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Library Displays

Welcome to Isfahan

Past Exhibition

Discover the treasures of Isfahan through the captivating Welcome to Isfahan rare book display at MIA library.

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From 23 October 2023 – 30 January 2024, visitors can delve into this collection that provides an extensive guide to Isfahan during the Safavid Empire. Walk through centuries-old history and culture and explore the renowned architectural marvels, artistic masterpieces, delectable cuisine, groundbreaking scientific advancements, and the intriguing European perspective on the city's distinctive style.

“Isfahan is Half of the World”​

This Iranian proverb summarises the glamour of this important Iranian city with its glorious history and culture. A key moment in the life of the city was between the years of 1597 and 1736, when it became the capital of the Safavid Empire (1501-1736), and enjoyed much prosperity under the rule of Shah Abbas I the Great. During his reign, the Safavid Empire matched its rivals, the Ottoman Turks and the Mughal emperors in India.​

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Half the world is Isfahan by Caroline Singer and Baldridge Cyrus​. DS 258 S65 1936

This book records a one-year motoring journey throughout Iran. The author, Caroline Singer, was the mind behind the texts, while her husband, Cyrus Baldridge, created six full pages of sanguine crayon drawings and more than one hundred marginal sketches. ​

Meet the Shah ​

An important ruler is Shah Abbas I. Around 1597–98, he moved the imperial capital to Isfahan, transforming the city into a new economic, political and artistic centre with a series of reforms and royal commissions, from the arts, to urban planning, to monumental architecture.

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Shah Abas the Great (1557–1628)​ by Charles Heath, 1 March 1815. ​

Architectures in Isfahan

Since the 16th century, the fame of the architecture of Isfahan spread throughout the world. ​

In his effort to consolidate the city’s new status as the capital, Shah Abbas I made several great changes, including the construction of a new royal square (the Meydan-e Naqsh-e Jahan), the adjacent Qay-sariya bazaar linking the new square to the old one, a new royal palace, ʿAli Qapu (the five-storey audience hall overlooking the meydān) and finally the grand Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque.

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History of art in Persia​ by Georges Perrot, 1892.

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External view of the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque​. Monuments modernes de la Perse mesurés, dessinés et décrits by Pascal Coste​, 1867.