. Seyed-Gohrab, “A Treasury from Tabriz: a Fourteenth-Century Manuscript Containing 209 Works in Persian and Arabic” in Persica: Annual of the Dutch-Iranian Society, No. 19, Leuven: Peeters, 2003, 125-64.

10. Persian illuminated manuscripts

  • Grabar, O. and Robinson, C., Islamic Art and Literature, Princeton 2001.

  • Hillenbrand, R. (editor) Shahnama: The Visual Language of the Persian Book of Kings, Edinburgh 2003.

  • Simpson, M.S., The Illustration of an Epic: The Earliest Shahnama Manuscripts, New York 1979.

  • Simpson, M.S., Persian Poetry, Painting and Patronage: Illustrations in a Sixteenth-century masterpiece, Washington 1998.

11. Persian miniature paintings

  • Brend, B., Perspectives on Persian Painting: Illustrations to Amir Khusrau’s ‘Khamsah’, London 2003.

  • Grabar, O., Mostly Miniatures – An Introduction to Persian Painting, Princeton; Oxford, 2000.

  • O’Kane, B., Early Persian Painting: Kalila and dimna Manuscripts of the Late Fourteenth Century, London 2003.

  • Swietochowski, M.L., Illustrated Poetry and Epic Images. Persian Painting of the 1330’s and 1340’s, New York 1994.

12.Preparing text editions

  • Most, G.W. (ed.), Editing Texts, Göttingen 1998.

  • Khaleghi-Motlagh, Dj., Notes on the Shahnameh, New York / Costa Mesa 2001.

  • Mahdavi, M. Amin, ‘“Genetically Modified Corpus” or “Critical Edition”? The Shahnama Genome Project’, Persica, No. XIX, 2003, 1-32.


Registration via uSis
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Dr. Asghar Seyed-Gohrab
Matthias de Vrieshof 4, Witte Singel 25, room 109B ( 31 (0) 71- 527 22 87;