Discovering Persia's manuscripts

12th December 2016

News, Student news, Alumni news

Readers in Iran will be among the first to learn in detail about Wadham Library’s outstanding collection of Persian manuscripts, thanks to a comprehensive new catalogue.

  • One of the beautiful manuscripts in the Wadham Library collection

    One of the beautiful manuscripts in the Wadham Library collection -an 1828 Quran

  • Dr Ali Mir-Ansari with Professor Edmund Herzig

    The Warden admires a Quran frontispiece behind Dr Ali Mir-Ansari with Professor Edmund Herzig

  • The Wadham Quran of the 15th Century, pictured here with a 14th Century copy of “Kashf al-Asrār va ʿUddat al-Abrār”, a reputed Quran commentary

  • 15th Century Quran

  • Students, academics and alumni view some of the rare Persian manuscripts and books in the Minasian collection.

    Students, academics and alumni view some of the rare Persian manuscripts and books in the Minasian collection.

     

  • Dr Zahra Taheri (Australian National University) and Professor Dominic Parviz Brookshaw reading the manuscripts’ descriptions

  • Wadham Library Persian Studies Section Coordinator, Mohammad Emami with Dr Ali Mir-Ansari and his wife.

    Wadham Library Persian Studies Section Coordinator, Dr Mohammad Emami with Dr Ali Mir-Ansari and his wife.

Thanks to the expertise of Dr Ali Mir-Ansari, future generations of students and scholars have a comprehensive and descriptive analysis of this important collection of manuscripts, drawing on his experience in the Centre for the Great Islamic Enclyclopaedia, and through his acquaintance and collaboration with leading Iranian experts in the field, including Ahmad Monzavi, Abdollah Anvar and the late Iradj Afshar.

This difficult and time-consuming task has focused on the collection of Persian manuscripts given to the college in 1972 by Dr Caro Minasian, physician, collector and scholar, who was born in 1898 in an Armenian Bakhtiari village, south west of Isfahan and died in London in 1973 at the age of 75.

Describing the manuscripts, Wadham Professorial Fellow in Iranian Studies, Edmund Herzig said: “The collection is unusual among those held in libraries in the West in that it largely comprises works that belonged to private families rather than to royalty and elite households. Dr Minasian purchased many of the manuscripts from his acquaintances and patients in Tehran and Isfahan, so the Wadham Persian manuscripts give a rare insight into the books that were read and kept in Iranian homes before the advent of modern publishing.”

Dr Minasian’s love of books and passion for reading started in early childhood and developed into his greatest interest in life. His main book collection began in 1935 and fell into two main parts: printed books on diverse subjects including history, literature, travel, science, etc., and manuscripts, lithographs and old printed books. The modern published works were donated to Isfahan University. Most of the manuscripts, documents and art works were destined for UCLA, but a significant number of manuscripts, lithographs and early printed books were donated to Wadham College, which was then in the process of establishing a Persian library, which opened in 1978.

Dr Minasian’s main aim and wish for the future of his Persian manuscript collection was for it to remain easily accessible to the public. The publication of the present catalogue marks a decisive step towards realising that aim. While Wadham College has always made the collection available to interested scholars, without a proper catalogue it has been impossible to find out more than bare author and title information about the works it contains other than by visiting the college and looking at the manuscripts themselves. This has particularly hampered scholars in Iran and other places remote from Oxford from making use of the collection.

This catalogue of Persian manuscripts is published first in Persian and in Iran thanks to support from Miras-e Maktub. In future, the catalogue will be translated and published in English and added to the Fihrist catalogue. Items in Wadham's Persian collection have been restored thanks to generous support from alumni and friends of Wadham College.

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