Encyclopædia Iranica

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The Encyclopædia Iranica (also abbreviated as EIr or EncIr ) is an English-language academic special encyclopedia of the Department of Iranian Studies and was published by Ehsan Yarshater until his death in September 2018 . It is a project of the Center for Iranian Studies at Columbia University and the most important and authoritative reference work in Iranian studies. The aim of the Encyclopædia Iranica is to create a comprehensive encyclopedia that covers the entire breadth of Iranian civilization in the Near and Middle East , the Caucasus , Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent from prehistory and early history through antiquity to modern times . The focus is on geographical Iran as well as the Iranian peoples , their languages , their cultures, and their interactions with other peoples and communities.

The Encyclopædia Iranica articles are arranged alphabetically and consistently written by recognized experts from all over the world, but mainly from Europe and the USA . The work is still in the making, 15 volumes have been published so far, a total of 45 volumes are planned. The entries in the Encyclopædia Iranica are written in American English to "make them available to a wider audience worldwide". A translation into Persian is planned and should begin as soon as the work is completed.

Almost all existing articles are freely accessible online, including those that have not yet appeared in print.


The idea for the Encyclopædia Iranica arose in 1969 from a proposal by Ehsan Yarshater to translate the renowned Encyclopædia of Islam into Persian . However, because the treatment of various topics on Iranian studies in the Encyclopaedia of Islam was considered inadequate, the proposed translation should contain additional material to correct the deficits - comparable to the Turk İslâm Ansiklopedisi . Publications of this expanded encyclopedia, called Dānešnāma-ye Īrān wa Islām ("Encyclopedia of Iran and Islam") in Persian , began in 1975. 10 fascicles had already been published before the project had to be discontinued in 1980 due to the political turmoil in Iran . Although the work was republished in a new and radically changed version in 1992, the Islamic Revolution had brought it to a virtual standstill.

As early as 1972, however, Ehsan Yarshater had the idea of ​​creating an English-language counterpart to Dānešnāma at the same time . This should be completely different from the Encyclopaedia of Islam and only contain original academic texts by specialists. The first printed fascicle of this new encyclopedia - henceforth called the Encyclopædia Iranica - was published in 1982, the first volume in 1985. The first volumes were published by Routledge and Kegan Paul, Ltd. published, the subsequent by Mazda Publishers . The first published volumes quickly established the Encyclopædia Iranica as a scientific reference work of the greatest importance. By 2012, over 6,600 articles had been completed, some of which were the length of a specialist article and which can be viewed online free of charge in the digital Internet edition, which has been in operation since 1996.

Encyclopedic breadth

"The Encyclopaedia Iranica is designed as a research tool responding to the needs of scholars, specialists, and students in Iranian studies and related fields. It aims at filling an important gap in the range of available reference sources which deal with the history and culture of the Middle East. "

- Ehsan Yarshater : Encyclopædia Iranica , Volume I, pp. 1-3

The encyclopedic breadth of the Encyclopædia Iranica spans the following disciplines and subject areas:

Anthropology , archeology , ancient history , numismatics , epigraphy , astronomy , astrology , geography , art history , ethnology , sociology , economics , history of religion (with special emphasis on Islamic history ), philosophy , mysticism , history of science and medicine , botany , zoology , folklore , Political science , development and history of agriculture , industry , international relations , military history and the history of diplomacy . Biographies of living people are not included in the work.

Overall, the articles are written on a high scientific level and, due to the division into several subsections, sometimes reach the length of a book. Some give a special "Persian" view of a certain area, e.g. B. flora and fauna or art. Due to their specialization, many of these articles are of great interest to experts (for example the detailed articles on the late antique "Acts of the Persian Martyrs" or the modern Persian novel " Būf-e kūr "). The Encyclopædia Iranica is primarily aimed at students and specialists in the fields of Oriental and Iranian Studies, but emphasizes that interested readers and researchers from other fields should also benefit from the work.


The Encyclopædia Iranica is created through international cooperation and is based on current leading scholars and authors in the respective discipline. This is intended to ensure the quality and reliability of the plant in the long term. A committee of currently 38 renowned specialists ( Consulting Editors ) is available to advise the publisher and monitor or recommend new articles and authors. Entries in the work are only requested by invitation, the quality of the articles is then peer- reviewed by two other experts. This should not only ensure professional reliability , but also objectivity and political independence.

Around 1,300 different authors around the world have contributed to the Encyclopædia Iranica with articles in various original languages, including English, Persian, Russian , Turkish and Chinese , all of which have been translated into non-English articles. In the first volume alone, 285 different authors were represented.

The most famous authors include:

Surname Specialty Associated with
Clifford Edmund Bosworth (†) Oriental and Arabic studies Princeton University
Mary Boyce (†) Iranian Studies University of London ( School of Oriental and African Studies )
Jean Calmard Theology and religious studies University of Paris
Richard Nelson Frye (†) Oriental Studies and Iranian Studies Harvard University
Dimitri Gutas Arabic and Greek studies Yale University
Erich Kettenhofen Old story University of Trier
Georg Morgenstierne (†) Iranian and Indo-European studies University of Oslo
Lutz Richter-Bernburg Islamic Studies (specializing in medicine in the Middle Ages) University of Tübingen
Zabihollah Safa (†) Iranian Studies University of Tehran
Annemarie Schimmel (†) Islamic Studies University of Bonn
Nicholas Sims-Williams Oriental Studies and Iranian Studies University of London
Josef Wiesehöfer Old story University of Kiel
Ehsan Yarshater (†) Oriental Studies and Iranian Studies University of Columbia


The Encyclopædia Iranica is mainly financed by donations. For this purpose, the Encyclopædia Iranica Foundation was established in 1990 . About a third of the funding is provided by the US National Endowment for the Humanities . The Encyclopædia Iranica has been listed as a priority project since 1979. Further sponsors are the Getty Foundation (since 1990), the American Council of Learned Societies (since 1997), and the Union Académique Internationale (since 1997).

There is currently a conflict between Columbia University and the Encyclopædia Iranica Foundation , which primarily affects copyright and funding. The Foundation declared the collaboration ended in 2018 and filed a lawsuit against the university in August 2019. For this reason, work on the encyclopedia is suspended until further notice.


"Encyclopaedia Iranica is indispensable for any scholarly work of specialists in the fields of Iranian and Islamic Studies. [It] deserves the highest price and full support. "

"A real tour de force. There is no project in the entire Middle Eastern field more worthy of support than the Encyclopaedia Iranica. "

The reactions to the Encyclopædia Iranica have been extremely positive from the start; it is praised worldwide by numerous orientalists and Iranists. Werner Sundermann assessed the value of the encyclopedia in an initial review with the following words:

“In terms of its importance for Iranian science, the encyclopedia can only be compared with the“ outline of Iranian philology ”. [...] It is the sum of research on Iran in the broader sense, which basically has to do with all objects on Iranian soil. "

In direct comparison to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, it is often emphasized that in the Encyclopædia Iranica the field of art and architecture play a far greater role. The work receives special praise for the abundance of topics that are dealt with, for the balanced presentation of different epochs, the high quality of the individual articles, as well as the careful preparation and documentation that characterize them. There are only critical voices about minor oversights and mistakes, which are unavoidable in such a large project. Practically all reviews agree that the Encyclopædia Iranica achieved its stated goal and has meanwhile established itself as an authoritative, indispensable reference work in its field.


Publications printed so far:

Volume 1, ĀB - ANĀHID, 1985
Volume 2, ANĀMAKA - ĀṮĀR AL-WOZARĀʾ, 1987
Volume 3, ĀTAŠ - BEYHAQI, 1989
Volume 4, BĀYJU - CARPETS, 1990
Volume 5, CARPETS - COFFEE, 1992
Volume 6, COFFEEHOUSE - DĀRĀ, 1993
Volume 7, DĀRĀ (B) - EBN AL-AṮIR, 1996
Volume 9, ETHÉ - FISH, 1999
Volume 10, FISHERIES - GINDAROS, 2001
Volume 11, GIŌNI - HAREM I, 2003
Volume 14, ISFAHAN IX - JOBBĀʾI, 2008
Volume 15, JOČI - KĀŠḠARI, SAʿD-AL-DIN, 2011
Volume 16 (fascicle 1) , KASHAN - KAŠŠI, ABU ʿAMR MOḤAMMAD, 2012
Volume 16 (fascicle 2), KAŠŠI, ABU ʿAMR MOḤAMMAD - KÉGL, SÁNDOR, 2013


  • Encyclopædia Iranica (EncIr). Edited by Ehsan Yarshater. Vol. 1-14ff. Routledge, London / New York 1982ff., ISBN 0-7100-9099-4 (Volume 1, search in the KVK and 'related publications' leads to all previously published volumes)
  • Elton L. Daniel: Encyclopædia Iranica . In: Ehsan Yarshater (ed.): Encyclopædia Iranica . Volume VIII (4), pp. 430–432, as of December 15, 1998, accessed on May 27, 2015 (English, including references)

Web links


  1. ^ A b c d Daniel, "Encyclopædia Iranica", 1998
  2. ^ Scope , Encyclopædia Iranica
  3. http://www.npr.org/2011/09/26/140807176/37-years-and-halfway-through-encyclopaedia-iranica
  4. FAQs , Encyclopædia Iranica
  5. Iranicaonline - Encyclopedia Iranica on the Internet
  6. a b About , Encyclopædia Iranica
  7. ^ Audience , Encyclopædia Iranica
  8. ^ Consulting , Encyclopædia Iranica
  9. ^ Authors , Encyclopædia Iranica
  10. ^ Foundation , Encyclopædia Iranica
  12. ^ Sponsorship , Encyclopædia Iranica
  13. a b c Scholars , Encyclopædia Iranica
  14. ^ W. Sundermann: The first two volumes of the Encyclopaedia Iranica , in: Orientalistische Literaturzeitung 84 (1989), p. 647.
  15. Citing Iranica , Encyclopædia Iranica