The largest exhibition of illustrated Persian manuscripts in Australia’s history is now open at the State Library of Victoria.

Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond, an exhibition developed by the State Library of Victoria in partnership with the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, features more than 60 rare Persian, Mughal Indian and Ottoman Turkish illustrated manuscripts from the 13th to 18th century, as well as, editions of European literature, travel books and maps.

These visually stunning, handmade works come from one of the richest periods in the history of the book and give a fascinating insight into the great artistic and literary culture of Persia and its timeless stories.

The exhibition showcases classic Persian tales and reveals the extent to which Persian language and culture spread into neighbouring empires as well as parallels in the work of European writers dating back to Shakespeare, Chaucer and Dante.

Sue Hamilton, Acting CEO and State Librarian said the exhibition will show rare and fragile works that have never travelled to Australia before.

‘Poetry is one of the highest achievements of Persian literature.  These manuscripts were once counted among the treasured possessions of Persian princes and Mughal emperors. They combine Persian culture, art and storytelling in some of most beautiful and long-lasting works of literature in the world.

We are privileged that the Bodleian Libraries opened their collections to us to show these glorious manuscripts. It is fitting that they are being shown here in Melbourne, Australia’s UNESCO City of Literature.’

Love and Devotion shows the many representations of human and divine love within the great narratives and poetry of Persian literature. Classic love stories by writers such as Nizami and Jami, as well as Firdausi’s Shahnama, or Book of Kings, Persia’s great literary epic, are exhibited. Visitors will see works from the great Sufi poets such as Rumi and Hafiz, as well as the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and 1001 Nights, which have been enormously popular in the West as well as the East.

A full program of events and activities support the exhibition, including lectures, musical performances,  Persian cultural day and a conference.   A lavishly illustrated publication based on the exhibition is also available.

Love and Devotion will only show in Melbourne while in Australia. It will then be exhibited at the historic Bodleian Libraries, the University of Oxford, England in late 2012.

Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond
Friday 9 March 2012 – Sunday 1 July 2012
State Library of Victoria, Keith Murdoch Gallery

Conference of the birds, from ‘Attar, 'Mantiq al-Tayr', 1493 Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, MS. Elliott 246, fol. 25v

Conference of the birds, from ‘Attar, 'Mantiq al-Tayr', 1493 Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, MS. Elliott 246, fol. 25v

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