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Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond now open

Media release

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Friday 09 March 2012

The largest exhibition of illustrated Persian manuscripts in Australia’s history is now open at the State Library of Victoria.

Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond, an exhibition developed by the State Library of Victoria in partnership with the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, features more than 60 rare Persian, Mughal Indian and Ottoman Turkish illustrated manuscripts from the 13th to 18th century, as well as, editions of European literature, travel books and maps.

These visually stunning, handmade works come from one of the richest periods in the history of the book and give a fascinating insight into the great artistic and literary culture of Persia and its timeless stories.

The exhibition showcases classic Persian tales and reveals the extent to which Persian language and culture spread into neighbouring empires as well as parallels in the work of European writers dating back to Shakespeare, Chaucer and Dante.

Sue Hamilton, Acting CEO and State Librarian said the exhibition shows rare and fragile works that have never travelled to Australia before.

'Poetry is one of the highest achievements of Persian literature.  These manuscripts were once counted among the treasured possessions of Persian princes and Mughal emperors. They combine Persian culture, art and storytelling in some of most beautiful and long-lasting works of literature in the world.

We are privileged that the Bodleian Libraries opened their collections to us to show these glorious manuscripts. It is fitting that they are being shown here in Melbourne, Australia’s UNESCO City of Literature.'

Love and Devotion shows the many representations of human and divine love within the great narratives and poetry of Persian literature. Classic love stories by writers such as Nizami and Jami, as well as Firdausi’s Shahnama, or Book of Kings, Persia’s great literary epic, are exhibited. Visitors will see works from the great Sufi poets such as Rumi and Hafiz, as well as the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and 1001 Nights, which have been enormously popular in the West as well as the East.

A full program of events and activities support the exhibition, including lectures, musical performances,  Persian cultural day and a conference.   A lavishly illustrated publication based on the exhibition is also available. 

Love and Devotion will only show in Melbourne while in Australia. It will then be exhibited at the historic Bodleian Libraries, the University of Oxford, England in late 2012.

Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond
Friday 9 March 2012 - Sunday 1 July 2012
State Library of Victoria, Keith Murdoch Gallery

Information for editors:

About the State Library of Victoria
The State Library of Victoria is Australia's oldest public library, founded in 1854. The State Library is Victoria's largest public reference library housing a globally significant collection of printed material, ephemera, photographs, artworks and manuscripts. The Library maintains permanent exhibitions in the Cowen and Dome Galleries and displays temporary exhibitions, such as Love and Devotion in the Keith Murdoch Gallery. The Library receives 1.6 million visitors a year. More information can be found at:

About the Bodleian Libraries
The Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford form the largest university library system in the United Kingdom. They include the principal University library—the Bodleian Library—which has been a library of legal deposit for 400 years; major research libraries; and libraries attached to faculties, departments and other institutions of the University. The combined library collections number more than 11 million printed items, in addition to 30,000 e-journals and vast quantities of materials in other formats. The Old Bodleian is also a major visitor attraction, drawing over 300,000 visitors a year. More information can be found at:

Header image: The marriage of Yusuf and Zulaykha, from Jami, Yusuf u Zulaykha, 1595. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Presented by:
The State Library of Victoria and the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford 
A Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature event

Major Sponsors: 
State Library of Victoria Foundation | The Gordon Darling Foundation | The University of Melbourne / Australia India Institute | City of Melbourne

Conference Partner:
Australian National University