Illustrations from the First Small Shahnama, Baghdad, c.1300 showing Ilkhanid Mongols
Although the arts of the book in Iran enjoyed great prestige prior to the Mongol invasion of the mid-thirteenth century,
the earliest extant illustrated manuscripts date from the reign of the Ilkhanid dynasty (1256-1336).
Among this group are several copies of the Shahnama (Book of kings), the Persian national epic.
Composed in the year 1010 by the poet Firdawsi, the Shahnama recounts the stories of legendary and historical kings and heroes.
Its colourful combination of fact and fantasy has meant that it is the most frequently illustrated text in Iran.
The earliest known copies are referred to as the first and second "small" Shahnama, respectively.
The folios of the First Small Shahnama are dispersed in a number of collections. The reconstructed order of the folios is from the Shahnama Project