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National Library of Russia
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Dr Olga Vasiliyeva, Dept. of Manuscripts
18 Sadovaya Street, 191069 St Petersburg
St Petersburg
+7 812 310 98 50
+7 812 310 61 48
© The National Library of Russia
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Date last updated:
2016-12-22 19:38
Public Notes
The National Library of Russia (former Imperial Public Library) in St Petersburg holds 16 copies of the Shahnama, the oldest (Dorn 329) being dated 1333. Fourteen of them are decorated with 710 miniatures.The first copy (Dorn 334) entered the Library in 1821. It belonged to General A.N. Ermolov, Commander in the Caucasus. In 1829, three further copies (Dorn 329, Dorn 331 and Dorn 332) were transferred to the Library by the order of Nikolas I as part of the so-called Ardabil collection. The manuscripts were taken as a military trophy (for which 875 gold roubles were paid) from the shrine of Shaikh Safi in Ardabil at the end of the Russian-Iranian war of 1826-1828.In 1830, after the murder of the Russian ambassador Alexander Griboyedov in Tehran, Fath 'Ali Shah sent an 'apologetic' embassy. His grandson Khusrau Mirza brought 18 manuscripts as a gift to Nikolas I, who transferred them to the Library. This small collection includes a valuable and unusual Shahnama of 1642-51, with 192 miniatures (Dorn 333). In 1859 two further manuscripts were acquired: one with 65 miniatures (PNS 394) was given by the Caucasus branch of the Russian geographical society, and another (PNS 382) was purchased with the collection of prince D.I. Dolgoruky, the Russian ambassador in Iran. Two years later the Shahnama that had once had been presented to Alexander I by 'Abbas Mirza (PNS 381) was transferred from the Hermitage Library by the order of Alexander II.

In 1868 the Public Library bought the collection of another Russian ambassador in Persia, count I.O. Simonich, including one Shahnama manuscript (PNS 64). One copy (PNS 13) was sent in 1872 by K.P. von Kaufman, the Governor-General of Turkestan, and Alexander II transferred the copy (PNS 65) presented to him by the Bukharan amir Muzaffar al-Din in 1876.In 1913, another amir of Bukhara, Mir Alim, presented a collection of manuscripts to tsar Nikolas II on the occasion of the 300-year anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. The collection was given to the Public Library, including one Shahnama (PNS 266). The provenance of two manuscripts is still unknown. One (PNS 117) came to the Library in 1892 and another one (PNS 90) was bought in the second half of the 19th century. Overall, the history of the acquisition of copies of the Shahnama has reflected the history of the political and military relations between Russia, Iran and the Central Asian states in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

(Olga Vasilyeva)


Catalogue des manuscrits et xylographes orienteaux de la Bibliothèque Imp. Publique de St.Pétersbourg, ed. B.A. Dorn, St Petersburg, 1852.

Guzalyan L.T. & Dyakonov M.M., Rukopisi Shah-name v leningradskih sobraniyah, Leningrad, 1934.

Guzalyan L.T. & Dyakonov M. M., Iranskiye miniatyuri v rukopisiah Shah-name leningradskih sobraniy, Moscow & Leningrad, 1935.

Adamova A.T. & Guzalyan L.T., Miniatyuri rukopisi poemi 'Shahname' 1333 goda, Leningrad, 1985.

Kostigova G.I., Persidskiye i tadjikskiye rukopisi Gosudarstvennoy publichnoy biblioteki im. M.E. Saltikova-Schedrina, 2 vols., Leningrad, 1989.

Olga V. Vasiliyeva, "Oriental manuscripts in the National Library of Russia", Manuscripta Orientalia 2, no. 2 (1996), pp. 19-35.

O. Vasilyeva and O. Yastrebova, eds. Firdausi's "Shahnama". Timeless work of genius, St. Petersburg, 2015.

Project Notes
ms. Dorn 329
53 images
ms. Dorn 332
13 images
ms. Dorn 334
28 images
ms. PNS 382
30 images
ms. PNS 266
69 images
ms. PNS 117
1 images
ms. PNS 90
25 images
ms. PNS 65
75 images
ms. Dorn 333
192 images
ms. Dorn 331
12 images
ms. PNS 383
4 images
ms. PNS 381
50 images
ms. PNS 64
66 images
ms. PNS 394
67 images
ms. PNS 13
48 images