The collection of Persian literature held by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek comprises around 17,800 printed works (1821 – 2015), around 590 Persian manuscripts, around 150 discontinued and current periodicals (journals and yearbooks) and around 50 maps. The annual increase currently amounts to around 300 volumes.

Main focuses of content

During the 19th and 20th century, the main focus of the collection was on historical and religious-historical contents. The largest collection groups are formed by titles on the history of Iran and of Shiite Islam. In addition, there are voluminous collection groups on the fields of language and literature, architecture, art, archaeology, geography, politics, sociology and music. Also Persian-language publications from India (19th century) and Afghanistan form part of the collection, if in smaller numbers.

A broad variety of publications about Iran is acquired in western and East-European languages.


The Oriental and Asian Department manages the Persian manuscripts technically (acquisition, subject information, guided tours, exhibitions), while the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books administrates them and is in charge of their use. The Oriental manuscripts can be consulted exclusively in the Reading Room for Manuscripts and Rare Books.


Catalogue for printed books, journals and maps

The printed books, journals and maps can be searched in BSB DISCOVER!.


Manuscript catalogues

Currently, brief descriptions of all Persian manuscripts are entered in BSB DISCOVER!

The following catalogues offer more extensive descriptions:

As of the acquisition year 2009, new acquisitions have been entered in BSB DISCOVER!, bearing the classification mark Cod.pers.


History of the Persian collection


16th – 18th century

The first book in the Persian language to come to the Munich court library was a manuscript with the collection of poems (Diwan) of the poet Kamâl Ḫuǧandī († 1400), who originally came from Central Asia (Cod.pers. 84). The book came from the library of the diplomat and scholar Johann Albrecht Widmannstetter (1506 – 1557), whose book collection formed the foundation of the Munich court library. During the subsequent 250 years, manuscripts from Iran (the official name of this country since 1935) in the Persian language came to the ducal library only in small numbers and infrequently. Up to the beginning of the 19th century, twelve Persian manuscripts had been accumulated. This small collection attracted the interest of the Indologist Othmar Frank (1770 – 1840), and he published a catalogue in 1814, in which he described these twelve Persian manuscripts in detail, translating them partially and presenting them to the expert world in original text extracts. This publication by Frank is the very first catalogue of Oriental and/or Islamic manuscripts of the Munich court library, or of today's Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

As far as Persian manuscripts are concerned, the requisitions of the secularisation (1803) brought only one Diwan by the famous Persian poet Ḥāfiẓ to the court library, which had been owned by the Upper Bavarian monastery of Seeon. (The collection of poems had been sold to the monastery of Seeon as a copy of the Koran.) A very precious Persian illuminated manuscript was ceded to the court library in the wake of the Congress of Vienna (1814 – 1815) by the French national library. The manuscript originally formed part of the "Turk loot" and had been requested by a French official from a Salzburg library during the occupation of the city by the Napoleonic army. This manuscript combines five illustrated works of the poet Niẓāmī.

Niẓāmī Ganǧawī, Ilyās Ibn-Yūsuf: Ḫamsa. Iran, 1501.  (Cod.pers. 21)

19th – 21st century

The option to buy Persian manuscripts arose much less frequently in Germany than was the case for Arabic or Turkish manuscripts. The commercial and diplomatic relationships with this Middle-Eastern state developed only relatively late and the transport and communication paths by sea and land – frequently via Istanbul – were long and cumbersome. However, whenever such an opportunity arose, there was no hesitation. Thus, the court library acquired for example a manuscript of Firdausi's book of kings (Šāhnāma) from the library of Count Josef von Schwachheim in 1831, who had resided in the Ottoman capital for a number of years (1754 – 1762) as envoy of the Habsburg rulers (Cod.pers. 8).

Firdausī: Šāhnāma (book of kings)  (Cod.pers. 8)

However, it was only the purchase of the library of the French Orientalist Etienne-Marc Quatremère (1782 – 1857) in 1858 with its large holdings of Islamic manuscripts and printed works which turned a good dozen Persian manuscripts into a real collection group: 269 Persian manuscripts were now added from Quatremère's collection. The holdings could be expanded time and again during the subsequent decades. The court library purchased 24 Persian manuscripts from the former personal physician of the vice-king of Egypt, Franz Pruner (1808 – 1882) and eight Persian manuscripts from the library of the Polish-Russian Orientalist and Turkologist Anton Osipovič Muchlinskij (1808 – 1877), so that near the end of the 19th century the collection counted 371 Persian manuscripts. The two world wars led to stagnation during the first half of the 20th century. Improved possibilities of acquisition (auctions, among other things) and donations – among them 13 Persian manuscripts from the library of the Orientalist and librarian Emil Gratzl (1877 – 1957) – led to an increase of the number of Persian manuscripts to over 500 in the course of the second half of the 20th century.

Further outstanding manuscripts from the Persian collection:

Firdausī: Šāhnāma. Iran, 1560 – 1750.  (Cod.pers. 10)
Firdausī: Šāhnāma. Iran, after 1500?  (Cod.pers. 15)
 ♦   Maktabī Šīrāzī: Lailī wa Maǧnūn. Šīrāz?, 1514.  (Cod.pers. 101)
 ♦   Gūlistān va Bustān. Iran (Qazwīn?), 1579.  (Cod.pers. 336)
Mīr Ḥusainī Harawī: Zād al-musāfarāt (Sufi treatise in lyrical form). Iran, 943 [hiǧrī] = [1536/1537]  (Cod.pers. 462)
Album with calligraphies and miniatures. Iran, around 1802 – 1807.  (Cod.pers. 132)
Saʿdī: Gulistān. Iran (Qazwīn?), 1579.  (Cod.pers. 506)

Persian printed works 17th – 20th century

The first printed works in the Persian language

The first books printed in the Persian language using Arabic printing types were published in Europe. They are two religious treatises by the Spanish Jesuit and missionary of India Jerónimo Javier (1549 – 1617), a "history of Christ" and a "history of Saint Peter":

Javier, Jerónimo: Dāstān-i Masīḥ = Historia Christi persice conscripta. Lugduni Batavorum [Leiden]: Ex Officina Elseviriana, 1639.  (Res/4 A.or. 2418)

Javier, Jerónimo: Dāstān-i San Pīdrū = Historia S. Petri persice conscripta. Lugdunum Batavorum [Leiden]: Officina Elseviriana, 1639.  (Res/4 A.or. 2418)

More than a hundred years went by until the next imprint in the Persian language. It was only in 1742 that the Hungarian apostate and Ottoman diplomat İbrahim Müteferrika (1674 – 1745) could publish the Persian-Turkish dictionary by Hasan Şuʿuri printed in his print shop in Istanbul. It was Müteferrika's seventeenth and last print and the first Persian printed work within the Islamic cultural area:

Hasan Şuʿûri: Ferheng-i Şuʿûri [Nevâl ül-fudalâ ve lisân ül-ʿacem]. Kostantınîye: Dâr üt-Tıbâat il-Maʿmûre, 1155 [hicrî] = [1742].  (2 volumes: Res/2 A.or. 367-1 and Res/2 A.or. 367-2)

Persian book printing in India

Since the Persian language had been introduced as court language under the rule of the moguls, there were many Persian-speaking Muslims in India, among them also many people belonging to the aristocracy, who played an important role in the political, economic and social life. It is thus hardly surprising that the British public medical officer Francis Balfour (around 1740 – 1815) thought it expedient in 1781 to have a Persian-English collection of letter templates printed in Calcutta. This collection of letter templates is the first imprint in the Persian language on the Indian subcontinent:

Harikaṇa: Inšā-i Harkaran = The forms of Herkern [Harikaran] corrected from a variety of manuscripts, supplied with the distinguishing marks of construction / and translated into English, with an index of Arabic words explained, and arranged under their proper roots by Francis Balfour. Calcutta: Printed by Charles Wilkins, 1781.  (4 A.or. 2150)

Persian book printing in India, in particular in the stone printing method, became highly dynamic during the 19th century, resulting in hundreds of printed works. At the time, it were predominantly these Persian prints from India which conveyed an impression of the Persian intellectual life to the western culture. The Munich court library likewise acquired almost all Persian printed works from India during the 19th century, only a very small number coming from Iran. The reason for this was the enormous technical development deficit in Iran, which was also reflected by the field of book printing.

Stone prints from India:
A stone print of the Koran with Arabic Koran text, a translation into Urdu between the lines and Persian paraphrases on the margins:

Qurʾān. Calcutta, 1837.  (1st volume: 4 A.or. 418)

The Ḫamsa ("pentology") of the powerfully eloquent Persian poet Niẓāmī was published in Bombay in 1849:

Niẓāmī Ganǧawī, Ilyās Ibn-Yūsuf: Ḫamsa-i Niẓāmī. Bumbaʾī [Bombay]: Maṭbaʿa-i Faḍl-ad-Dīn, [1849] = 1265 [hiǧrī].  (4 A.or. 3858)

A story of Kashmir from Lahore, titled "Rose garden of Kashmir":

Kripā-Rāma: Gulzār-i Kašmīr. Lāhaur: Maṭbaʿ-i Kūh-i Nūr, 1870.  (2 A.or. 263 h)

The beginnings of type printing in Iran

While there had been a number of attempts at introducing book printing in the Persian language also in Iran, all of these attempts had failed. Only the efforts made by the Qajar crown prince ʿAbbās Mīrzā (1789 – 1833), governor of the province of Azerbaijan, achieved that a print shop was finally set up in Tabriz in 1817 with Persian – that is Arabic – printing types, and that a book could be printed in the Persian language for the first time (Qāʾimmaqām Farahānī: Risāla-i ǧihādīya). Of course, the print run was so small that western libraries could not receive copies (facsimile edition Qum [Ghom], 2014).

The third Persian early print (type print) from the print shop of Mīrzā Ǧaʿfar in Tabriz is the instructive poem "Rose garden" by Saʿdī:

Saʿdī: Gulistān. Tabrīz: Mīrzā Ǧaʿfar, 1821.  (A.or. 3876)

An extract from the Qajar history by Maftūn Dunbulī also forms part of the Iranian-Persian early printed works (type prints) from Tabriz:

ʿAbd-ar-Razzāq Maftūn Dunbulī: Maʾāṯīr-i sulṭānīya. Tabrīz: Dār al-Inṭibāʿ, 1241 [hiǧrī] = [1826].  (A.or. 3356)

After the Tabriz printer Mīrzā Zain-al-ʿĀbidīn had relocated to Tehran in 1824 by command of Fatḥ ʿAlī Šāh (ruled 1797 – 1837), early Persian type printing experienced a highly fruitful phase. In the course of 14 years, 15 religious works were published in around 30 editions. Book printing in Tehran at the time received the sustained support of the influential court official Manūčihr Ḫān Gurǧī Muʿtamid-ad-Daula († 1847). The type prints published during his lifetime are accordingly named Muʿtamidī prints after him. Once arrived in Tehran, Mīrzā Zayn al-ʿĀbidīn took up work immediately on a highly ambitious project: The printing of the voluminous work Ḥayāt al-qulūb ("The life of the hearts") by Muḥammad Bāqir Maǧlisī (1627 – 1699). This work is the first two-volume Iranian-Persian print. The two volumes contain descriptions of the life of the Islamic prophets and the Shiite teaching of the twelve imams. On the first and on the third page, each of the two volumes has a woodcut vignette with the emblem of the Qajar dynasty: A lion with the sun rising behind him. While the vignette medallions of the first volume bear the writing of the name Fatḥ ʿAlī Šāh and the book title, they are left empty in the second volume.

Maǧlisī, Muḥammad Bāqir Ibn-Muḥammad Taqī: Ḥayāt al-qulūb. Ṭihrān: Zain-al-ʿĀbidīn Tabrīzī, 1824 – 1825] = 1240 – 1241 [hiǧrī].  (2 volumes: 2 A.or. 259-1 and 2 A.or. 259-2)

Lithographic printing methods in the 19th century

In the 1840s the lithographic printing method was introduced as well in Tabriz, Isfahan and Tehran, and only a few years later this method dominated the complete Iranian book market. The books produced with the new printing method corresponded much more to the aesthetic demands of the readers than type prints. In addition, with the stone printing method it was possible to imitate the characteristic features of manuscripts to a much higher degree, and also illustrations were easier to produce.

One example of early stone prints from Tehran is the edition of the Ḫamsa (pentology) of the Persian poet Niẓāmī. The small number of planned illustrations – which were intended to be done by hand subsequently – are missing in this copy:

Niẓāmī Ganǧawī, Ilyās Ibn-Yūsuf: Kitāb-i Ḫamsa-i Niẓāmī-i Tafrišī. Tihrān, [1845] = 1261 [hiǧrī].  (Res/2 A.or. 270)

A small-format, illustrated children's book titled "Book of heroes" also forms part of the Iranian-Persian incunabula from Tehran. It is a story of Iranian rulers during pre-Islamic and Islamic times. Its author was the Qajar prince Ǧalāl-ad-Dīn Mīrzā, the 55th (!) son of the Iranian ruler Fatḥ-ʿAlī Šāh.

Ǧalāl-ad-Dīn Mīrzā: Nāma-i ḫusrawān. Ṭihrān: Dar Kārḫāna-i Ustād Muḥammad Taqī, 1285 [hiǧrī] = 1848.  (81.90479)

The most voluminous single work of Persian literature, the Book of Kings (Šāhnāma) by Firdausī, was published seven times as an illustrated stone print. After two editions had been published in Bombay in 1845 and 1849, the Tehran trader Ḥāǧǧī Muḥammad Ḥusain ventured to publish an edition of the work in the Iranian capital itself. The print, performed by ʿAbd-al-Muḥammad Rāzī, took over one year and could finally be concluded in November 1850. The 60 images contained were produced by the most prolific Iranian stone-print illustrator, the Azerbaijani Mīrzā ʿAlī-Qulī Ḫūʾī. Even though his illustrations are predominantly influenced by the traditional image programme of the Šāhnāma manuscripts, he struck a new path in the depiction of the facial expressions of persons here. The copy held by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek comes from the library of Quatremère.

Firdausī: Šāhnāma-i Firdausī-i Ṭūsī. Tihrān: Ḥāǧǧī ʿAbd-al-Muḥammad Rāzī, [1850] = 1267 [hiǧrī].  (2 A.or. 249)

The anonymous love and adventure story of the prince Šīrūya was published eight times as an illustrated stone print. The fourth edition was published in Tehran in 1855:

Kitāb-i Šīrūya-i nāmdār. Tihrān, [1855] = 1272 [hiǧrī].  (4 A.or. 2223)

A milestone in the Iranian history of printing and of medicine is the anatomy text book written by ʿAlī Ḫān Ibn-Zain-al-ʿĀbidīn Hamadānī, which – printed on Russian paper – was published bearing the title "Gems of anatomy".

Alī Ḫān Ibn-Zain-al-ʿĀbidīn Hamadānī: Ǧawāhir at-tašrīḥ. 2nd edition. Tihrān, [1889] = 1306 [hiǧrī].  (4 81.11592)

The stone printing method was particularly popular with the Shiite theologians during the last four decades of the 19th century. Hundreds of Islamic-Shiite treatises were lithographed in large formats, however predominantly in the Arabic language, the language of the theologians.

These two Islamic-Shiite prints are typical of the theological treatises of the 19th century. The numerous glosses from the manuscripts were adopted in the printed versions as well.

A typically Shiite-heterodox view of the life of the early Islamic saint Salmān al-Fārisī is offered by this Arabic work published as a stone print:

Ṭabarsī, Ḥusain Taqī an-Nūrī: Nafas ar-Raḥmān fī faḍāʾil Salmān. Tihrān?, [1868] = 1285 [hiǧrī].  (4 A.or. 866)

This omnibus work with the descriptions of the lives of the twelve Shiite imams in the Arabic language was likewise intended for theologians only:

Sibṭ-Ibn-al-Ǧauzī, Yūsuf Ibn-Qiz-Uġlū: Taḏkirat ḫawāṣṣ al-umma fī maʿrifat al-aʾimma. Tihrān, [1870] = 1287 [hiǧrī].  (2 A.or. 303 d)

Mīrzā Sanglāḫ Ḫurāsānī wrote his two-volume biographic dictionary of famous calligraphers in the Persian language. Famous Ottoman calligraphers are mentioned here as well. The work was published in Tabriz.

Sanglāḫ Ḫurāsānī, Mīrzā: Taḏkirat al-ḫaṭṭāṭīn. Tabrīz, 1291 – 1295 [hiǧrī] = [1874-1878].  (2 A.or. 504 i)

20th century up to the present

Up to the 1930s, stone printing remained a popular method for producing books in Iran. Under the two Pahlavi rulers Reza Shah (ruled 1925 – 1941) and Mohammed Reza (ruled 1941 – 1979), the reform of Iranian book printing following the western example was accelerated, so that books and journals produced in the type printing method and in the modern offset printing method became the norm also in Iran.

Purchasing books from Iranian publishing houses and authorities was still not easy up to the 1960s. Only as of 1970 could the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek purchase literature from Iran systematically and in accordance with a broad acquisition profile. The book trader Harrassowitz in Wiesbaden was the predominant supplier of such materials. The company also offered Persian antiquarian books on a large scale, so that the existing acquisition gaps could be closed during the 1970s and 1980s.

The years in the wake of the so-called Islamic Revolution (1979) again brought an interruption lasting several years. After around five years, the situation normalised and it became possible again to buy academically relevant new publications from Iranian and exile-Iranian publishers regularly.

During the past 20 years, numerous universities, colleges and research institutions have been newly founded also in Iran. This has lead to an enormous increase in academic publications. The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek currently acquires books and journals predominantly from the fields of history, Islam, literature and art. Electronic publications (e-books) do not play a role on the Iranian book market so far.


Striedl, Hans: Die Bücherei des Orientalisten Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter. In: Kissling, Hans J. (ed.): Serta Monacensia: Festschrift Franz Babinger. Leiden: Brill, 1952. p. 200-244.

Grönbold, Günter: Die orientalischen Handschriften der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Bibliotheksforum Bayern 9 (1981), p. 68-84.

Rebhan, Helga: The Bavarian State Library in Munich. In: Gierlichs, Joachim; Hagedorn, Annette (ed.): Islamic Art in Germany. Mainz am Rhein: Zabern, 2004. p. 157-160.

Rebhan, Helga: Die Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in München (BSB). In: Gierlichs, Joachim; Hagedorn, Annette (ed.): Islamische Kunst in Deutschland. Mainz am Rhein: Zabern, 2004. p. 157-160.

Rebhan, Helga: Ausstellungen orientalischer und asiatischer Bestände der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Griebel, Rolf; Ceynowa, Klaus (ed.): Information, Innovation, Inspiration: 450 Jahre Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. München: Saur, 2008. p. 639-665.

Rebhan, Helga: Die Bibliothek Johann Albrecht Widmanstetters. In: Schmid, Alois (ed.): Die Anfänge der Münchener Hofbibliothek unter Albrecht V. München: Beck, 2009. p. 112-131.

Rebhan, Helga: Die Wunder der Schöpfung: Ausstellung von Handschriften der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek aus dem islamischen Kulturkreis vom 16. September bis 5. Dezember 2010. In: Bibliotheksmagazin (2010) 3, p. 61-64.

Ceynowa, Klaus; Rebhan, Helga; Tabery, Thomas: Orientalische Prachthandschriften auf iPad und iPhone: Neue App der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Bibliotheksforum Bayern 5 (2011), p. 180-183.

Rebhan, Helga: Emil Gratzl als Orientalist. In: Haller, Klaus; Kempf, Klaus (ed.): Sammeln und Erwerben an der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek: In memoriam Emil Gratzl (1877 – 1957). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2011. p. 79-82.

Rebhan, Helga: Eine Erbschaft, eine Schenkung und Auktionen: Handschriften-Neuerwerbungen für die Orient- und Asienabteilung. In: Bibliotheksmagazin (2013) 1, p. 3-9.

Rebhan, Helga: 500 Jahre arabischer Buchdruck. In: Bibliotheksmagazin (2014) 3, p. 34-40.

Rebhan, Helga: Orientalische und asiatische Handschriften und seltene Drucke der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Ceynowa, Klaus; Hermann, Martin (ed.): Bibliotheken: Innovation aus Tradition: Rolf Griebel zum 65. Geburtstag. Berlin: De Gruyter Saur, 2014. p. 322-333. Available at: [access on 03/21/2016].

Rebhan, Helga: Collecting Islamic manuscripts at the Munich Court Library in the nineteenth century. In: Liebrenz, Boris; Rauch, Christoph (ed.): Manuscripts, politics and Oriental studies. Leiden: Brill, 2019. p. 197-227.


Gratzl, Emil: Katalog der Ausstellung von Handschriften aus dem Islamischen Kulturkreis im Fürstensaal der k. Hof- u. Staatsbibliothek. München, 1910.

Dachs, Karl (ed.): Erwerbungen aus drei Jahrzehnten: 1948 – 1978: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: abendländische und orientalische Handschriften, Inkunabeln und seltene Drucke, Noten und Landkarten: Ausstellung April – Juli 1978. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1978.

Dachs, Karl (ed.): Das Buch im Orient: Handschriften und kostbare Drucke aus zwei Jahrtausenden: Ausstellung, 16. November 1982 – 5. Februar 1983. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1982.

Dachs, Karl (ed.): Thesaurus librorum: 425 Jahre Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellung München 18. August – 1. Oktober 1983 = 425 years Bavarian State Library: exhibition. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1983.

Rebhan, Helga; Riesterer, Winfried: Prachtkorane aus tausend Jahren: Handschriften aus dem Bestand der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München: Ausstellung 7. Oktober – 28. November 1998. München: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 1998.

Noichl, Elisabeth (ed.): Schrift-Stücke: Informationsträger aus fünf Jahrtausenden: eine Ausstellung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek und des Bayerischen Hauptstaatsarchivs: München, 19. Juli – 20. September 2000. München: Generaldirektion der Staatlichen Archive Bayerns; Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 2000.

Kreiser, Klaus (ed.): The beginnings of printing in the Near and Middle East: jews, christians and muslims. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2001.

Hanebutt-Benz, Eva; Glass, Dagmar; Roper, Geoffrey (ed.): Middle Eastern languages and the print revolution = Sprachen des Nahen Ostens und die Druckrevolution: a cross-cultural encounter: a catalogue and companion to the exhibition: Gutenberg Museum Mainz. Westhofen: WVA-Verlag Skulima, 2002.

Rebhan, Helga (ed.): Wertvolle orientalische Handschriften und seltene Drucke der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek = Precious Oriental manuscripts and rare printed books of the Bavarian State Library: 26th MELCOM International Conference, 24 – 26 May 2004: Ausstellung 24.05. – 18.06.2004. München: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 2004.

Fabian, Claudia (ed.): Kulturkosmos der Renaissance: die Gründung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek: Katalog der Ausstellung zum 450-jährigen Jubiläum 7. März bis 1. Juni 2008 ... Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2008.

Rebhan, Helga (ed.): Die Wunder der Schöpfung = The wonders of creation: Handschriften der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek aus dem islamischen Kulturkreis = Manuscripts oft the Bavarian State Library from the Islamic world: Ausstellung 16. September bis 5. Dezember 2010. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2010.