Resource - Simpson Islamic Manuscript Record Archive now available online

Margaret Graves Discussion

Dear colleagues,

The Simpson Islamic Manuscript Record Archive is now fully digitized and available online. Please see:


The Visual Resources Collections at the University of Michigan houses the Islamic manuscript record archive of Dr. Marianna Shreve Simpson (PhD, Harvard University, 1978). Dr. Simpson served as Curator of Islamic Near Eastern Art at the Freer/Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Islamic Art at the Walters Art Museum, and Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan (2005). She specializes in the arts of the Islamic book and illustrated Persian manuscripts in particular. She has lectured, taught, and published widely in these fields. She is the author of numerous articles and her books include: Sultan Ibrahim Mirza's Haft Awrang: A Princely Manuscript from Sixteenth-Century Iran (1997); Arab and Persian Painting in the Fogg Art Museum (1980); and The Illustration of an Epic: The Earliest Shahnama Manuscripts (1979).

The Simpson collection encompasses the history of Islamic book arts, with a particular focus on illustrated manuscripts produced between 1300 and 1600 CE.

Containing over 500 documentation records and approximately 4,800 images (prints, color slides, digital images, and microfilms), the archive represents almost four decades of manuscript study in libraries, museums, and private collections throughout the world. The collection also expands the Islamic Art Archives at the University of Michigan, which encompasses 10,000 photographs of manuscripts, paintings, monuments, and decorative arts. At present, the Islamic Art Archives is comprised of four series: black and white negatives of photographs by Arthur Upham Pope (1881-1969), black and white negatives of photographs by Donald Wilber (1907-1997), Oleg Grabar’s (1929-2011) archives for the Qasr al-Khayr East excavations, and Grabar’s photographic print collection of illustrated Maqamat and Shahnama manuscripts. The Simpson material thus comprises the fifth series in the Islamic Art Archives, which now spans a century of scholarship on Islamic art, painting, architecture, and archaeology.

The Simpson archive is organized by repository name and manuscript accession number or shelf mark (for example, “British Library Add. 7622”). Each file contains its own documentation template, which provides a detailed record of the title(s) of each manuscript, name(s) of calligrapher, painter, and patron, date and place of production, dimensions of folios and text blocks, paratextual information (paintings, seals, endowment notes, etc.), and other key data for every manuscript that Dr. Simpson has examined throughout her distinguished career as an academic, scholar, and curator of Islamic art.

This digitization project was made possible by a generous grant from The Islamic Manuscript Association (TIMA).


Dr. Christiane Gruber

Associate Professor of Islamic Art and Director of Graduate Studies

Department of Art History, University of Michigan