A small number of Oriental manuscripts was included in the 'Churfürstliche Bibliothek zu Cölln an der Spree' when it was founded in 1661. Persian manuscripts may have entered the library for the first time in 1672 from the former collection of Adam Olearius, who had visited Persia in 1635-9. Few Oriental manuscripts enriched the library’s collection until the beginning of the 19th century. Then the situation changed. This was not only due to a new approach of German scholars to Oriental studies but also, since the middle of the 19th century, to growing political and economic interests in the area, which several times resulted in generous funding of research expeditions and manuscript acquisitions by the Prussian state. In 1817 the number of Oriental manuscripts nearly doubled as a result of the bequest of Heinrich Friedrich von Diez, former Prussian ambassador to the Ottomans. While only 51 of the Diez manuscripts were Persian, smaller purchases and some presents added more Persian material to the collection in the first half of the 19th century. When Emil Rödiger started to compile a Persian catalogue in 1854, he had to deal with about 300 volumes, which were soon joined, in 1857, by a further 300 manuscripts from the collection of Aloys Sprenger that altogether contained 2,000 Oriental manuscripts. At nearly at the same time, an equally large collection was bought from Johann Gottfried Wetzstein, former consul in Damacus, and another one from the scholar Julius Heinrich Petermann, who had systematically searched for manuscripts in Minor Asia, Persia and the Levant. Further parts of the Petermann collection were obtained later finally adding about 1,500 Oriental manuscripts to the library. Several hundred manuscripts were bought from Johann Friedrich von Minutoli, who had visited Persia in 1860-61. In 1882-3, 41 Oriental manuscripts came as part of the purchase of the Hamilton collection and more than 1,000 items from the scholar Carlo Landberg in 1884. Apart from the Sprenger collection, Persian manuscripts were a substantial portion only in the Petermann collection (c. 230 mss). All the purchases together, however, had resulted in the accumulation of over 1,100 items when Wilhelm Pertsch completed his Persian catalogue in 1888. He called the collection of the Berlin library the largest and finest of Persian manuscripts in Germany. At that time, it included one illustrated Shahnama each from the Diez, Minutoli and Hamilton collections, and four more illustrated Shahnamas that had all entered the library prior to 1860. One of these manuscripts was a present brought back from Persia by a Prussian prince in 1845.None of the large acquisitions of the second half of the 19th century originally assembled by Orientalist scholars added such a manuscript to the collection. In general, the number of illustrated manuscripts among those collections is extremely small compared with their scope. It was only after the opening up of the art market for Oriental illustrated manuscripts and miniatures at the beginning of the 20th century that another four illustrated Shahnamas were obtained by the library in 1924, 1938, 1939 and 1941.(Karin Rührdanz)
Bibliography:T. Schmieder-Jappe, Die orientalischen Handschriften der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin: Geschichte, Bestandsstruktur und aufgabenorientierte Bedeutung im nationalen Rahmen, Berlin, 2004.
A number of the Shahnamas have now been digitised:
Diez A. fol. 1; Minutoli 134; or. fol. 189, or. fol. 3380, or. fol. 4251; or. fol. 4255, as well as Shahin-i Shiraz's Ardashirnama.
Thes are are available on the following link: