The Manuscripts Department of the National Library was first formed in 1937, when about 3000 manuscripts were added to the Royal Sciences Public Library of Iran. This trove then started to grow bigger thanks to the efforts of the late Dr Mahdi Bayani (the first President of the National Library) and others. By 1957, the National Library was housing 4157 manuscripts and 75 photographed documents, which increased to 5300 documents in total by 1976. After the Islamic Revolution of 1978 in Iran, the manuscripts of the Royal Library were added to the trove of the National Library and after the merger of the Islamic Revolution Cultural Documentation Organisation with the National Library, another 950 manuscripts were also transferred to it. Priceless collections such as those of the Sheikh Jaafar Shoushtari family including 537 manuscripts, the Molla Mohsen Ghazvini family including 112 manuscripts and 82 stone-prints were donated to the Library and other collections were purchased and added to the cumulative trove of the Library. By 2004, all these efforts contributed to 18,000 manuscripted books being kept at the National Library. In addition to these original manuscripts, a large number of photographed copies of manuscriptsare available in the same trove of the Library. These photographed copies are those of very rare, manuscripts which are kept at libraries abroad. Since 1973, photographing these documents and collecting the copies at the Royal Library of Sciences started. Allameh Sheikh Mohammad Khan Ghazvini, who was residing in Paris, himself prepared and sent photographs of rare Iranian books on history, literature, geography and medicine kept in French libraries and sent them over to the Royal Library of Sciences. Dr Bahman Karimi photographed a few books of the kind kept at libraries in Istanbul. Professor Mojtaba Minavi in turn photographed over 20 volumes of manuscripts and handed the photos over to the Royal Library. A few such manuscripts were also selected by Professor Mojtaba Minavi in a handful of libraries but photographed and submitted to the National Library by others. The then Ministry of Culture joined the race, bought some manuscript photos that were privately kept to help raise the size of this unique trove at the National Library of Iran. The process of accumulating microfilms of rare, exquisite books kept at other libraries or cultural centres has continued to date. A recent example is microfilming over 100 titles of rare manuscripts kept by the Jom’atol Majed Centre in Dubai.
The manuscripts trove of the Iranian National Library is one of the most invaluable assets of this country which includes the knowledge treasures of great Iranian m en of letters in fields such as philosophy and mysticism, Islamic jurisprudence and principles, medicine and astronomy in Farsi and Arabic. Some of these books are unique and priceless. The trove also houses the first Persian translations of European books. Collections of patchworks and calligraphies by famous masters of the art such as Darvish Abdol Majid Taleghani, Seyyed Golestaneh, Emadol Kottab, Zeynol Abedin Esfahani, Arsanjani, Ahmad Neyrizi, and the Vessal family are amongst the most precious items kept at the manuscripts trove of the National Library.
Some of the most precious manuscripts kept at the National Library are listed below:
1. Ketabol Ekhlas, Abu Abdollah Hossein bin Ibrahim famous as Adeeb Natanzi, died 477 A.H. , penned 475 A.H. (doc no ein/1143).
2. Ehya Olume Ddin, Emam Mohammad Ghazzali, died 505 A.H., penned 597 A.H. (doc no ein/454).
3. The Divan of Ablah Baghdadi, Mohammad Bin Bakhtiar famous as Ablah Baghdadi, died 579 or 580 A.H. , penned 599 A.H. (doc no ein/387).
4. The Collected Epistles of Bu Ali Sina, Abu Barakat Baghdadi, Baba Afzal Kashi and Some Epistles by Shahabeddin Sohrevardi, penned 659 A.H. (doc no f/2412);
5. Sharhol Esharat and Tanbihat, authored and penned by Khawdje Nassireddin Toussi, died 672 A.H., penned 7th century A.H. (doc no ein/1153);
6. Attazkarato Nnassirriah, Khawdje Nassireddin Toussi, died 672 A.H., penned 7th century A.H. (doc no ein/1920);
7. The Collected Works of Sa’adi, Sheikh Mosleheddin Sa’adi, died 691 A.H., penned 784 A.H. (doc no f/2493);
8. Jame’o Ttavareekh Hassani, Hassan bin Shahab, the astronomer of the 9th century A.H., authored 857 A.H., penned 880 A.H. (doc no f/1330);
9. The Collected Works of Jaami, Abdorrahman Jaami, died 898 A.H., penned by author 877 A.H. (doc no f/1335);
10.Fosousol Hekam, Mohieddin Bin Arabi, died 638 A.H., penned by Sheikh Baha’ie 1st half of 11th century A.H. (doc no ein/2710);
11. Ten titles of manuscripted books authored, penned and sealed by Molla Mohsen Ghazvini.
Before the Iranian National Library came into existence officially, a list of over 3oo manuscripts collected for the Royal Library of Sciences was prepared and published by the late Abdol Aziz Javaher Kalam in 1924 and 1925. This list cites 348 original manuscripts and 46 photographed copies. This effort was pursued by Dr Mahdi Bayani, who published several updated lists. Later on, a commission membered by Iradj Afshar, Mojtaba Minavi, Abbas Zaryab Kho’ee, Mohammad Taghi Danesh Pajouh and Seyed Abdollah Anvar produced index data of the manuscripts trove consisting of bibliographical and historical information of each manuscript kept at the National Library. This identification process continued until 1968. Seyed Abdollah Anvar published a 10-volume list of the Library’s manuscripts during 1964-1979 using the same index data. 3082 Persian manuscripts have been listed in volumes 1-6 and 1975 Arabic manuscripts have been cited in volumes 7-10. During 1993-2002, Dr Habibollah Azimi, Dr Alinaghi Monzavi, Dr Amireh Zamiri and Zohreh Mo’ayyeri, collated volumes 11-19, which cite 2700 Arabic manuscripts. Volumes 21-22 (prayer books and Korans) have been collated by Dr Reza Khanipour. This listing process is still underway. A total of 12,000 manuscripts of the National Library have been listed so far. 80% of this data has been transferred to the National Library’s central software.
After being registered in a special book, cited in the official listings (and the listings published), the manuscripts are made available to researchers under certain conditions mainly being as follows:
1. Faculty members of universities and seminaries;
2. Post-graduate university students and those of seminaries;
3. Foreign research workers handing in introduction letters from their educators or employers and letters of request from their embassies or cultural representation offices of sovereign states;
4. Others upon submitting an introduction letter from their educators or employers, their own request letters, and the agreement of the relevant specialist from the Manuscripts Department of the Library.
Due to its unique quality, history and scientific-artistic preciousness, as well as being immune to pests, the collection of lithographic books was separated from other collections and placed in an exclusive trove in 1995. This trove was since its creation cumulatively identified, registered, and listed. Moreover, a cumulative digital databank, microfilming and scanning of the books have continued to date. At the moment, over 13,000 volumes of lithographic books in Persian, Arabic, Urdu and Turkish, originally from the Royal Sciences Library and donated collections such as those of Shadman, Motasemossaltaneh, and more recently that of the Sheikh Ja’afar Shoushtari family, as well as purchased books, comprise this trove. The 13,000 volumes of stone-prints is comprised of 4025 Arabic volumes and 7725 Persian ones, 1116 textbooks (Persian and Arabic), 133 volumes of very rare books, 93 volumes of books in Urdu and 58 in Turkish. Over 95% of the stone-prints at the National Library have been identified and listed. Amongst the stone-prints kept at the National Library, some exquisite items catch the eye as they are truly unique in terms of their history, rarity, artistic and decorative qualities, as well as novel subjects addressed. Some of these precious documents are the first Iranian journalistic works (printed in Tehran and Tabriz) as listed below:
1. Zadol Ma’ad, allameh Madjlessi, transcribed by Mohammad Hossein Tabrizi, printed in 1251 a.H. (book no 8631);
2. Annokhbeh, Mohammad Ebrahim Karbassi, transcribed by Ahmad Khansari, printed in 1254 A.H. (book no 7044);
3. Almo’djam fi Asare Molukel Adjam, Fazlollah Ghazvini, printed in 1259 A.H. (book no 8975);
4. Leili & Madjnoun, Maktabi Shirazi, first Iranian illustrated stone-print, transcribed by Seyyed Yousef Milani, printed in 1259 A.H. (book no 8092);
5. Nezami’s Khamseh, transcribed by Ali Asghar Tafreshi, printed by Mastewr Mohammad Reza in 1264 A.H. (book no 5850).
In this collection, around one million pages of handwritten documents are being kept. In recent years, the registration and listing of these documents has been underway. So far, 11500 pages of such documents have been listed and another 50,000 have been registered. This is the most precious collection of Iran’s manuscript, historic documents, including about 300 decrees by the Safavid and Qajar kings and princes. The oldest decrees in the collection are those issued by the Safavid Shah Tahmasb. The decorative arts used in Nasereddin Shah’s decrees are amongst the most beautiful examples of document gilding in Iran. This trove also houses a sub-collection of documents written by Nasereddin Shah himself, which is unique of its kind. Another large part of the trove consists in manuscript documents originally kept at the archives of the courts of the Qajar dynasty; some copied in ink and others original manuscripts. A revision of these collections reveals many new, significant aspects of Iran’s contemporary history.
Such collections of the national Library are procured either through donations or purchases. Some distinguished Iranian scholars have donated their personal collections to the National Library or have, in their wills, asked their progeny for so doing after their demise. The Shoushtari and Nahvi families are amongst well-known family of rare book and document donators to the Iranian National Library. These donations have been registered under the name of the donating family and houses in exclusive shelves. For those who are willing to sell their private collections of manuscripts and lithographic resources, it is noteworthy that a special procurement committee of the Library membered by experts from inside and outside the organisation decide on the purchasing price of each item on sale, discuss its proposals with the seller, and only after reaching a mutual agreement finalise the due transaction with the collector. The procured manuscripts and stone-prints are first registered in special databases, pest-proven, and then placed in climate-controlled shelf space. Only after these stages, the documents are listed and introduced to the public.
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