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Persian Manuscripts: from Author to Text


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, specialisation Persian Studies or the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research), with sufficient level of reading skills in Persian (level B2 European Common Framework, i.e. at least 80 EC = 2240 hs of language courses at BA level). Please, contact the student advisor or Dr. A.A. Seyed-Gohrab, if you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student admitted to one of the above-mentioned master programmes or if you are not confident regarding your level of Persian.


This course is a weekly seminar on various aspects of text and text-transmission in Persian cultural areas. Various modes of transmissions and physical aspects of the manuscript will be analysed. A large part of this course will be devoted to reading manuscripts, teaching students how to decipher various orthographies and handwritten texts. The last four sessions will be devoted to the reading and analysis of selected passages from the 14th century encyclopaedic work of the Safina of Tabriz. The seminar will thus enable the students to write the assignment paper at the end of the semester.

Course objectives

The main objective of this course is to familiarize the students with the variety of the rich manuscript tradition in Persian. The students acquire insight into the rich textual tradition of Persian cultural areas and Islamic intellectual traditions. In addition, the students develop skills to decipher medieaval manuscripts on a wide range of topics varying from ethical treatises to love poetry. The students also learn how to prepare a cricital text edition.


For the most recent update of the timetable please click here.

Mode of instruction


Attendance and participation are obligatory. Classes missed for a good reason (to the discretion of the conveners and to be discussed BEFORE the class takes place) will have to be made up with an extra assignment.

Each session consists of two hours. Students are required to read, in advance, selections from secondary, scholarly literature and to prepare several passages from a manuscript (a xeroxed copy of the relevant pages will be made available to the students).

Being absent without notification or failing to prepare the home work can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the final paper and a failing grade for the course.

Course load

  • The course comprises 10 EC and the total course load is thus 280 hrs

  • 26 hrs of the course will be spent on attending the class (2 hrs x 13 weeks)

  • 6 hrs of extra sessions to discuss extra assignments (for ResMA students)

  • 52 hrs are to be spent on homework, i.e. reading the literature and studying the passages from the manuscript

  • 30 hrs are set aside for the 2 presentations (prep. & 15 min. talk),

  • 166 hours need to be spent on the final paper.

Assessment method

Paper and presentations. Students are expected to give two presentations on a specific topic from the overview (40%). For the final assignment of this course students are required to transcribe and prepare a critical, textual commentary on one page from – preferably – the Safina of Tabriz (60%).

A new version of the final essay may be written if the overall mark for the course is “5.49” (=5) or lower. The deadline for this version will be determined in consultation. In the case of a re-write the overall grade will not exceed 6.0.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. The final examination and the assignments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.



See also

Reading list

A detailed list or readings per week will be provided at the start of the course.
The following topics will be discussed. This programme is provisional and may be subject to change.

  1. Orality and written culture in the Iranian areas
    1. Physical aspects of Persian manuscripts; Orthography, palaeography and types of handwriting
      3-4. Reading manuscripts: Sana’i’s Seyr al-`ebad
      5-6. Reading manuscripts: Fayzi’s Markaz al-advar
    2. On the transmission of Ferdowsi’s Shah-nama
      8-9. Persian illuminated manuscripts & miniature paintings (with special reference to the Shahnama)
      10-13. the Safina of Tabriz

For the ResMA students extra literature will be assigned based on the interest of the student.


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the “Study in Leiden”: website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Dr. A.A. Seyed-Gohrab


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).