Shahnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings by Ferdowsi
Publication: 2nd “black box” edition, WW Norton & Co | 2017
Other authors: Translated by Ahmad Sadri, Illustrated by Hamid Rahmanian, Foreword by Sheila Canby.
Where to buy:
► Cheapest options @ Book Depository or Amazon (US).
► A signed version is also available from the makers direct (US only).
► The first “white box” 2013 edition by Quantuck Press is OOP, available from Abe books.
The Shahnameh, which literally means ‘The Book of Kings,’ is a long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi around 1000 AD, and it is considered to be the world’s longest epic poem written by a single poet – it contains 50,000 couplets.
Vintage illustrated copies of this work are usually gorgeously illustrated with Persian miniature paintings, but this this new edition is absolutely stunning. It is filled to bursting with bright pictures that created by artist Hamid Rhamanian, who used images from various pictures of old manuscripts to create new imagery. Honestly, when you see the book in person, these images are just breathtakingly beautiful, and there are 500 glorious pages of them.
The text has been vividly translated into English by Ahmad Sadri, the James P. Gorter Chair of Islamic World Studies at Lake Forest College. It is structured according to the mythical and historical reign of 50 Persian Kings, covering the period from the creation of the world until the Arab conquest of Iran in the 7th century. The epic can be roughly divided into three parts: the first part tells of the mythical creation of Persia and its earliest mythical past; the second part tells of the legendary Kings and the heroes Rostam and Sohrab; the third part blends historical fact with legend, telling of the semi-mythical adventures of actual historical Kings. The stories throng with heroes and villains, demons and dragons and deeds of derring-do, the book tells the ageless story of the struggle between good and evil.
This edition is beautifully bound in cloth, the pages are sewn in, and it is protected by a very sturdy slip case. The same group have also made a quite stunning pop-up book of one of the stories, which I will also be reviewing shortly.