Persian Manuscript Digitisation Project at the British Library


Digital Archive
Completion date: August 2015
The Iran Heritage Foundation is fundraising for this important project, which will catalogue and digitise some of the many Persian manuscripts in the British Library’s collection, making these freely accessible to scholars and enthusiasts worldwide via the Internet.


Supported by

Iran Heritage FoundationPARSA Community Foundation, Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, British Library and individual private donors.

Project Overview

The British Library Persian manuscript collection is one of the largest and best known in the world. It includes over 11,000 manuscripts originating from all over the Persian speaking world, ranging in time from the 12th century onwards. Many of the manuscripts are very rare texts, and illustrated volumes include some of the most famous miniature paintings of the Persian and Mughal schools.

Launched in August 2011, this 3–year project is working to make important works from the British Library’s Persian manuscript collection freely accessible via the Internet to a worldwide audience of researchers and enthusiasts. A dedicated curator has been appointed and tasked to make the material available through online catalogues, and helping to safeguard this part of Iran’s heritage for future generations, while promoting the research and study of these manuscripts and their relevant subject areas on a worldwide basis.
The archive as a whole will be a unique cultural resource which can both be enjoyed by students and lovers of Persian culture and also used as a teaching tool for both Persian music and Persian literature.

Programme Objectives

    • to construct reliable and consistent metadata describing each of the 11 thousand manuscripts in the collection and to have the bulk of the collection catalogued in digital format by 2014, subject to funding.
This laborious but essential task is of utmost importance for providing researchers around the world with basic information on the collection. The online catalogue is being created simultaneously in Persian and Romanised script with descriptions in English. This means that for the first time, from anywhere in the world, people will be able to search and access details about Persian manuscripts in the British Library by doing a simple author or title search in Farsi or English.
Details of over a thousand works have already been prepared. This material has already been added to FIHRIST, the national union catalogue of manuscripts in Arabic script currently in development by Oxford and Cambridge Universities (
    • to digitise many of the most important manuscripts in the collection, providing worldwide access in perpetuity to these works and contributing to their future preservation.
The entire text of Shah Tahmasb’s copy of Nizami’s Khamsah has already been digitised, and can be viewed from cover to cover here. A digital version of Iskandar Sultan’s illustrated pocket encyclopedia of 813-14/1410–11 has been digitised and will be uploaded in the coming year.
This path–breaking project is unique in its nature and scope. It aims, by using modern technologies, to combine heritage preservation with making this material freely available worldwide for study and research. With your support we can make this vast Persian manuscript heritage universally available, facilitating research in Persian Studies and making this precious material more accessible to the general public.
To date we have raised over 100 thousand pounds towards this project. A further hundred thousand pounds is still needed to carry forward the project through 2014.
Please consider making a contribution to help fund this important project by clicking on our VirginMoney fundraising page below. Gifts of any amount are welcome.


Further fundraising is urgently needed to achieve the objectives of this project.
Year 1 budget: £54,454 fully raised
Year 2 budget: £57,000 fully raised
Year 3 budget: £100,000 to be raised

Please support this valuable programme


Iran Heritage Foundation, 63 New Cavendish Street, London W1G 7LP
Tel: +44 (20) 7493 4766

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IHF receives its funding from individuals, businesses and philanthropic institutions. We accept no funds from any government or political organisation.

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