Origins of Printing in Iran
By: Seyed Farid Ghasemi, 2002
The Beginnings Of Print In Iran
The printing as we know it in today's world started intermittently in Iran nearly 362 years ago and from 183 years ago on a continual and nonstop basis.
The intermittent history of print in Iran started with Zaboor-e Davood in Jolfa (Isfahan) during the mid 17th century and regular printing began with the Fath-Nameh and Jahadieh Thesis in Tabriz during the early 19th century. However, there are some discrepancies and arguments between researchers and historians about the above facts. Also some scholars believe Fath-Nameh and Jahadieh are not two separate titles but two different editions of the same book, which is highly unlikely.
However, when a printing facility was established for the first time in Tabriz and the Fath-Nameh and Jahadieh were subsequently published, Mirza Mohammad Saleh Shirazi (founder of the first publication in Iran) had yet to graduate from university in England.
Mirza Saleh's familiarity with and interest in the media and journalism during his stay in England as well as his recognition about the importance of the print industry compelled him to learn this science and technique and bring it back with him to Iran.
He was constantly dreaming about going back to Iran and set up a printing house in his motherland. He trained under an English publisher named Dunce and after proficiently learning the craft, brought back with him upon his return to Iran in 1855 the necessary printing machinery, equipment and materials.
After his return from Great Britain, Abbas Mirza employed him as a translator and adviser. Mirza Saleh turned the printing house over to a person called Mirza Jafar, who was apparently Mirza Saleh's brother. From the early 19th century when Mirza Saleh returned to Iran until he published the famous zero issue of his publication, there is a gap of nearly 18 years.
Evidently, because of his knowledge, wisdom, and education he was utilized in administrative and governmental posts, especially foreign policy matters. But he was determined not to become sidetracked from his passion and he spent most of his free time working on his profession of choice, which was printing. Whenever Mirza Saleh was sent to foreign countries on assignment, he would always find the time to visit the print houses in those countries. He once purchased a printing machine from England and twice bought similar print equipment in Russia.
Many researchers doubt and question the existence of Mirza Saleh's printing shop at around that time. They have claimed they were unable to locate any printed works that was published in that print shop or any evidence that it continued its activity. But the existence of books that have remained from that era including a copy of Golestan by Saadi which has beautiful ornamented printing, dispels all of those claims.
Mirza Saleh moved his publishing house from Tabriz to Tehran and printed the only publication that was published during the reign of the Qajar Monarch, Mohammad Shah. The noted publication was stone-printed for three years from 1846 onward.
In 1847 Mohammad Shah died and Naseredin Shah became the Qajar sovereign. During the latter's tenure, the printing industry in Iran, endured a number of ups and downs and fluctuations.
Printing And Publication In Naseredin Shah Era
In general, there were three kinds of printing done during the Mohammad Shah and Naseredin Shah eras. They were stone-printing, character-printing and gelatin-printing.
The very first periodical publication in Iran was a stone-print journal published during the Mohammad Shah period.
During Naseredin Shah's reign, there were two publications named "Iran" and "Ettela" (information) that were character-printed and published in limited numbers but most of the editions of the above two publications were stone-printed.
There were three other publications during those times that were character-printed as well. One was called Zaher-Yaradi-Bahra (meaning the ray of sun or beam of light), La Patrie (meaning homeland) and Echo De Pars (meaning voice of Iran). All other published works were stone-printed, which are listed hereunder:
Tehran Dar-al Khalafeh mini-newspaper, Vaghay-e Etefaghiyeh newspaper, Vaghay-e newspaper, Azarbaijan newspaper, Government Against Iran newspaper, Government newspaper (with or without pictures), Elmieh Dolat Against Iran newspaper, Mellat Sanieh Iran newspaper, Mellati newspaper, Ordooyeh Homayoon newspaper, Vaghay-e Adlieh, Merat-al Safar & Mashkooh-al Hazar newspaper, Al-Motenabeh Fe-al Fars, Iran Year Book, Government Against Iran Year Book, Military Government Against Iran newspaper, Alamieh & Adabieh Military newspaper, Alamieh & Adabieh newspaper, Scientific newspaper, Tabriz, Merikh (Mars), Farhang (Culture), Tejarat (Commerce), Danesh (Knowledge), Ordooy-e Homayoon, Sharaf (Honor), Madaniyat, Shaveegh, Astagh Aroleeyan, Nashtarak, Tabriz Dar-al Fonoon & Dar-al Saltaneh School Monthly Paper, Naseri and Vatan (homeland) Daily.
Unauthorized nightly flypapers, such as the one published and distributed in Tabriz by Ali-Gholi were gelatin-printed.
During Mohammad Shah's reign, the only city that had a print house and published any materials was Tehran. However, in Naseredin Shah's era in the six cities of Tehran, Urmiya, Tabriz, Shiraz, Isfahan and apparently Rasht periodicals were published. Also, three travel journals were published in different cities during the Naseri period.
Two publications during Naseredin Shah's trip to Khorasan Province were also inaugurated. Ordooy-e Homayoon in 1867 was founded in various locations such as Semnan, Sabzevar, Chaman-e Ghahghaheh, etc. and first published in 1882 in different places like Damavand, Cheshm-e Ali, Bastam, Bojnourd, Ghoochan, Chaman-e Ghahghaheh, Mashad, Sabzevar, Mazeenan, Shahroud and Tehran.
Moreover, during Naseredin Shah's excursion with his entourage to Mazandaran Province in 1871 (between his two trips to Khorasan Province), the Merat-al Safar newspaper later called the Merat-al Safar & Meshkat-al Hazar newspaper was published. The first and thirteenth editions of this daily was published in 1871 in the Saltanat Abad region of Tehran. Editions 2-12 were published in the camping area during the monarch's trip to Mazandaran and back.
In the initial year of Naseredin Shah's rule and following the setting up of a publishing house in Urmiya for the Assyrians by Edward Brace, the first syriac publication called Zarari Bahra (the ray of sun) was published and sent to Syria and Turkey from Urmiya. Considering that Lazarists established a publishing house at the same time in Khosrow Abad (Salmas), the first text that was published by the American made printing machine was a statement against Catholics with the following title "Twenty Two Reasons Not to be a Catholic". According to the document archives remaining from the Americans till the end of the 19th century, some 600 journals and books, 3600 announcements and a total of 510,000 pages of materials were published.
The character-printed Zaher Yaradi Bahra publication, had a special kind of priest or church font named Orahem Maghdoosi Malek-Goog Tapeh-Dai. One of the missionaries who was in Urmiya at that time and had brought with him the printing equipment and was furthermore an expert in printing had prepared the character moulds for printing. Those characters were used until 1890. Eventually, in 1890 it was decided to change the characters because of decay and the fact that they had become worn out. Therefore, the first edition of the newspaper in the year 1890 was published with new characters made by local Iranian artisans and craftsmen.
In Naseredin Shah's third year of reign and by the efforts of Amir Kabir, the publication of periodicals in Tehran recommenced. The Akhbar Dar-al Khalafeh mini-newspaper, which changed its name from its second day of reprint to the Vaghay-e Etefaghiyeh newspaper, began publishing in the Haj Abdul Mohammad printing shop.
As previously mentioned, the Iran and Ettela publications were mostly stone-printed and in some instances character-printed.
The Iran newspaper was stone-printed from its first to its 216th edition (March 1871-May 1874). From its 217th to 362nd edition (May 1874 - September 1878) this newspaper was published in character-print (special Dar-al Taba-e font). From its 363rd edition (September 1878) until the end of Naseredin Shah's era and even after his rule the Iran newspaper was stone-printed.
The Ettela newspaper also was stone-printed from edition 1 to 12 (February - July 1880) and character-printed from editions 13 to 105 (July 1880 - November 1884) and again stone-printed from its 106th edition (December 1884). This periodical remained stone-printed till its 348th edition (May 1893) and once more turned to character printing from edition No. 349 (June 1893).
This type of printing continued up to edition No. 356 (October 1894). However, the next two editions, Nos. 357 and 358 (October 1894) were once again stone-printed. Its 359th edition (November 1894) though is character-printed but from edition No. 360 (December 1894) the journal is stone-printed all the way to the end of the Naseri era and a little while after his rule.
Pioneers Of Printing During The Qajar Era
In summary in can be stated that from two decades before the publication of the famous Kaghaz-e Akhbar (News Paper) to the end of the Nasri era, some 42 print and publication shops operated in Iran. Some of the pioneers and trailblazers of printing in Iran were as follows: Mirza Zein-al Abedin Bin Malek Mohammad Tabrizi, Mohammad Ali Ibn Haji Mohammad Hussein Ashtiani (Agha Ali), Mirza Mohammad Saleh Shirazi, Mirza Jafar Shirazi, Molla Mohammad Bagher Tabrizi, Manuchehr Khan Angolboo Gorji (Motamed-al Doleh), Mirza Jafar Tabrizi, Mirza Asadolah Shirazi (Farsi), Barzin, Edward Berjis, Mirza Abbas, Abdul Karim, Esfandiar, Abdul-Ali, Haj Abdul Mohammad, Mohammad Bagher Tehrani, Mir Bagher, Allah Gholi, Mirza Habibollah, Mirza Abbas, Molla Najaf Ali Tabrizi, Abdullah Tabrizi, Khalil Tabrizi, Mohammad Ismaeil Chapchi (Sarbaz), Bahram Beyk, Ghasem Amir-Lashkar, Abdul Razagh Esfahani and his brother Khalil, Ali Ibn Haj Mohammad Hassan Tabrizi, Baron Louis De Norman, Morel, Edward Brace as well as Mohammad Mirza and his brother.
Out of the above individuals, Mirza Mohammad Saleh Shirazi, Mirza Jafar Shirazi, Mirza Asadolah Shirazi (Farsi), Edward Brace, Mohammad Mirza and his brother, Edward Berjis, Haj Abdul Mohammad, Baron Louis De Norman and Morel were more influential and effective in developing the print industry in Iran.
Other names that deserve an honorable mention and could be singled out as having had a role in the growth of the publishing field during the Naseri era are: Perkins, Mirza Taghi Khan Amir Kabir, Mirza Ali Monshi Nezam, Ali Gholi Mirza Etezad-al Saltaneh, Mirza Abol-Hassan Naghash Bashi Ghafari (Sane'e-al Molk), Mahmood Khan Malek-al Shoara, Reza Gholi Khan Hedayat (Laleh Bashi), Ali-Gholi Mokhber-al Doleh, Hedayat, Hakim Samani, Shah Morad Mirza, Mirza Abbas Naghash, Mirza Ali Khan Monshi Hozoor (later known as Amin-al Doleh), Mirza Hussein Khan Moshir-al Doleh (Sepah Salar), Mohammad Hassan Khan Etemad-al Saltaneh, Mirza Mohammad Hussein Adib (Forooghi), Mohammad Bagher Adib-al Molk (later known as Etemad-al Saltaneh), Monsieur Broski, Mirza Taghi Hakim Bashi Kashani, Mirza Mahmood Afshar and Mirza Mohammad Nadim Bashi.
Three Periods Of Printing And Publishing
Publishing and printing should be divided into three periods for the 61 year duration of Mohammad Shah and Naseredin Shah's reign of power, which was correspondingly the first era of periodical journalism in Iran. The first period lasted 25 years from 1836-1862. The second period ran for 10 years from 1862 to 1871. The third period was from 1871 to 1895 for a term of 26 years.
A total of 4 publications were issued until 1862. From 1862 onward, the Daral Tabae'e office was established and the printing and publishing business became organized and systematic. This period of organization and systematic operation continued for a decade until 1873, when the responsibility for government run publishing and printing was transferred to Mohammad Hassan Khan (later known as Etemad-al Saltaneh). From the above date until 1883, he was in charge of basically anything that had to do with printing and publishing. It should be mentioned that the domain controlled by him was turned into a ministry from 1882 and he was appointed as the Minister of Press.