A Lifetime Quest to Finish a Monumental Encyclopedia of Iran
12-Aug-2011 (4 comments)

Ralph Ellison wrote for 40 years without finishing his novel “Juneteenth.” Antoni Gaudí labored 43 years on the Sagrada Família basilica in Barcelona, but construction continues today. And in the annals of grand quixotica, Ehsan Yarshater also deserves a prominent chapter.

At 53, he embarked on his magnum opus, a definitive encyclopedia of Iranian history and culture. At 75, he started looking for a successor. He didn’t find one so he kept going himself. Now he’s 91. He’s up to “K.”

“My mission is to finish the encyclopedia,” he said recently from his office at Columbia University’s Center for Iranian Studies. He knows he won’t be able to do it personally, especially since the task keeps expanding as progress is made. There are topics to be added and entries to be updated. So Mr. Yarshater has tried to make sure the work will continue by establishing a private foundation with a $12 million endowment and finally choosing three scholars to replace him as general editor.

The sheer ambition of Mr. Yarshater’s vision is daunting. With money from the National Endowment for the Humanities, he has worked to create the most comprehensive account of several millenniums of Iranian history, language and culture in the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia.

“There is nothing like it” in scope or quality, said Ali Banuazizi, a professor at Boston College and a former president of the >>>


Prof. Yarshater - Record Iran 4 prosperity

by MM on

91 and still giving all he's got.




by MM on

Somehow the link from the post does not work, but here is the link again


I have followed Professor Yarshater's work for a while now, and as an editor, one thing that separates him from the rest is the degree of accuracy / multiplicity of cross-references that he demands from the contributors to the Encyclopedia Iranica.  This degree of accuracy is also what will solidify Encyclopedia Iranica as the primary reference point for Iran.

The support may be ok now thanks to the National Endowment for the Humanities, but at one point, Professor Yarshater sold his private collections to raise money for the project.  Absolutely dedicated!

Here are two other dedications, amongst many,  to Prof Yarshater and his work from IC:

Ehsan Yarshater & Encyclopaedia Iranica

by maghshoosh


An Iranian love story- Encyclopaedia Iranica and us

by Golnoush Niknejad



 MG: Indeed! "There

by vildemose on

 MG: Indeed!

"There is enough in this world to meet every man's need but not every man's greed." --Gahndi

Mash Ghasem

Shouldn't this be "Iranian of the Day?"

by Mash Ghasem on

MM jan thanks for posting this. a friend also sent me the article. Somehow the connection here doesn't work and you can't read the whole article. At some point it would be nice to have a proper introduction to Prof. Yarshater his writings and research, and also :


Tis Encylopedia Iranica is probably the most extensive and comprehensive of its type, not without flaws, yet truly a magnum opus. Don't miss it. They're not exactly short for money,  but I'm sure any community financial support is highly appreciated.