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A Shahnameh for the Digital Age

The Shahnameh Slipcover

The Shahnameh Slipcover

We have often covered productions and exhibitions around the Persian Book of Kings or The Shahnameh: from our show on Drinking Arak of an Ayatollah’s Beard, a novel about travelling around Iran and Afghanistan with a copy of the classic in hand, to the major Shahnameh exhibition at Cambridge’s Fitzwiliam Museum via an interview with Professor Charles Melville. So it’s hard to imagine there’s anything to add to the discourse surrounding it.

This version of the book however, created by a US graphic designer who “works like a DJ” is hailed as the Shahnameh of the digital age. It is designed both graphically and textually for a modern reader by Hamid Rahmanian. The Shahnameh is the one piece of Persiate heritage, part-myth-part-history that you must know about if you want to understand Iranian culture, the culture not just of yesterday but today also. Here, we concentrate on the first two thirds of the book with a plush array of graphics and silhouettes collated from thousands of lithographs and prints not just of the original books, but also from other peer works to the Shahnameh to give a wider view of the world in which it is set.

The Book of Kings in the 21st Century

The Book of Kings in the 21st Century

The text was revitalised for English speakers in a world “with a different attention span” than the original by Prof. Ahmad Sadri, who says he’s remained faithful to the original, but has widened the context of some of the war stories, and streamlined the narrative. Obviously traditionalist die-hards will condemn the book as the text is shortened and there are cartoons are mixed with classical illuminations (pictured left), but in truth, with so many other works vying for our attention these days, isn’t it time we modernised this epic, and made it our own?

This book comes in a regular boxed edition at $75 and the limited cloth covered edition is at $550. The following video explains some of the creative process via one of my favourite tales in the book.

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