The Shahnama Project: A digital index of illustrated manuscripts | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 4, Issue 1-2
  • ISSN: 2042-8022
  • E-ISSN: 2042-8030



This article documents the progress of the Cambridge Shahnama Project, initiated in 1999, and some of the issues that had to be addressed in implementing its ambitious aim to provide an open access, online corpus of illustrations of scenes from the Persian Book of Kings. This epic poem, Firdausi’s Shahnama, completed in ad 1010, was copied in thousands of manuscripts that are now dispersed in collections throughout the world, many of them lavishly illustrated: together, they provide a rich base of material for studying the arts of the book in Persian culture over several centuries, and the reception of Firdausi’s poem. The focus is on the development of the database and its transformation into a website, and the experience of applying appropriate technology to research in the humanities. The article identifies several phases of the project, up to its recent success in attracting a substantial endowment that will permit the work to continue for the foreseeable future.


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