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A Literary History of Persia (4 volume set)

Edward G. Browne, Introduction by J.T.P De Bruijn
ISBN: 978-0-936347-66-0
Format: Hardcover
Trim: 5½ x 8½ inches
Publication Date: 01/01/1997
Pages: 2324
Language: English



The classic work on the subject, A Literary History of Persia is still the standard work in the English language on the history of Persia and Persian literature. It spans four volumes (2,256 pages) and took about twenty-five years to write. Although it concentrates on Persian literature, it also surveys all aspects of Persian culture from Iranian pre-history to the twentieth century.

This edition is bound in a reinforced cloth cover in four volumes as in the original edition. Professor J.T.P De Bruijn of the University of Leiden has written a new introduction.

The remarkable freshness and liveliness of Browne’s prose will astonish readers. In addition to being a work of reference it is a book which may be read strictly for pleasure. J.T.P. De Bruijn’s new introduction surveys the history, significance and continued value of the work.

The Volumes are:

I: Persian literature from the beginning to Ferdowsi (1000 A.D.).
II: Two; From Ferdowsi to Saadi (1000-1290).
III: Three; The Tartar Dominion (1265-1502).
IV: Four, Modern Times (1500-1924).


… this work … could in the eyes of the Anglo-Saxon world with full right be judged and evaluated as a standard work.

— Franz Babinger

One feature of his work that has definitely withstood the test of time remains to be mentioned: the translations. A Literary History of Persia abounds with specimens of his great skill in rendering Persian poetry into English verse which, though marked by the translator’s period in style and wording, are still extremely readable and provide as true an impression of the originals as this is possible at all. By this he has best succeeded in the ultimate aim of his lifework: to act as an intermediary between the great culture of Persia and a modern readership.

— H.T.P De Bruijn (from the introduction)



Volume One: Persian Literature from the Beginning to Ferdowsi (1000 A.D.).


Book I: On the Origins and General History of the People, Languages, and Literatures of Persia
I. Introductory
II. The Discovery and Interpretation of the Inscriptions and Documents of Ancient Persia, With Other Philological Matter
III. The Pre-Muhammadan Literature of the Persians, With Some Account of Their
Legendary History, As Set Forth In the Book of the Kings

Book II: On the History of Persia From the Rise of the Sasanian to the Fall of the Umayyad Dynasty (A.D. 226-750.)
IV. The Sasanian Period (A.D. 226-652)
V. The Arab Invasion
VI. The Umayyad Period (A.D. 661-749)

Book III: On the Early `Abbasid Period, or Golden Age of Islam
VII. General Characteristics of the Golden Age of Islam (A.D. 749-847) From the Accession of As-Saffah to the Death of Al-Wathiq
VIII. The Developments of Religion and Philosophy In the Golden Age of Islam
IX. The Great Persian Heresiarchs of This Period

Book IV: On the First Period of the Decline of the Caliphate, From the Accession of Al-Mutawakkil to the Accession of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna (A.D. 850-1000)
X. The General Phenomena of the First Period of the Decline of the Caliphate (A.D. 847-1000), From the Accession of Al-Mutawakkil to the Accession of Mahmud of Ghazna
XI. The State of Muslim Literature and Science At the Beginning of the Ghaznawi Period
XII. Religious Movements of This Period I. The Isma`ilis and Carmathians, or the "Sect of the Seven"
XIII. Religious Movements of This Period II. The Sufi Mysticism
XIV. The Literature of Persia During this Period


Volume Two: From Ferdowsi to Saadi (1000-1290)

Retrospective and Introductory
The Ghaznawi Period, Until the Death of Sultan Mahmud
The Early Seljuq Period, From the Rise of Tughril Beg Till the Death of Malikshah, Including the Origin of the Order of the Assassins
The Literature of the Early Seljuq Period:
The Nidhamu'l-Mulk and His Contemporaries
The Period of Sanjar and His Brothers
The Four Great Poets of the Late Twelfth Century, Anwari, Khaqani, Nidhami of Ganja, And Dhahir of Faryab
The Empire of Khwarazm and the Mongol Invasion, Until the Fall of Baghdad and the Extinction of the Caliphate
Writers of the Earlier Mongol Period Faridu'd-Din Attar, Jalalu'd-Din Rumi, and Sa'di, and Some Lesser Poets of This Period


Volume Three: The Tartar Dominion (1265-1502)


Book I The Mongol Il-Khans of Persia, From the Death of Hulagu to the Extinction of the Dynasty (A H 663-737 = A D 1265-1337)
I The Mongol Il- Khans of Persia (A D 1265-1337)
II The Historians of the Il-Khani Period
III The Poets and Mystics of the Il- Khanid Period

Book II From the Birth to the Death of Timur-I-Lang, Commonly Called Tamerlane (A H 736-807=A D 1335-1405)
IV The Period of Timur
V The Poets and Writers of the Time of Timur

Book III From the Death of Timur to the Rise of the Safawi Dynasty (A H 807-907= A D 1405-1502)
VI History of the Later Timurid Period
VII Prose Writers of the Later Timurid Period
VIII Poets of the Later Timurid Period


Volume Four Modern Times (1500-1924)


Part I An Outline of Persian History During the Last Four Centuries
I. Some General Considerations On the Safawi Dynasty.
II. The Creation of the Safawi Power to 930/1524. Shah Isma'il and His Ancestors
III. Culmination and Decline of the Safawi Power, From Shah Tahmasp (A.D. 1524-1576) to Shah Husayn (A.D. 1694-1722)
IV. An Outline of the History of Persia During the Last Two Centuries (A.D. 1722-1922)

Part II Persian Verse During the Last Four Centuries
V. Some General Considerations On the Later and Especially the Religious Poetry of the Persians
VI. Poets of the Classical Tradition. Pre-Qajar Period (A.D. 1500-1800)
VII. Poets of the Qajar Period

Part III Persian Prose During the Last Four Centuries
VIII. The Orthodox Shi'a Faith and Its Exponents, the Mujtahids and Mullas
IX. Prose Writers Until A.D. 1850
X. The Most Modern Developments (A.D. 1850 Onwards)



EDWARD GRANVILLE BROWNE (1862-1926) needs no introduction to those interested in Iran, Persian literature, Iranian history, Babism, Baha'ism or Sufism. He taught at Cambridge University and may be considered as the creator of what is now known as Iranian studies. A Literary History of Persia is his most important work.

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