Monday, February 13, 2006

The Shahnama Project

Shahnama (Book of Kings) 1330s (collection of the Metropolitan Museum)

Last Friday I took part in a very interesting discussion at the Institute of Advanced Studies (Princeton) about, let's say, the most important website-prject of Islamic manuscripts namely the manuscripts of Firdausi's Shahnama (originally written around 1010 CE), the founding literary work of the Islamic/Persian revival... The project is centred at Cambridge University but the advisory committe is composed of "old" professors including Professor Oleg Grabar who invited us over (other professors and scholars like my advisor Professor Holod and graduate students like myself) to exchange ideas and see more closely the incompleted project... we had also the opportunity to listen to the amaizing results and methodology of Dr Farhad Mehran on "mapping" the illustrations with regards to the texts...
The data is huge... real huge.. I was impressed by the quantity of the collected materials, tons of photos... Not everything is available for the moment in the website... but some of the stuff is already there...
The photos are accessible through collections or chapters... so enjoy!

The question of the relationship between texts and images is studied with great care by Dr Mehran... here is a paragraph explaining the general principles of his approach:
"Breaklines
Each image is fixed in the text, so to speak, by the coordinates of the lines appearing before and after it. In the database, the first and last verses on each illustrated page are recorded, together with the verses immediately before and after the painting: these are called the 'breaklines'. These breaklines are provided on the website, numbered according to the line in the relevant chapter of the Mohl edition of the text. The lines are not always found in Mohl, in which case occasionally the closest line is given. Sometimes the line has only been located in one of the other editions (see above). Comments on the textual context of the painting may be found in the notes accompanying each image (i.e. important departures from the printed editions, the inversion of lines, etc.). In future, it is intended to provide lines in all four standard editions, which will also permit a comparison between them. The aim of all this is to make it reasonably simple for the user to find the text surrounding the painting, in at least one of the printed editions. The breakline is a powerful tool in the statistical analysis of the text of the Shahnama and in discussing such questions as the placement of images on the page, and the frequency of illustration in a given manuscript. The concept of the breakline belongs to Farhad MEHRAN, who has developed it in two publications: Farhad Mehran, "Frequency distribution of illustrated scenes in Persian manuscripts", Student 2, no. 4 (Neuchâtel, 1998), pp. 351-79, and "Missing paintings in dismantled Persian manuscripts", Student 4, no. 1 (2001), pp. 61-78; further papers will be published in the forthcoming proceedings of the Edinburgh and Cambridge Shahnama conferences. The breakline also provides a useful method for correctly identifying the correct title of the painting. "

3 Comments:

At 5:41 PM, Blogger Father said...

It is sad the site is no longer working. I hope archive has copy of it

 
At 5:46 PM, Blogger Father said...

On another note, this is an updated website:

http://shahnama.caret.cam.ac.uk

 
At 10:23 PM, Blogger Tarek Kahlaoui said...

Thanks "Father"..

 

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